Headquartered in Sydney, Deputy markets a customizable web-based employee management system to businesses and government agencies. Organizations can use Deputy.com to roster and schedule employees, manage performance, check training and qualifications, calculate the cost of using workers, and confirm the availability of individuals to work at certain times or locations.

“The system will run up to 80,000 checks to find the best employee available to work a particular shift at a particular time,” says Ashik Ahmed, Chief Technology Officer. In 2011, Deputy was the only Asia Pacific firm to reach the finals of the AWS Global Start-Up Challenge. The 12-person firm has 1,500 customers, most of which are based in Australia and the United States.

Deputy.com began as Aero-Net, an internal employee management application developed by Aero-Care Flight Support, a company specializing in ground support for airlines. In 2008, Steve Shelley, Aero-Care’s founder, and Ahmed (who developed and administered Aero-Net), co-founded a company to sell and market a commercial version of the application. To meet the needs of prospective customers, the founders decided to make the commercial system—now called Deputy.com—customizable using simple HTML5, JavaScript, and a proprietary, server-side XML programming language.

The new company needed a scalable, cost-effective infrastructure to operate Deputy.com. “Aero-Net ran on leased servers in a co-located datacenter,” says Ahmed. “Had we taken the same approach at Deputy, it would have cost $250,000 in hardware costs alone to deliver the system on a commercial basis.”

Ahmed and Shelley considered several infrastructure options for Deputy.com, including other co-location datacenters. “In 2010, we received a quote from one vendor of $82,000 for hardware and $9,000 per month for datacenter co-location and bandwidth,” says Ahmed. “But this was still too high for our needs.”

After reviewing options, the company’s founders decided to deliver Deputy.com as a cloud service and chose Amazon Web Services (AWS) as the host provider. “AWS has a compelling combination of performance combined with rapid innovation at the lowest cost available,” says Ahmed. Deputy needed to store commercially sensitive and personal information securely and make it available only to authorized users. After reading AWS security white papers, the founders believed that they would be able to implement security measures to deploy Deputy.com securely on the AWS Cloud.

Deputy.com’s suite of applications enable companies to recruit new employees, prepare rosters, collect and review time records, delegate duties, complete performance reviews, and manage wages. Deputy was able to implement the commercial application on AWS in two weeks. The firm is using a wide range of AWS solutions in the US West (Northern California) and Asia Pacific (Sydney) Regions to deliver Deputy.com to customers in the United States and Australia. By developing an architecture spanning both regions, Deputy minimizes the risk of customers in the US or Australia experiencing slow connections to its service.

When a customer signs up for a service, a central MyDeputy application running in the US West (Northern California) Region handles the process. Deputy operates its applications using an Amazon Linux AMI on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances with Elastic Load Balancing to allocate requests. Auto Scaling automatically scales capacity based on demand. Amazon Route 53 sends requests to the nearest AWS Region in which Deputy.com operates. Figure 1 demonstrates Deputy on AWS.

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Figure 1. Deputy Architecture on AWS

Deputy deploys an Oracle Database on Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS), which stores employee information, rosters, time sheets and other data. Deputy takes advantage of multiple Availability Zones to enable immediate failover in the event of a catastrophe. Amazon SimpleDB enables application logging, while Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) stores all photographs and file uploads. Static web content such as image assets are served from the Amazon CloudFront content delivery network.

Amazon Simple Queue Service (Amazon SQS) queues billing, customer updates, and other non-immediate tasks, while Amazon Simple Notification Service (Amazon SNS) allows Deputy to keep all customer systems synchronized using data patches and settings updates. The firm sends messages to workers about shift times and other employment-related matters using Amazon Simple Email Service (Amazon SES).

Using AWS has saved Deputy a considerable amount in infrastructure costs. “Over the four years that we’ve run in the AWS Cloud, we’ve spent less than $75,000 on average per year on operating expenses—despite being billed on a month-to-month basis and having our services distributed around the world,” says Ahmed. “Had we gone down the path of purchasing hardware in 2010, that equipment would be reaching end-of-life by now. This means in addition to our $250,000 initial investment, we would have to spend at least another $500,000 on a refresh project. Thanks to AWS, we saved at least $750,000 in capital expenditures.”

Low costs help Deputy offer its services at a fraction of the cost of those of its rivals. “Our competitors charge at least nine times what we do to provide the same services,” says Ahmed. “Even though loads on the infrastructure that we use have risen by 35 percent since 2011, our expenses have risen only marginally.” Because Deputy only pays for what it uses and the environment is highly scalable, the company can support peaks and lulls in demand. For example, on Friday and Saturday nights in the hospitality trade, the system is subject to a lot of demand and activity, whereas Tuesday nights are likely to be considerably quieter.

Deputy.com has run in the Asia Pacific (Sydney) Region since 2012 and been available 99.99 percent of the time, helping the company meet strict service level requirements for businesses that depend on the website’s availability to coordinate employees at short notice. Moreover, proximity to Deputy’s customers has helped the business minimize latency and avoid frustrating its users. The average page loads in 50 milliseconds in Australia, while US customers average a still-fast page load time of about 200 milliseconds. Ahmed reports that the AWS model inspired the company’s business practices when creating Deputy.com. “Our customers pay only for what they use and can access a range of functionality.”

Using AWS, Deputy can leverage a highly distributed, full-featured platform to help bring new products to the market quickly and at a low cost. “If we wanted to set up in Europe, we could install the required infrastructure in five minutes,” says Ahmed. “Thanks to AWS, we have the ability to go global at short notice to meet customer demand.”

To learn more about how AWS can help you run web applications, visit the Web, Mobile, and Social details page: http://aws.amazon.com/web-mobile-social/.