Online storage provider ElephantDrive turned to Amazon’s Simple Storage Service (S3) as backup during its datacenter migration. The company was so pleased with the performance and ease-of-use of Amazon S3 that it quickly moved to integrate the storage solution into its regular business operations. Now, the majority of ElephantDrive’s client data is stored by Amazon S3. The company’s user base has more than doubled and its number of digital assets has quadrupled since moving to Amazon S3. Without needing to worry about making sure its storage solution can scale with its growth, ElephantDrive has expanded the total amount of storage it transfers and manages by almost 20 percent each week without increasing capital costs.

There’s no question that the demand for digital storage is growing. People now use their computers to store important business and financial documents, expensive media collections, and irreplaceable photos and videos. But personal computers and external hard drives can only hold so much, and both are vulnerable to common catastrophes like failures, fires, felons and forgetfulness. Since personal peripheral storage devices don’t provide enough protection against these dangers, can be difficult to configure and maintain, and don’t offer universal access, consumers and small businesses are increasingly turning to online services to store and share digital files.

ElephantDrive was founded in 2005 to meet this explosive demand for inexpensive, secure, and highly available online backup and storage. The company uses a combination of a lightweight desktop application and browser-based tools to provide users with continuous online backup and universal data access.

Soon after launching its beta testing program, ElephantDrive faced a challenge that can stress the staff and infrastructure of even the most seasoned technology organization: a datacenter migration. Prior to its move, the company had been experimenting with Amazon S3 for storage of its back-office operations data. Amazon S3 provides simple Web services interfaces that developers can use to store and retrieve any amount of data, at any time, from anywhere on the Web. Happy with the performance Amazon S3 provided for its back-office, ElephantDrive decided to use S3 to support its datacenter migration. The company transferred and retrieved over 70 GB in 150,000 objects at a steadily increasing average transfer speed of 152 KB/sec (1.2 Mbps).

When the move was complete, ElephantDrive decided to expand its use of Amazon S3, adding it as a repository for its customers’ digital assets. In addition to its own two proprietary storage repositories, Amazon S3 provides both backup and production storage to ElephantDrive systems, helping to guarantee that customer data is protected and available at all times.

Since adding Amazon S3 as part of its production storage environment, the company’s user base has more than doubled, and its number of digital assets has quadrupled. Without scalability concerns, the total amount of storage transferred and under management by ElephantDrive continues to grow at a rate of nearly 20 percent per week.

ElephantDrive and Amazon S3 integrated seamlessly. So seamlessly, that Amazon S3 is fully transparent to ElephantDrive’s customers. The way they work together is simple: the ElephantDrive desktop client, developed using Visual Studio .NET, utilizes a proprietary, XML-based protocol for the efficient transfer of files to its cache servers. Objects queued on the cache servers are moved to S3 via an asynchronous process utilizing the REST API. Users requesting an object for download/restore are given a secure, dynamically constructed HTTP request that is sent directly to S3.

“Our business plan relied in part upon the availability of massive commodity-based storage provided by an established and trustworthy enterprise. So when S3 launched, we were ecstatic. It is precisely the sort of service we anticipated, offered by precisely the kind of player we hoped to partner with,” said Ben Widhelm, co-founder of ElephantDrive. “We are in the business of providing the best online storage service possible. And since S3 has enabled easy access to world-class storage, we can concentrate on delivering a world-class service.”

The online storage arena is growing, and ElephantDrive is facing competition from a number of sources, potentially including big-name players such as Google and Microsoft. The company plans to move the majority of its customer data to Amazon S3 because, with Amazon handling the storage, ElephantDrive can concentrate on developing the best consumer-facing software and marketing its service.

“The choice to use Amazon S3 was easy. The simple design and compact functionality make the service extremely flexible, and the support staff at Amazon are genuinely interested in helping us succeed,” said Mike Fisher, co-founder of ElephantDrive. “We look forward to growing our business with S3 and working with Amazon as a trusted partner.”

ElephantDrive is currently offering free service in its public beta mode. When it begins selling paid subscriptions, the company anticipates consuming well over half a terabyte in total storage on a monthly basis, matching that number plus 20 percent in transfer. By leveraging Amazon S3 in this time of rapid growth, ElephantDrive expects a significant reduction in short-term capital expenditures and a corresponding increase in available working capital.

While ElephantDrive’s beta offering is focused on providing the most reliable, secure and user-friendly online storage, at launch the company also plans to include features that enable sharing, management and publishing of digital assets. Additionally, the development roadmap calls for expansion from the desktop to mobile devices and digital entertainment components, and deeper integration into operating systems and common software suites. As the company marches down this path, it envisions its relationship with Amazon Web Services will deepen.

“Integrating S3 has already been a huge success for ElephantDrive,” Widhelm concluded. “Amazon has delivered an excellent technical solution backed by an outstanding team and active community. They have been a great partner across the board, and we’ll continue to look for ways to work together.”

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