SpareFoot.com helps self-storage facilities market their extra space, and helps consumers make educated decisions on which storage unit is best for their needs. Andrew Deagman, System Administrator for SpareFoot, says, “Our expertise is creating web apps that facilitate the relationship between storage facilities and storage consumers.” The company is located in downtown Austin, TX, and has grown to 31 full-time employees.

When SpareFoot began researching cloud computing options, the company was looking for a provider who could help the company manage a network of consumer-facing sites. "We also needed help managing pricing and availability information for 6,000 storage facilities, keeping in mind these numbers are constantly increasing," Deagman says.

SpareFoot decided to migrate from its previous hoster to Amazon Web Services (AWS). "The tools that make up AWS help ensure our application is redundant," Deagman says. "Because everything’s well integrated, all the services work seamlessly together.” SpareFoot now uses several AWS products to build a stable system for their applications:

  • Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) – Enables SpareFoot to scale servers on a whim if they get substantially more load due to increased traffic levels. Amazon RDS also reduced man-hours dedicated to processes like data backups, data retention, and slave deployment that would not be automated with a traditional server setup
  • Elastic Load Balancing (ELB) – Allows SpareFoot to build a much more redundant architecture with a smaller footprint.
  • Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) – SpareFoot uses it in many different ways, from backing up internal systems and environments to storing long-term data like traffic logs. Scalability on-the-fly is a huge plus to using Amazon S3 over a traditional storage solution
  • Amazon CloudWatch – Used as second layer of alerting to supplement current system monitoring environment. It allows SpareFoot to resolve downtime or resolve performance bottlenecks faster
  • Amazon CloudFront – Used to propagate tens of thousands of facility images stored on Amazon S3

Deagman adds, “We use Puppet configuration management and the AWS administration console. Our application runs off of the LAMP stack.” The architecture is represented in the diagram below.

sparefoot-arch-diagram

Figure 1: Sparefoot Architecture Diagram on AWS

The biggest business problem SpareFoot solved through use of AWS was improving stability. Deagman says, “AWS allowed us to create a stable and redundant system, so our applications are more reliable and less time is spent on server maintenance.” Using ELB, SpareFoot was also able to drastically reduce the number of instances running.

Other benefits include a 30 percent reduction in overall sysadmin hours by greatly reducing time spent maintaining servers. “We spend less time managing the processes that Amazon RDS and Amazon CloudWatch now handle," Deagman says. "And because we have on-demand storage capacity to support the growth of internal data and server load from incoming traffic, we spend less time worrying about the size of our application.”

During the development process, Deagman learned a couple of valuable lessons. He says, “With a cloud-based server, you first have to build redundancies in your system and learn to expect failure. Second, when something is this much easier to deploy and maintain, you have more time to focus on the things that matter, like improving performance and optimizing the application.”

Deagman concludes, “Having all these systems in the cloud allowed for mobility and flexibility for sysadmins. The ability to work from home, or from across the world, means a higher job satisfaction for our administrators.”

To learn more about how AWS can help your web application needs, visit our Web Applications details page: http://aws.amazon.com/web-mobile-social.