Media Sonar is a London, Ont.-based start-up that works with public safety organizations to help them mine social media and perform analytics in the interest of facilitating public safety investigations. The company provides an application that allows public safety officials to select locations they want to monitor and then collect data related to those locations from a number of social media websites, including Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
Founded in 2013, the young company found itself challenged by the amount of data it had to process. The public safety sector needed large quantities of data, and fast – so how could Media Sonar go about making all that data available in a way that was quick and efficient?
“Traditionally, we’d set up a whole bunch of servers and data centres,” said Gary Manning, co-founder and CTO, Media Sonar. “But we wanted to change ourselves from being an infrastructure company to a software company, because that’s our core competency.”
The company started researching potential solutions, and eventually settled on Azure, Microsoft’s cloud computing and infrastructure platform.
“We tried Azure in beta before it was publicly available,” said Manning. “We evaluated their tools to see how they matched with our goals of big data, and the scalability and disaster recovery goals we had for our server.”
Manning also pointed to the software’s availability and uptime. With Azure, it was able to run three servers simultaneously, so that when one goes down for maintenance, the other two continue to run.
Although Manning cautioned that best practices and lessons learned will differ from company to company, as no two implementation processes are the same, he stressed that Media Sonar succeeded largely because it had a good team to support it.
“Because of the vast amounts of data we were dealing with, the issue of how to work in a sharding environment and have speed not be affected was a hurdle,” he said, adding that sharding is a process that separates large databases into more manageable pieces. “But the Microsoft team was there for us to guide us through it.”
He also indicated that preparedness is key, even if a cloud service provider is handling the infrastructure side of the operation.
“They’ll do their updates on one side, but you still need to have all your software modules ready to be auto deployed,” said Manning, noting that this will speed up time to deployment.
For Media Sonar, one of the top benefits of switching to Azure is that the Microsoft name provides them more credibility for their clients.
“They know Microsoft can be trusted and it gives them a sense of confidence,” said Angeline McIvor, co-founder and SVP, Media Sonar.
Moreover, the company has access to language translation through Azure, and it now has the backing it needs to launch new, innovative projects.
“They’re very supportive and supply cutting-edge technology that allows us to do things that aren’t typically on the marketplace,” said McIvor. “[Our] developers say Azure is very easy to use and a clean environment…and it gives them the opportunity to do things they weren’t able to do even a year ago.”