Since then, Basecamp has acquired over 1 million users and the 37signals team has created other innovative software services to solve related business problems. While focusing their creative efforts and development skills on crafting these services, they also faced another issue—the challenge of managing a booming business.
The company was originally using Network File System (NFS) servers as a storage solution in a managed hosting facility. As they began to grow toward 1 terabyte of data, however, 37signals sought alternative file storage solutions. David Heinemeier Hansson, a 37signals’ Partner, comments “The cost and time associated with maintaining a 1 terabyte file server with full backups and zero downtime are significant when you’re living off managed hosting.”
To address this growing issue, 37signals was comparing co-location facility pricing and evaluating the option of building their own hosting platform on top of MogileFS, when they heard about Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3).
37signals was attracted to the simplicity of Amazon’s Web service with REST standards and Amazon S3’s low cost. From a technical perspective, Hansson states, “S3 makes hosting massive amounts of files easy, affordable, and a no-brainer. Turning up our storage offerings no longer involves planning how to extend our cluster or deal with huge backups. It’s simply a pay-as-you-go proposition.” 37signals Founder Jason Fried adds, “I thought S3 was brilliant. I like low risk, outsourced services that give us room to grow with very little initial outlay.”
Currently 37signals hosts more than 1 terabyte of data in Amazon S3 for their Basecamp and Campfire tools. They also plan to move Backpack, their calendar and organizer application, to Amazon S3. Using Amazon S3, Hansson estimates they will save thousands of dollars—probably tens of thousands—per year. To 37signals, the decision to use Amazon S3 was a sensible, long-term solution because it ensures their data is reliably stored and provides the ability to scale to an unlimited capacity.
Hansson and the team at 37signals are problem solvers (not to mention innovative developers; Hansson is the creator of Ruby on Rails). They seek direct, uncomplicated approaches to all problems—whether a business decision or a product design issue. Their business philosophy is just as simple: build clean, useful tools. According to Fried, “We build easy-to-use Web-based products with elegant interfaces and thoughtful features. We want to give people simple tools that work well; tools that solve common problems that most people have every day.” 37signals’ tools are built for individual consumers and small businesses and are designed to be used by everyone in a company, from the intern to the CEO.
Today, 37signals’ product offerings include Basecamp, Highrise, Campfire, Backpack, Ta-da List, and Writeboard. When they are not busy developing software, the team is authoring books, speaking, and creating open-source frameworks such as Ruby on Rails. 37signals and RubyForge have hosted a suite of Ruby libraries built on Amazon Web Services’ APIs using REST standards, which can be found at http://rubyforge.org/projects/amazon/ .
For more on 37signals, go to http://37signals.com/ .