A+ Test Prep and Tutoring, located near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, provides one-on-one academic tutoring and test preparation for students. A+ offers test preparation for SAT and ACT exams, as well as other services.

A+ planned to expand its services internationally and needed a reliable platform to work with overseas students. The company decided to create a custom solution based on OpenMeetings, an open-source web platform with web conferencing and online collaboration features. In order to develop the platform, A+ needed a hosting environment able to meet OpenMeetings’ demanding technical requirements as well as its own requirements for security and scalability.

Daniel Ascher, President of A+, explains, “We didn’t have the financial resources to build the infrastructure that we needed to support the OpenMeetings platform. After some investigation, we began looking for a cloud service provider.”

Working with their developer, Jell Networks, a member of the AWS Partner Network (APN), A+ evaluated cloud service providers on the following areas:

  • Security: A+ needed to be able to add internal users easily while assigning very granular network permissions.
  • Scalability: The company anticipated an annual 50 percent growth in the test preparation market, domestically and internationally, and needed to be able to support new students without investing in additional hardware.
  • Compatibility: The cloud platform had to be compatible with third-party open source tools. The A+ team’s primary development language is Java and they use Subversion to manage the code base. A+ operates its OpenMeetings solution in a Linux environment using Apache, MySQL, and Red5 together with OpenLaszlo.
  • Performance: A+ needed a cloud infrastructure that performed at a high level with low network latency and the ability to support complex video conferencing.
  • Reliability: A+ needed as close to 100 percent availability as possible.

“Amazon Web Services (AWS) met all the requirements for all of our critical evaluation areas,” says Ascher. “That made AWS a good fit for us.”

A+ uses two Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances to run their development and production environments. Ascher notes, “It’s important to be able to configure two identical servers in order to eliminate potential issues during the development process.” The team uses Amazon Elastic Block Store (Amazon EBS) with Amazon EC2 instances to maintain a seven-day rolling backup of their servers. Figure 1 provides the architecture for A+.

aplus-arch-diagram

Figure 1: A+ Site Architecture

“The tutoring platform runs incredibly well on the AWS Cloud,” reports Ascher. “We have been running at near 100 percent uptime since inception. AWS is very scalable, which allows for easy expansion to students all over the globe.” Running its platform on AWS, A+ has been able to provide test preparation services for roughly 600 international students. Moving forward, A+ is considering using Amazon CloudFront to provide video recordings of online tutoring sessions and online meetings to other businesses and educational institutions as well as their own clients.

Ascher comments, “Other solutions didn’t match our requirements and it wasn’t cost-effective to build a solution in a traditional data center. Cloud computing makes it possible for A+ to provide the type of service that we do. We would not have pursued developing our own platform without the availability of the AWS Cloud.”

“Our business goals can change within a very short period,” says Rosa. “AWS gives us the ability to be agile and scale to meet editorial and business objectives while keeping our operational and capital costs low.”

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