How do you make an already great project-management on demand system better than ever? How about improving the performance by as much as 500%?
Here is how we did it…
A Little Background
Ever since the introduction of OnTime V2.0, Axosoft has provided a hosted option. This allows teams that want to get going with OnTime right away the option to do so without having to setup their own installations. We expected this option to be extremely popular, but to our surprise, over the past 6 years, relatively few of our customers have chosen to go the “Software as a Service” route.
Don’t get me wrong, “relatively few” still means hundreds of customers, but we were expecting thousands.
So a few months back, we decided to deep-dive into the numbers and figure out what was going on. What we found was that the closer customers were to Axosoft’s physical data center location, the more likely they were to choose the hosted service.
Hmmm…that seemed odd.
So we did a bit more digging with the help of some external resources to see what the OnTime Hosted user experience was like from different parts of the world.
The results were shocking!
Depending on customers’ locations and bandwidth (with respect to Axosoft’s Tempe, Arizona data center), the performance they experienced could vary by as much as 500% over optimum performance. This was especially true for our European and Australian customers. That meant that an OnTime page that might have taken 1 second to load under normal circumstances might take as much as 5 seconds to load for some customers.
The problem, of course, is not an easy problem to solve. Because regardless of how well connected our data center is, we are also bound by customers’ connections — and all of the connections in between. The longer the distance and the more hops between a customer and OnTime Hosted, the worse the performance.
So we focused our entire IT and product engineering team on solving this problem.
Introducing ‘OnTime Now!’
OnTime Now! takes all of the great OnTime features, usability and innovation, and wraps it up in a hosted environment that allows customers to be up and running in no time flat. But it has a unique twist:
YOU get to choose the data center where your OnTime Now is installed from 6 world-wide locations:
- Tempe, Arizona (this is where all OnTime hosted customers were until now)
- San Jose, California
- San Antonio, Texas
- Herndon, Virgina
- London, United Kingdom
- Brisbane, Australia
During the OnTime Now! signup process, you now get to choose the data center that will house your hosted account. To make the decision easier, we created a speed test, allowing you to choose the best performing site:
Once a data center is selected, OnTime Now! goes to work immediately creating the DNS entries for your chosen URL, a brand new OnTime database, your own OnTime Web Server, Customer Portal Server, Remote Server, iPhone Server, SDK and everything you need for your OnTime installation to go live. The entire process takes only seconds, and then you receive an email with instructions on how to get started. It’s pretty amazing.
So How Much Better is it?
While nearly every customer outside of Arizona will see a performance improvement, the most drastic performance increases will be seen by our East Coast (US), European and Australian customers. The chart below shows the relative performance that a typical European customer would experience. The Blue bars show the relative speed to our Tempe, Arizona data center while the Red bars show the performance those same customers can expect from our London, UK data center (shorter bars are better). As you can see, the difference is incredible:
We’ve made a ton of other improvements too, but all of them pale in comparison to this one major improvement with performance.
Existing OnTime Hosted customers can expect to be contacted soon regarding these changes so we can transition existing customers to OnTime Now! and the data centers of their choosing.
Our multiple data center strategy, which allows customers to choose the best performing data center is unprecedented in our industry. It required an enormous amount of effort to execute, not only in identifying and setting up servers in remote data centers across the globe, but also:
- engineering new systems to manage these remote installations from a single location
- allowing customers to seamlessly sign up and choose which data center to use for their OnTime installation
- tying all this into Axosoft’s unique purchasing system (the Axosoft Online Store)
- giving customer control of their system through the OnTime Now! Customer Dashboard
This was an awesome challenge!
Axosoft is truly blessed with some of the most incredibly talented people I know in this industry. No matter what challenges I throw at them, they seem to come up with solutions that shine.
Now, we’re back to the drawing board, coming up with the next big set of innovations that will move our industry forward. It’s fun doing unprecedented things. Stay tuned…
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