AWS Case Study: Backupify
Backupify, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, provides backup and recovery solutions for Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) applications, including Salesforce.com and Google Apps, which includes the Gmail and Google Drive services. The company helps provide a secure cloud for its 200,000 customers, protecting them from data loss from hacking, user error, and other events. Backupify serves both companies and consumers in high tech, publishing, business, and education.
Backupify helps provide users with a secure cloud to protect against data loss. When founder Rob May created Backupify in 2008, the company was intended as a cloud-to-cloud backup service for consumers. Backupify specialized in backing up “life stream” content, such as content from Flickr and Twitter. Within a year, the company’s business had expanded to include content generated by businesses. Since then, Backupify has developed products specifically for backing up data from Google Apps, Gmail, Google Drive and Salesforce.com, and plans to add backup coverage for many more cloud applications.
Backupify’s customers required storage that would secure their data while not requiring significant investment, and storage that would scale with customer needs, increasing storage quickly without increasing costs.
Why Amazon Web Services
Backupify has been using Amazon Web Services (AWS) from the start to provide its customers with automated backup services and secure data storage. All development, staging, and offshore resources use the AWS Cloud. The company indexes data with a 21-node Apache Cassandra cluster within a Ruby stack. Within the Ruby-based technical stack, Backupify uses Resque for queuing and scheduling jobs. Each of the Cassandra nodes runs on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2). “We use Amazon EC2 functionality extensively,” says Matt Conway, CTO. “For example, we use bucket versioning to secure our customers’ data—it’s highly durable.”
Backupify uses EC2 Reserved Instances to keep costs low and Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), a highly durab le and secure data store, to store customer data. However, with the launch of Amazon Glacier, the Backupify team began leveraging the Amazon S3 life cycle policy feature to tier the less frequently accessed data and archive data into Amazon Glacier. Amazon Glacier provides the same level of durability as Amazon S3 at a much more attractive price point. This helped Backupify optimize its costs and invest its research and development dollars back into product and platform enhancements for its customers.
The company currently stores multiple terabytes to petabytes of data in Amazon S3 and Amazon Glacier. Extensive redundancy has been built into the Backupify system to bolster its archives and ensure that customers will not lose any data. Figure 1 demonstrates Backupify's architecture environment.
The company believes it offers customers increased control over its data by providing a single console with an easy-to-use interface. “We’re giving our customers control by providing them with a console that’s easy to use and easy to maintain,” Conway explains. “It’s scalable, automatic, and there’s no performance impact to your SaaS implementation. We can achieve the scale and performance we need through the flexibility of the AWS APIs.”
“We do all of our computing on Amazon EC2,” says David Block, VP of Engineering. “Since we opened our doors, our capacity has doubled, while our costs have stayed the same. AWS is so aggressive about reducing costs that we haven’t needed to look anywhere else for storage and computing services.”
AWS helped enable Backupify to take advantage of a growing need in the market, by allowing them to avoid a costly up-front investment in hardware. “Millions of companies use Google Apps, so the market we supply is enormous. You couldn’t start a company like this if you had to buy and provision servers every time you grew—we had a very high fixed cost from day one. AWS makes companies like ours possible to start. We estimate that we would have needed to spend at least $800,000 in capital costs to create a secure, scalable infrastructure ourselves. Only a small fraction of that was spent with AWS in the first year to bootstrap the business.”
According to Backupify, the company would have to hire a staff of IT professionals at a cost of nearly $300,000 per year to run a data center if the company were running on an on-premises architecture. Instead, Backupify uses a self-service model and developers double as operations leads when necessary. “AWS frees up our engineers to focus on adding value to the business, instead of slowing us down by requiring a lot of infrastructure maintenance,” Block says. “And because AWS takes care of scaling the storage, our developers and our code just provision what they need and move on.”
“We didn’t know how fast we were going to grow,” Block says. “The flexibility and scalability of AWS really enables our kind of business.”
Conway expects Backupify to grow further with the use of AWS. “Amazon’s storage services have always been innovative, with the launch of Amazon S3, Reduced Redundancy Storage and now Glacier,” Conway says. “We plan to leverage more of these storage tiers going forward, saving costs while providing highly secure and durable data to our customers.”
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