Zovy did not start out as a hosting company. Most people know us as an archiving, compliance and eDiscovery company- what makes us qualified as a hosting company? Like many technology companies, it evolved from a set of skills and talents to meet the particular needs of our customers.
When I started in 2011, the IT world was a very different place. Hosted and cloud solutions were not nearly as widespread or trusted as they are today. At the time, our core archiving product was owned by HP, but we were just beginning to sell a hosted version of it as our archiving tool
We saw the advantages of what would eventually become known as Zovy Archive. It had a fantastic index and search engine, and could handle searching large data sets better than anything else, and could deal with more data types. Unfortunately, we also saw the downsides. It required a large amount of hardware to deliver those efficient search results quickly. It also required specialized knowledge to maintain and administrate.
So how could customers take advantage of the power of the system without tearing their hair out buying hardware to maintain it and hours each week to administer it? The answer was that we would do it for them, by hosting the system ourselves. It sounded simple, but it was anything but that, at least initially.
First, we had to earn the trust of our customers. Remember, this was 10 years ago, before every organization hosted data in Office 365, Azure or AWS. Many CIOs were skeptical of cloud or hosted solutions. Thankfully, we had several customers that we had provided critical services for, and placed their patience and trust in us with the infant hosted system.
Second, we had to create a hosted environment to run the archive- and to do it efficiently and securely. Easier said than done. We made a couple of early decisions that were difficult at the time, but proved to be beneficial in the long run. One of the first key decisions was to offer the product in a single tenant environment. This was when the cloud was blowing up, and tools like AWS and the relatively new Azure were being touted as the future of all computing. However, many of our customers were in highly secure or regulated industries, and cloud computing at the time couldn;t ofer the level of security and control that was needed. A secure hosted environment allowed us to do that.
Second was the needs of the application itself. Dealing with 100’s of terabytes of data at the time was not something we could do with other hosting providers. The indexing solution required specialized architecture to run effectively. Other solutions couldn’t offer the performance it needed at the time (and they still can’t do it cost effectively).
So, we built the environment from the ground up. It allowed us to create a specialized hosting environment that optimized the performance of the product, and have complete control over the security of the environment. As an added challenge, the archiving tool was not originally designed as a hosted solution. We had to overcome unique challenges to make it work effectively in a hosted environment.
All of this was not easy- certainly it was much more difficult than installing the application in a 3rd party cloud application- but it did allow us to learn valuable lessons that are expanding our business day.
- A talented, creative technical team that understands both hardware and software is invaluable. One of the reasons that customers that had attempted to run this or similar applications on premise and not been successful was that the people who understood the software didn’t communicate effectively with the hardware side. With ever-changing data sets of this size that require aggressive search capabilities, it wasn’t enough to create a set of specs. We developed an integrated team that understood both sides, and could optimize in real time.
- Services and understanding customer needs are more important than the software. The early days of the hosted solution were difficult, and our first customers were patient with us on the initial journey. What we learned here was that by understanding the customer needs and goals, we could ensure they had the critical data they needed to meet deadlines and business needs. Though the hosted archiving solution is rock solid now, it is a lesson that we have taken to our hosting business, to provide robust services and a deep understanding of client needs as part of the solution.
- Open source is important. One way that we were able to create the environment that was needed was through judicious use of open source applications like Ceph and Proxmox to manage it effectively. There are powerful open source tools with high levels of security and reliability available- it’s a matter of understanding and applying them. Dedicating a team to building a dedicated architecture allowed us to create an environment that was not only cost effective, but highly scalable.
The result of all this, and a little luck, was that we can now apply the lessons learned to provide secure, specialty hosting to our clients.
The luck was in the timing. Just as we dialed in our open source, hosting, and hardware capabilities, hosting and cloud blew up. Almost every organization starting using Office 365. We had the right hosted solution at the right time to offer hosted archiving and compliance solutions that were complementary to Office 365.
What we then realized is that the processes, skills and applications we developed had broader appeal than just the archiving solution. Companies have continued to move data to the cloud- and now they completed the easy stuff. The basic applications, the email servers, the raw storage, these are easily hosted in large scale cloud applications.
What left is the high performance, specialty, or legacy applications. Applications that are expensive or impossible to host in other solutions. And even if you could host them, your team would spend unnecessary cycles managing them. These are the applications holding back your cloud initiative, your data center consolidation and your other important projects. That’s where we come. We have already done this for some of the most difficult high performance applications there are. We built a team that can deploy applications on customized environments, solving unique challenges, while keeping it cost effective. This is now a major focus for us- providing hosted environments to our clients with the highest levels of managed services for high performance and specialty applications.