How this India’s Publishing Group is Winning at Digital with an Early Warning System for its Online Newspaper
The Hindu and many other popular news outlets in India are running smoothly thanks to Skedler.
Client profile: The Hindu Group
- One of the oldest publishing companies in India. Publisher of The Hindu, a daily newspaper that began in 1878 and has been steadily growing in circulation ever since.
- The Hindu’s independent editorial stand and its reliable and balanced presentation of the news have won the serious attention and regard of the people who matter in India and abroad.
- The Hindu uses modern facilities for news gathering, page composition and printing. It is printed in seventeen centers across India that are connected with high-speed data lines.
The increasing use of mobile devices over the last decade has fuelled a desire on the part of online news outlets to provide readers with an improved mobile experience across all kinds of browsers. This effort is sometimes hampered by unforeseen browser incompatibilities, resulting in browsing anomalies for some readers. Because smooth user experience is so essential in attracting and retaining audiences, most news websites are continuously striving to detect and deal with such problems quickly and efficiently.
Poonkuyilan V is one of the often unsung, behind-the-scenes heroes that keep the online reading experience bug-free. He works at India’s national newspaper – The Hindu – where he leads the IT department’s infrastructure team. His team is responsible for maintaining the smooth operation of the website.
Things are a bit chaotic before Skedler
Initially, Poonkuyilan and his team used Elastic Stack for the access logs only, but as they became more comfortable with it, they began using it for all of the logs: “We feed the logs into Elasticsearch to analyze them. The visualization tool we like to use is Kibana, a very user-friendly tool that is part of Elasticsearch. These visualizations make it straightforward for us to not just solve any issues that may come up, but to also find what’s causing them much easier compared to the traditional way of log monitoring.” In addition to monitoring, Poonkuyilan’s team is responsible for the availability and integrity of the websites. Once they get an alert that something is wrong, they have to react based on that alert. However, the IT team was becoming very aware that most of the alerts weren’t coming from the Elastic Stack tool’s Elastalert, but rather from the end-users. Many readers were not having a smooth experience using The Hindu Group’s websites.
“Indeed, the readers would call or email us, asking how to fix a problem with the website pages or why a certain anomaly keeps happening. So then we would go into the system to look at the numbers and to solve the issue,” remembers Poonkuyilan. Anyone can see the problem here. Relying on end-users to signal about problems in your product is not the optimal way to attract and retain readers. It was clear to everyone in the IT team that a more proactive approach was required. That’s when Poonkuyilan and his colleagues started actively searching for viable alternatives to the Elastalert: “We were looking at online forums and that’s how we discovered the existence of Skedler. Once we downloaded it and connected it to the Elasticsearch, Skedler started generating alerts right away. The whole process was very intuitive and provided us with a way to easily configure alerts right in the dashboard.”
Check out the complete video of Poonkuyilan speaking about his use case.
The team’s favorite Skedler features
Poonkuyilan admits he finds other alerting systems for the Elastic Stack a bit too difficult to use: “You need to understand the data and you also need to understand the tool you are trying to implement. They often require some development effort to work correctly, so it’s not that easy for some of the team members to create an alert.
“Ever since we started using Skedler, we can easily generate an alert anytime. All it takes is a couple of clicks!”
One of The Hindu Group’s IT team’s favorite Skedler features is the ability to create alerts in the console itself within two or three minutes: “We have Skedler directly integrated in the Elasticsearch, which is great. Creating alerts directly in the console itself is a fantastic feature. We also found all the available pre-defined templates to be a really nice touch as well.”
Another Skedler feature that has recently become a team favorite is the way Skedler generates weekly reports: “Some of the top-level management don’t really need daily alerts; they just want to receive a high-level, weekly report that outlines what’s happened in the website during the week,” says Poonkuyilan, “Sometimes all they want is a monthly report. In these weekly and monthly reports where we are including data about any 503 errors that may have occurred, as well as stats on the responsiveness of the websites and the pages. This is where Skedler really helps us with how easy and intuitive it is to understand how the pages have performed”
Poonkuyilan says that Skedler has definitely helped his team in fine-tuning the monitoring process: “Thanks to its sensitive alerting system, we started pinpointing what the anomalies and issues were going to be before they even occur. We truly appreciate Skedler’s ease of use. We can set alarms quickly and then concentrate on the day-to-day work and other processes. We don’t have to fiddle with the alarm settings at all. In fact, since we began using the Skedler tool, there haven’t been any major incidents with any of The Hindu Group online publications!”
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