Barracuda Backup Service Displaces Tape at Immigration Support Services

I think peace of mind and confidence are the greatest benefits, and the price is minimal for that advantage.”
– Jeff Boatright, Executive Vice President, Immigration Support Services

Tape Backup Slow & Inconvenient

“Our business generates a lot of data, so it’s vital that we have good, accurate, timely backups at all times,” said Jeff Boatright, Executive Vice President and Co-Owner of Immigration Support Services. “We had a tape backup system and a series of daily, weekly and monthly backup tapes. We would take them offsite and rotate them. And as we grew and the amount of data grew, it became increasingly cumbersome to have to do that. It was slow and inconvenient. Even the occasional need to recover a file wasn’t the easiest thing to do.”

Immigration Support Services, based in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, is a private company that processes visa petitions on behalf of employers around the nation that would like to hire someone from overseas. “We help them prepare the paperwork and submit it to the government, not unlike an accountant might prepare a tax return for a company and submit it to the IRS. It’s an HR outsource service,” said Boatright.

Day-to-day management of the tape backup system became a burden for Immigration Support Services. Since the company did not have its own IT department, one of the employees had to assume the role of part-time backup administrator. Continually swapping out tapes and transporting them offsite was time-consuming and a hassle. The company wanted a better way to back up its database and file systems – a system that was easy to manage, backed up data consistently and provided fast recovery.

From Tape to Barracuda Backup Service

In February 2006, the company decided to replace its tape backup system with the Barracuda Backup Service (known at the time as Bitleap) from Barracuda Networks. This service provides full local backup to disk and replicates data to two geographically remote sites for disaster recovery. At the customer’s site a small backup server sits on the network. The server initiates backups automatically based on a user-defined schedule and de-duplicates data inline to reduce storage requirements by as much as 20 to 50 times. During off-hours it encrypts and transmits data to the remote sites.

Pricing is based on total storage consumed. “Barracuda Networks has brackets of subscription rates that are based on total storage needs, and then it’s billed monthly,” said Boatright. “They send warnings when you bump against the ceiling of your plan. But they’re very helpful in reviewing your backup settings to make sure you’re not backing up and retaining more data than necessary.”

Transitioning from tape to the Barracuda Backup Service was a straightforward process. “It was like going from horse and buggy to automobile. It’s not too hard. When you instantly get to go 60 miles an hour, the little bit of effort it takes to learn to drive the car is nothing compared to the benefit of having learned,” he said.

Peace of Mind and Confidence

After their struggles with tape backup, Boatright feels relieved to have a reliable third-party service take care of backup and recovery. “Having the backup effectively done for us, having an Internet interface, being able to read the backups and retrieve files as necessary – the whole convenience of it was night and day,” he said.

“We’re not a technology company, we’re technology users. The company is relatively small. At our largest we have been only about 20 employees, but we generate a lot of work and data. Being able to unload backup on a purchased service was tremendous. Not only was it convenient, but it instilled confidence in our ability to have good backups. That just means it is something you don’t have to think about during the day.”

“Occasionally someone will delete a file by mistake. We haven’t had a catastrophic failure, thankfully. But someone might come in and say, ‘Oops, I can’t find this file – I deleted it.’ We can retrieve it in a couple of minutes and put it back on the server where it’s supposed to be. It really is very simple.”

Boatright considers the fee for the Barracuda Backup Service to be less than the cost of labor for managing the old tape backup system. He continued, “We can run the company and have confidence our information is stored well and retrievable. I think peace of mind and confidence are the greatest benefits, and the price is minimal for that advantage.”

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 Copyright © 2009 Apropos LLC. All rights reserved.

Purewire Relies on Brocade for Delivering a Global Web Security Service with a Cloud-Based Infrastructure

We have two main goals. One is keeping users secure, and the second is not to disrupt normal web browsing activity.”
– Dr. Paul Judge, CTO and Co-Founder, Purewire

Software as a Service – Around the Globe

What infrastructure is needed to deliver a web-based software service with consistently fast performance to users around the world? While it is one matter to deliver performance to users in a dedicated, local environment, it is another altogether to deliver performance globally over the World Wide Web. This question of performance is one Purewire had to answer as it built out a data center infrastructure for its web security service, which it launched a little over a year ago.

Purewire is a software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider of web security services for organizations of all sizes – small businesses to Fortune 1000 enterprises. “Purewire provides a service to secure users while they are surfing the web,” said Dr. Paul Judge, chief technology officer and co-founder of Purewire. “We accelerate traffic, so they are getting legitimate content faster. We also are looking at the destination to make sure they are going to the appropriate places, especially in the case of businesses. And then the third thing we do is examine the responses from those websites to make sure they are not malicious and trying to attack the user’s PC or compromise that user’s computer.”

Purewire acts like a security guard sitting between a user and the web at large. “A user simply points outbound web surfing through the Purewire service. And regardless of the location or destination they are visiting, their web activity is going through this infrastructure,” he said.

The Purewire service appeals to enterprises because it offers comprehensive web security for their workers. Enterprises can enforce a user policy for web activities like browsing, web applications and social networks. It protects users inside and outside of a company’s firewall. Judge continued, “The Purewire service not only protects users when they are at the office, but also when the user picks up that laptop and goes across the street to the coffee shop or across the country to a hotel. Purewire is always in between that user and the web, so we have the same level protection regardless of location.” It applies to laptop PCs as well as mobile devices like the iPhone and Blackberry, which have previously gone unprotected. A cloud-based service also avoids having to install web security appliances at every remote or branch office. Thus, it is easier to deploy and centrally manage.

The challenge for Purewire was to deliver these security benefits without causing a perceivable slowdown in a user’s web experience, regardless of their location. “We have two main goals. One is keeping users secure, and the second is not to disrupt normal web browsing activity,” he said.

Brocade ServerIron for Global Server Load Balancing

Purewire set up server farms hosting its web security service in several data centers around the world. Then it needed a means to direct users to the best data center for the fastest response time, and within a data center, to route requests to the most available server. They chose Brocade ServerIron 350, ServerIron 450 and ServerIron 4G series of application delivery controllers to provide this global server load balancing and traffic routing capability. These application switches offered high performance and application throughput as well as ease of management in a globally distributed environment.

Dr. Judge elaborated, “No matter where a user is in the world, we need to reliably get their data routed to our data center and through our data center. So we use Brocade for load balancing and traffic redirection. Whenever a user is, say, in the middle of South America and decides they need to connect to a Purewire service, the load balancing will direct them to the appropriate data center. Then within that data center, we again use intelligent load balancing to direct that traffic to the best possible server.”

A user doesn’t know we’re there, unless and until we have to protect them from some threat.”
– Dr. Paul Judge

Performance as Designed

When asked if this cloud-based infrastructure is meeting expectations, Judge responded, “Yes, absolutely. Customers are delighted. Our channel partners are delighted. People are becoming more aware of the need to protect their users and more aware of the advantages of deploying that as a service. The number of customers that we service and the amount of traffic that we monitor is steadily increasing… The Purewire service is performing as designed – a user doesn’t know we’re there, unless and until we have to protect them from some threat.”

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 Copyright © 2009 Apropos LLC. All rights reserved.

iAmplify Partners with Photon Infotech to Enable Audio and Video Self-Publishing for the Masses

There’s going to be many, many authors and lecturers and experts that have incredibly rich and valuable content that we can monetize.”
– Murray Hidary, CEO and Co-Founder, iAmplify

A Serendipitous Start

Murray Hidary, CEO and Co-Founder of iAmplify, discovered the idea for his business by chance one evening. “I was having dinner with a friend of mine, and she’s a New York Times best-selling author. Her name is Marianne Williamson,” said Hidary. “And she has been giving lectures for the past fifteen to twenty years, in addition to writing books. And I asked her, Marianne, where are the hundreds of lectures, the recordings, that you have given over the last fifteen to twenty years? It turns out that when they are recorded at a live event, they are sent to a warehouse in Carlsbad, California, and they are sitting in boxes and they are not being monetized.”

“So I literally went to L.A., drove down to Carlsbad, put all these boxes of content into my car, went back and got them digitized, turned them into MP3 and MP4 files. We built a prototype of our platform and announced it on her website, that for the first time you can get access to these incredible archives of content from Marianne Williamson for ten dollars a month. Every week we are going to send you another lecture. And instantly it turned into a six-figure business out of thin air. So I said, well, I think there’s something here! If this works for Marianne, there’s going to be many, many authors and lecturers and experts that have incredibly rich and valuable content that we can monetize.”

After this serendipitous start, Hidary worked to turn the vision into a reality and launched iAmplify a little over a year ago. iAmplify is an online store for expert video and audio downloads, comparable to YouTube, but with expert-level, premium content and the ability to buy and sell. Topics include educational seminars, fitness workouts, language learning, financial information and self-help.

The purpose of iAmplify is “to empower and enable the content owners of audio and video to self-publish and monetize that content on the web,” according to Hidary. “For certain types of content, our model is going to work really well. It’s not going to make sense for a lecturer on relationships or a Pilates or yoga teacher to offer their content free for ads. It just won’t generate enough views to give them any significant money. But with our model, they can monetize their content and create a really robust new revenue stream for themselves.”

Building the Technology Foundation – The Media Factory

The most significant challenge in launching iAmplify was to develop a technology platform for uploading, delivering, buying and selling audio and video content. Named the Media Factory, this technology would be the foundation of the business and had to be functional, easy to use, scalable and cost-effective.

“It was quite a challenge to put the different pieces of this puzzle together,” said Hidary. “We had to make the web interface easy to use and simple to navigate for people with no technology experience. Our platform is not for programmers and sophisticated users. We have people who have never been on the web before, coming onto our site and uploading and selling without any scripting or programming experience. So it had to be incredibly easy to use for the non-technical person.”

“Number two, it had to have all the digital content management – meaning it needed to handle all kinds of file formats for audio and video, and be able to store and deliver those files in an efficient and scalable way. And that’s not trivial when you’re dealing with literally terabytes of video and audio files.”

“Another piece is the e-commerce component. It’s a transactional model, so we need to take credit cards and also recur billing those credit cards if they have a monthly or annual subscription.”

“And then the final piece is customer service. One of the things we had to do is completely integrate our platform so that customers can use it seamlessly with iTunes and their iPod as well as just download to watch on their computer. So you can download a course in how to play poker, and you’re on a plane to Vegas, you can watch it. It’s a portable, on-the-go type of experience. And there are a lot of people doing this for the first time and need help getting the video or audio onto their portable device, in most cases an iPod or an iPhone,” he said.

iAmplify Enlists Photon Infotech

iAmplify decided to partner with the IT consulting firm Photon Infotech to develop, maintain, support and market its Media Factory platform. Hidary continued, “We basically had an in-house team which developed the first version. And then, for a little over a year, we’ve been working with Photon as our technology partner to scale and take this to the next level. They’ve done a great job at both maintaining the current system as well as adding incredible functionality as our customers and expert publishers have asked for additional features.”

Photon Infotech reengineered the system to scale and handle a much larger user base. It added new features, for instance, a widget that allows affiliates or distribution partners to sell content on their own websites. The widget tracks sales so iAmplify can send commission checks to affiliates. Photon also handles ongoing administration of the Media Factory, scaling up capacity as demand increases and making sure the system remains online and delivers content 24/7.

If you have your audio and video content, you can upload it into iAmplify as easily as uploading it into YouTube.”
– Murray Hidary

Simplified and Automated User Experience

As a result of this joint development effort, iAmplify can now offer a highly automated experience of publishing and selling content online. “If you have your audio and video content, you can upload it into iAmplify as easily as uploading it into YouTube – click, browse and upload,” said Hidary. “And then you can set all the rules for how you want to sell your content, your business model.” This can range from selling individual downloads, bundles of content bundles and subscription services where customers periodically receive new downloads from a favorite lecturer or author. The iAmplify Media Factory handles all of the content delivery and billing.

Buying and downloading content is also simplified through integration with iTunes. “On our site, the customer literally hits one button which says ‘send to iTunes,’ and from that moment on, their entire library of whatever they buy through iAmplify automatically feeds into iTunes on their computer, and by definition onto their iPod, etc.” he said.

This is a deep partnership.”
– Murray Hidary

Streamlined, Growing Business

Hidary likes how the partnership with Photon Infotech has streamlined his organization and enabled it to scale. “So that’s probably the best part of this,” he said. “We had a lot of this in-house, both in terms of the programming team as well as systems administration and customer service, but having Photon as our partner has enabled us to outsource those functionalities and to have more capability at a lower cost. They’ve been able to help us scale as we’ve grown with our customers.”

iAmplify has grown the number of publishers on its site over the past year, both big media companies like Martha Stewart and Meredith Corporation as well as individual experts that want to self-publish. For the big media companies, iAmplify’s Media Factory serves as a back-end fulfillment engine. For instance, when a customer on the Martha Stewart website buys a cooking video, the Media Factory actually performs the content download and transaction, though it all appears seamless to the user.

“Most of these media companies have typically made their money through advertising and sponsorship models. I think what many companies have seen in the last year, given the softness in advertising and the economy, is that they are looking to diversify those revenue streams from just advertising to premium paid content as well. They are turning to iAmplify as their partner for that part of their business model,” said Hidary.

iAmplify plans to continue scaling its business by attracting new media companies and self-publishers, and Photon Infotech plays an important role here. Hidary continued, “They are the ones helping our partners launch these download stores. So each time we launch one of these big partnerships, we have a branded store with our partner’s look and feel and logo and brand, and that work is done by Photon. And the self-publishers – there is a lot of research that goes into finding these experts, and Photon has a team that is helping us with that as well. This is a deep partnership.”

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 Copyright © 2009 Apropos LLC. All rights reserved.