Measured Voice, founded in 2010 by Jed Sundwall and Lee Vann, provides social media management for government agencies and enterprises—both measuring impact of social media and helping customers craft outgoing messages. The company has developed a tool for writing, scheduling, and measuring the impact of messages on social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook. Thanks to Measured Voice, government agencies can now hone their voices based on easy-to-understand data about message impact. Measured Voice is headquartered in San Diego, CA. In one month alone, Measured Voice customers sent more than 8,200 messages, which garnered more than 418 million impressions.

Measured Voice launched in 2010 to help governmental bodies meet the challenges of social media by making it easy for them to craft outgoing messages and measure their impact. The company needed a solution that would be easy to use at the outset, but allowed the company to grow flexibly—and one that would allow its users to collaborate on social media messages without sharing passwords.

Initially, the company used a third party to host its service, because it had the security certifications necessary to enable the company to work with governmental agencies. “Our government clients use Measured Voice to convey official information to their constituents,” says CTO Chris Radcliff, “so security is a concern for us. We require rigid application security (to avoid improper access to communications channels).”

But the hoster’s interface was challenging, and the company found itself spending too much time on technical details. “We specialize in helping governments find their voice, not in hosting web services,” Radcliff says.

Sundwall and Vann had used Amazon Web Services (AWS) before they founded Measured Voice, and wanted to use AWS from the outset—but at the time, AWS lacked a key security certification: Auditing Standards No. 70 (SAS 70) Type II. A few months after Measured Voice launched, AWS obtained SOC1/SOC2 security certifications, which replaced Auditing Standards No. 70 (SAS 70) Type II, and the company switched from its initial hoster to AWS. “AWS was our first choice,” Sundwall says. “The option to deploy our service to AWS GovCloud with the same AWS product architecture made AWS a natural fit.”

Measured Voice deploys its service in the AWS GovCloud (US) Region to enable US government agencies and customers to move sensitive workloads into the cloud by addressing their specific regulatory and compliance requirements. The AWS GovCloud (US) framework adheres to U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) regulations as well as the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMPSM) requirements.

The company uses a standard multi-tier service-oriented architecture (SOA), with a cluster of application servers driving the majority of the service, supported by data storage and content delivery services. The Ruby on Rails-based application servers are Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) instances spread across Multiple Availability Zones (Multi-AZ), with loads managed by Elastic Load Balancing (ELB) for the cluster. Static assets, including the company’s marketing site, are stored in an Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) bucket and delivered by Amazon S3 hosting. Domain Naming System (DNS) is handled by Amazon Route 53. The company uses Amazon ElastiCache on the front end to deliver performance and speed for customers. See the architecture diagram below for an illustration of the company’s infrastructure.

measured-voice-arch-diag

Figure 1. Measured Voice Architecture Diagram

The company’s application servers are separated into production, staging, and development clusters with independent storage, which allows Measured Voice to quickly develop and deploy changes without impacting its production environment.

The application uses Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) MySQL instances for most data storage, with a Multi-AZ instance for production data. “Amazon RDS offers us push-button scaling, automated backups, and Multi-AZ deployment, so that we can count on the reliability of our data storage over the long term and concentrate our development efforts in other areas,” Radcliff says.

Measured Voice relies heavily on external social-media APIs. “Social media connections are notoriously unreliable,” Radcliff says, “so to manage them, we deploy a separate cluster of Amazon EC2 servers that we call Three Poppies.” Three Poppies accepts social-media requests via a simple service API, stores the responses temporarily using Amazon RDS, and responds to information requests as it is updated. “By decoupling the Three Poppies service, we can scale its clusters independently from the Measured Voice application-server clusters,” Radcliff adds.

The company recommends planning for the future when setting up an architecture. “When we sat down and planned the Measured Voice product, we planned for the future,” Radcliff says. “We looked at all the tools AWS provides, and we started making space for all that. We had a place for all of that in our architecture, and then we scaled it back to the basics—only what we needed right then—and that’s what we built.”

Radcliff recommends using standardized application servers on Amazon EC2 for simplicity and using the same version for both development and production. “Each of our app servers has the same stack, even though they do different things,” Radcliff says. “That enables us to set up a new app server and then tell it what to do. We don’t have to worry that something will go wrong in production.”

AWS has enabled Measured Voice to concentrate on its core competency: helping clients develop an effective brand voice without having to worry about either technical concerns or security certifications. “Using AWS helps us do remarkable things in very little time,” Sundwall says. “We don’t have to think about technical details or costs. AWS lets us focus on what we’re good at.”

The company has also realized cost savings as a result of using AWS. “Cost is now a non-issue for us,” Sundwall says. “If we had to manage our own servers, we’d pay 10 times what we pay in sysadmin costs. Using AWS significantly lowers the total cost of ownership for us, when compared to managing our own servers.”

Product changes are easy to roll out for the company, because AWS enables them to resolve issues quickly. “If we need to change our system, we can develop it and deploy it in a matter of hours,” Radcliff says. “We’ve both worked with other companies where the same work can take a month or two, simply because they have limited deployment windows. Our deployment windows are daily, because AWS is so flexible.”

Measured Voice is better able to innovate, knowing that the costs and risks of experimentation will be low with AWS. “We had an idea for a new product, and we went from concept to demo within a month,” Sundwall says. “Thanks to AWS, putting the demo together only cost a couple dollars a month, so it was no big risk if it didn’t take off—but if it did, we could handle it. AWS gives us an infinite amount of scalability with a very low barrier to entry.”

In addition, performance has improved as a result of using AWS. “The previous system was frustratingly slow,” Sundwall says. “We’ve been able to easily exceed our internal goals using AWS. In fact, we recently completed a performance analysis that showed that more than 99 percent of production requests to the application were served in under half a second.”

Going forward, as its clients’ historical data grows, the company plans to build out the application’s reporting and analysis features using Amazon Elastic MapReduce (Amazon EMR) to rationalize the vast amounts of social data recorded by its Three Poppies servers.

Measured Voice is currently using AWS for a prototype of its new product, Shining Sea, which is a new way to measure how tweets ranked against one another. “We use Amazon EC2 to analyze tweets, and then create JSON and HTML files that we push to Amazon S3 and display on the web,” Sundwall says. “It’s rock solid—super fast. Thanks to AWS, we can draw from this rich data source of everything the government has been saying—which is a massive amount of data. It’s very exciting.”

Moving to AWS has been positive for the company, according to Radcliff. Sundwall adds, “We have yet to encounter a problem that hasn't been solved by an AWS service. AWS has been invaluable to our start-up phase, and we're very comfortable that it will accommodate us as we grow.”

To learn more about how AWS can help you deliver web applications to government customers, visit our Government and Education page: http://aws.amazon.com/government-education/.

For more information about using the AWS Cloud for government, see our AWS GovCloud detail page: http://aws.amazon.com/govcloud-us/.