Last year, I made a major business decision for the company that cost us hundreds of thousands of dollars, countless hours of R&D, and innumerable lines of code. Instead of remaining on the Google Cloud platform where we’d spent years building and maintaining a robust reverse proxy network for our services, I decided to move our technology to Cloudflare, which is a fully integrated content delivery network. The move was a strategic one–in order for RankSense to stay innovative in the field of SEO, we needed to focus our resources on our services, not the infrastructure necessary to support them. Nevertheless, it was painful to let go of three years of hard work.
Abandon hard work for smart work
When you are a technical founder it is very easy to get too attached to the code you are writing or the product you’re developing. I like to think of the development process as similar to building a house–it would be very hard for an architect to walk away from an unfinished structure that he’d spent years perfecting the design. Nevertheless, that’s just what I did last summer when I decided to move our product to the Cloudflare network from the similar network we’d built in Google Cloud. We had to build our old network from scratch, actively manage it and provide around the clock technical support.
RankSense is not just in the business of selling software–it’s in the business of speeding up results and saving precious time. And in order to speed up great results, we needed to off-load the management of the proxy network we’d built.
The story of Netflix is a great analogy of this type of painful business decision. They rely on Amazon for their infrastructure because ten years ago, they had a catastrophic data center shutdown that forced them to make a hard choice—focus their efforts on retooling their own data servers or move to the cloud. They chose to move to Amazon Web Services because its hosting services allowed Netflix to focus their R&D efforts on their products, which in turn, gave them the ability to continue to grow at a rapid pace. Had they dug in their heels and committed to building and managing their own infrastructure, it would be hard to predict how the company would have evolved.
I wish Cloudflare Apps with Workers was available when I started my business the way Amazon was an option for Netflix at that time. Nevertheless, the move last year to Cloudflare’s full-service content delivery system now has freed up my team to focus their efforts on building our self-service app and to innovate in new areas of SEO technology.
Be honest about your business needs and vision
My business philosophy has always been to find a superior way to solve a problem, and when I do, I need to go with that solution. In this case, our problem was that we needed a content delivery network application in order to better intercept traffic as it passes through our clients’ websites to make changes in real time. An optimal content delivery network service speeds up websites because the sites are loading from local servers around the globe, and ideally, with SEO, this infrastructure allows for rapid-fire traffic interception and analyzation. We had built a proxy network from scratch to do this, but it was nowhere near as powerful as Cloudflare’s. Now that we run on Cloudflare’s network, we get greater access to servers and improved speeds. On-boarding is so much simpler for our clients because they can set up an account in minutes. Additionally, most of the technical support requests are handled by Cloudflare, which allows us to redirect our manpower to our services, not infrastructure technical support.
Being strategic about forging powerful B2B partnerships
Now that we are on the ground floor of a potentially huge marketplace with Cloudflare, we’ve positioned ourselves to have a significant advantage because the benefits of our partnership far outweigh any risks. For one, we are complementary to their service, so as one of the first apps on the platform, we can piggyback on their network of millions of customers and sites (13 million sites and growing). In addition, their visibility and credibility is a value add for us because our relationship is now a brand extension of theirs, which solves any issues on our end of the marketing of and trust in our product. Finally, our app had to be rigorously vetted by their in-house team, which means that any user who installs it knows that it comes with the quality and performance assurance that Cloudflare is known for by its customers.
Grow your business from challenge, not complacency
Giving up on the network my team built has not been a total loss: The most valuable takeaway has been that we learned how to build a service that is production ready at this scale. We validated that there was a demand for our service and its performance. Nevertheless, now that we’ve partnered with Cloudflare, we have the significant opportunity to better innovate with our product. We’ve been able to redirect the energy from the back-end to build a user-facing app within the platform. And, as the year progresses, I’m excited to see the creative developments of our team who can now fully focus on the R&D of our main product.