Convey Services: Modern cloud management strategy supports scaling of virtual event platform

Convey Services: Modern cloud management strategy supports scaling of virtual event platform

Modern cloud management resolves scalability, reliability, and performance – opening new market opportunities for growth

Cloud Conventions migrated their virtual event services to a new Amazon Web Services (AWS) environment to improve performance and reliability, as well as to rapidly scale in response to customer demand. However, the company soon realized that the ongoing monitoring, optimization, and management of their new AWS environment involved complexities beyond their internal capabilities. Cloud Conventions engaged Effectual as an experienced cloud partner to provide modern managed services expertise.

About Cloud Conventions

Cloud Conventions from Convey Services is an enterprise virtual/hybrid event management platform that redefines the exhibitor and attendee experience to allow companies to provide easy access to in-depth product information, showcase their brands with graphics and videos, create calls to action, and generate immediate sales leads. Used around the world for large managed events and smaller self-directed meetings, conferences and corporate kickoffs, Cloud Conventions automates exhibitors and virtual booths, continuing education, speaker sessions and reminders, invitations and email communication, while at the same time producing detailed analytics on attendee, session and exhibitor activity.

The Challenge

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Cloud Conventions was in a unique position to provide a sophisticated virtual event platform to replace a growing list of live events cancelled due to the new restrictions on live gatherings. While demand for their services was growing rapidly, the company began encountering performance and reliability challenges – including outages on their hosted infrastructure.

Despite Cloud Conventions’ repeated requests to address these urgent issues, the existing hosting provider was unresponsive. The company learned that the provider had them on a hypervisor that was out-of-date and obsolete and that they would not be able to upgrade for over 30 days. With numerous high-profile conferences in the US and around the globe scheduled within the next several weeks, this response was unacceptable.

Choosing the AWS Cloud for improved scalability and reliability

To resolve these issues and establish a secure, scalable environment capable of growing with customer demand, Cloud Conventions made the decision to migrate immediately to the AWS Cloud as a lift-and-shift move – with plans to pursue application and database modernization efforts in the near future.

Engaging Effectual to manage, modernize, and optimize workloads

Soon after Cloud Conventions’ development team finished migrating workloads to AWS, they realized they needed a partner with advanced cloud expertise to properly manage the new environment.

An AWS Premier Consulting Partner, Effectual is a cloud first professional and managed services company with a primary objective to enable modernization and solve business challenges with cloud technologies. Effectual’s Modernization Engineers™ deliver expert support and critical guidance on workload performance, acting as an extension of customer internal IT resources. The company also identifies opportunities to optimize security, operations, and cloud spend.

For Cloud Conventions, Effectual’s expertise and capabilities matched their needs precisely.

Adopting Effectual’s Modern Cloud Management Platform

After conducting an initial analysis of Cloud Conventions’ new AWS environment to ensure it was configured correctly, Effectual helped the company develop and implement a modern cloud strategy for governing the use of cloud services across their organization. This included onboarding Cloud Conventions to Effectual’s Modern Cloud Management platform to manage and monitor the health of their workloads, as well as to guide their cloud usage.

Effectual’s platform was developed using recommended controls by the Center for Internet Security (CIS) in conjunction with the AWS Well Architected Framework. The solution also applies Infrastructure as Code automation to deploy and manage customer environments. 

As a Modern Cloud Management customer, Cloud Conventions receives the following services and support:

  • Security & Compliance Management
    Effectual helps Cloud Conventions maintain a trusted security posture across dynamic cloud workloads by leveraging DevOps automation and continuous asset discovery, offering complete visibility into the managed environment.
  • Operations Management
    Effectual ensures that Cloud Conventions is maximizing cloud usage with streamlined procurement, cost management, monitoring, and support, including monthly and quarterly reviews to identify areas for improvement.
  • Shared Responsibility
    Effectual has helped Cloud Conventions establish a clear delineation of responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed tasks across their organization and the Modern Cloud Management platform (this includes 24 x 7 x 365 Security Operations Center (SOC) and customer support).

Solutions & Outcomes

  • Guided the company through Effectual’s Cornerstone Process, establishing the foundation of the customer relationship as well as a baseline understanding of Cloud Conventions’ existing environment
  • Onboarded Cloud Conventions’ to Effectual’s Modern Cloud Management service to ensure security, compliance, availability, and cost optimization for the company’s variable workload
  • Assumed management of the existing AWS environment including Amazon EC2 instances, Amazon RDS, and other web delivery services
  • Launched 24/7/365 support
  • Improved availability and fault tolerance by scaling out to multiple Availability Zones (AZ) in RDS, providing a highly available database solution
  • Utilized AWS Elasticache for Redis to store application session data, allowing Cloud Conventions to scale services more economically and handle unpredictable traffic spikes
  • Deployed Amazon CloudFront for secure, fast delivery of Cloud Conventions’ static, dynamic, and Video on-Demand content at a data transfer volume of 1 GB/month
  • Implemented Amazon S3 for increased scalability and data availability
  • Identified CIS compliance benchmarks that were non-compliant and prioritized them for remediation
  • Leveraged Qualys patch management to ensure that EC2’s remained hardened after deployment
  • To establish guardrails and security control policies for continuous compliance, deployed Amazon Control Tower – if changes are made to the environment that move them into non-compliance, Cloud Conventions will receive an automated email notification
  • Set up application monitoring and logging with Amazon CloudWatch for a holistic view of operational health as well to the ability to respond to changes and optimize resources
  • Deployed AWS CloudTrail to log and monitor access to AWS services through the console
  • Used AWS Config to run continuous compliance checks using CSI, PCI, HIPAA, and GDPR benchmarks by means of conformance packs applicable to Cloud Conventions’ needs

Summary

Effectual’s modern cloud management services not only resolved Cloud Conventions’ scalability, reliability, and performance issues, but also allowed their development team to refocus time and energy on other core initiatives and opportunities. 

In addition, by moving to AWS with ongoing cloud management support from Effectual, the company can meet strict regulatory compliance for PCI, HIPAA, CIS, and GDPR. This has opened new opportunities for Cloud Conventions’ to bid contracts and expand its business into international markets.

Most importantly, Cloud Conventions can now onboard new customers and deliver engaging, high-quality virtual event services with the confidence that their infrastructure is well-managed, closely monitored, and optimized for the AWS Cloud.

Interested in learning more about our Modern Cloud Management services? Contact us

Tricon Residential: IT modernization helps industry leader keep pace with accelerated growth

Tricon Residential: IT modernization helps industry leader keep pace with accelerated growth

Tricon Residential is the fourth largest single-family rental company in the US. Founded in 2012, the publicly owned company has a portfolio of over 20,000 homes in ten states. As one of the country’s fastest-growing real estate companies, Tricon has gained a competitive advantage by offering highly responsive, personalized customer service and translating it into profitable long-term relationships.

Challenges

Since 2016, the company has more than doubled its rental home portfolio. This accelerated growth highlighted the need to formalize and streamline processes, reduce costs, and optimize its operational efficiencies. With properties spread out over large geographic areas, Tricon was also in search of scalable solutions for managing, servicing, and maintaining their homes as well as a responsive communication platform for delivering a high-touch, seamless experience to its residents.

Challenges to pursuing these strategies included limited internal development resources as well as a lack of off-the-shelf solutions for the single-family vertical market. As the company expanded, Tricon partnered with a specialized team of solutions architects at Effectual to integrate their business requirements with DevOps expertise and take advantage of evolving Amazon Web Services (AWS) solutions.

Key objectives:

  • Improving operational efficiencies while scaling teams and services quickly
  • Combining multiple data sources to create complete and holistic reporting
  • Innovating continuously to optimize costs and meet market demand
  • Creating a DevOps culture focused on automation, cross department communication and collaboration

During the last four years, Effectual has supported these goals by designing, developing, and deploying numerous solutions for the company leveraging the AWS Cloud. These include applying IoT capabilities, integrating smart home technologies, and utilizing AI/ML managed services for revenue enhancements.

Solutions & Benefits

Operational Efficiencies
One of Effectual’s first projects was to streamline Tricon’s existing rental process and leverage automation to integrate existing administrative functions with custom business applications. In addition, the team developed and launched a 200-home smart home pilot with BeHome247, a cost-saving program Tricon is rolling out to its entire portfolio..

Continuous Integration – Continuous Deployment (CI/CD)
To speed time to market deployments, increase reliable releases, and provide a secure environment, the team also created a CI/CD stack and pipeline that aligned new feature requests from ideation to deployment.

Performance & Functionality
In order to reduce AWS costs and increase scalability, Effectual streamlined Tricon’s application payments, built a performant dashboard, and deployed AWS S3 for highly scalable cloud object storage.

Monitoring & Logging
Last, by integrating all aspects of custom applications with CloudWatch, Tricon can now easily monitor and quickly troubleshoot issues without affecting their customer experience.

The success of these initial improvements has led Tricon to further expand its partnership with Effectual, including exploring new AWS services and developing additional custom applications to better serve its residents. The company is rapidly becoming an industry leader in new technologies.

“Effectual has been an extension of our team for several years, and we appreciate their focus on implementing scalable, innovative, and well-architected solutions in partnership with us. They continually go above and beyond to ensure that new projects are successful by asking questions and clarifying assumptions to truly understand our business objectives. We utilize their knowledge to evaluate new technologies and services to ensure that our technology stack is optimized.”      
                  – Dawn Dalton, VP of Business Systems

Implementing Modern Cloud Management & Optimization

As the team addressed Tricon’s development requirements, it recognized the company was going to need ongoing management to monitor and maintain the security and performance of its AWS platform as well as to identify opportunities for cost optimization and business intelligence strategies.

With a growing estate of applications running on AWS continued, it became apparent that opportunities existed to improve the maintenance and security of Tricon’s environments. As a cloud-first, security-first Modernization Service Provider, Effectual provided the experience and expertise to keep the company on a path of continued innovation.

In particular, Tricon had experienced disruptions within critical business systems and wanted to improve their response time with greater visibility into what was causing errors. By establishing automated monitoring alert systems, Effectual has helped Tricon to respond quickly and resolve issues as they occurred, reducing downtime and improving customer experience.

Additional modern cloud management solutions implemented by Effectual include: 

  • Deployed Amazon Control Tower to establish guardrails and security control policies
  • Used Qualys patch management to ensure EC2’s remain hardened after deployment
  • Utilize automated secure configuration audit tools to assess the security posture of Tricon’s environment configuration
  • To ensure continuous compliance, leverage configuration tools for generating automated alerts and email notifications against any changes that would compromise Tricon’s security posture or move the company into non-compliance (Tricon’s unique compliance and regulatory requirements determine the acceptable baseline configuration standards)
  • Provide metrics along with recommendations for improvement

“We’re coming to resolution much faster now on issues. Before working with Effectual, it was taking us longer to figure out the root cause.”

– Gregg Knutson, Sr. VP of Information Technology

With consistent reporting, Effectual’s delivery team has also been able to uncover patterns affecting Tricon’s costs. For example, Effectual reviewed the company’s 6 month cost trends during a quarterly business review and identified an unutilized RI (Reserve Instance) that had become orphaned. Resolving the issue helped Tricon take advantage of the significant discount RIs offer – a key strategy for cost optimization. This proactivity is one of the most important benefits of having a long-term partnership with a Modernization Service Provider.

Future Forward

As a trusted advisor, Effectual’s overall goal is to set Tricon on a path of scalability and growth with the confidence it can securely and reliably serve its customers. This includes aligning the company’s business goals with new tools, methodologies, and strategies to support their growing business.

“We try to be a forward-thinking organization in terms of technology, and really want to leverage modern IT systems. With this partnership, we’ve deepened our ability to meet the growing needs of our technology roadmap.”                                                         

– Gregg Knutson

SpiraLinks: Rapid migration to AWS unlocks new cloud-native capabilities

SpiraLinks: Rapid migration to AWS unlocks new cloud-native capabilities

SpiraLinks offers tailored consulting services for projects, technical event, and implementation management to Fortune 500 companies, including designing, installing, and hosting secure web-based systems for human resources, compensation, and finance teams. The company’s FocalReview® planning suite is a leader in compensation and performance management, supporting customers in the US and beyond.

The Challenge

Driven primarily by the upcoming consolidation and closure of the data center hosting its product platform, SpiraLinks had made the strategic decision to migrate its infrastructure to the AWS Cloud. This included three application servers, a legacy Oracle database environment, and an older standalone Windows application. The company also had several virtual machines that were being retired by their MSP.

SpiraLinks recognized that a successful migration would provide an opportunity to modernize its technology stack and leverage new AWS capabilities to better serve its customers. However, without the internal resources to accomplish the move, the company needed to engage a partner with the technical resources and expertise to achieve the migration.

Benefits of the AWS Cloud

The company chose to migrate to an AWS environment to increase efficiencies, improve security and compliance, and optimize costs. In addition, the SpiraLinks wanted to access new AWS Native services to modernize and evolve its business.

Outsourcing Migration Expertise to Effectual

To achieve these business objectives, SpiraLinks partnered with Effectual to lead its migration and modernization efforts. Effectual is a cloud first, security first managed and professional services company and AWS Premier Consulting Partner with deep expertise leading complex migrations and managing modern cloud environments across VMware, VMware Cloud on AWS, and native AWS environments.

Solutions & Outcomes

  • Completed a full migration of customer-facing applications from on-prem infrastructure to a new, modern, secure AWS environment in less than a month.
  • For applications:
    • Deployed all new modern Linux and Windows servers in separate VPCs for improved security
    • Configured Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS)for the three Linux EC2 instances hosting Wildfly (formerly JBoss)
  • For Oracle database server:
    • Migrated all data from legacy Oracle environment
    • Upgraded and deployed database into a new Amazon Relational Database Service (RDS), allowing for adoption of Session Manager for accessing application servers (improving security and decreasing costs) and providing added functionality with real-time performance insights
    • Increased the security layout of the data environment by isolating it in its own private subnet and restricting access
    • Restricted access via approved ports from application servers
    • Deployed to a single AWS RDS instance with individual database schemas
  • Replicated and enhanced mail sending capabilities to utilize Fluent Ltd. mail relay service.
  • Increased security due to inherited ISO certification from AWS.
  • Created an AWS Identity and Access Management (IAM)group and defined the IAM policy to provide SpiraLinks developers with access to the AWS Systems Manager Agent(SSM). Once the IAM groups and policies were configured, shared initial login credentials with the primary SpiraLinks contact and configured Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) to enhance solution security.
  • Deployed and configured CloudTrail and CloudWatch EC2 log streams to monitor instances, and also configured email alerting for these services.
  • Configured Amazon Data Lifecyle Manager (Lifecycle) to take snapshots, with a rolling 14-day retention period.
  • Established a clearer understanding of data needs as well as the specific benefits of AWS environment and services in order to make informed choices.

Summary

Through its partnership with Effectual, SpiraLinks was able to achieve a rapid migration of its infrastructure to the AWS Cloud and avoid unexpected downtimes associated with the closure of its MSP’s data center. The migration to an AWS environment provided opportunities to improve security, increase efficiencies, and optimize costs while opening new pathways to modernizing using AWS native services and capabilities.

Next Steps

Moving forward, SpiraLinks will utilize the newer, more secure AWS environment for its many tools and benefits in accordance with the constantly changing business and operational requirements of the SpiraLinks client base. Specifically, compliance and data protection/privacy will be evolving challenges for SpiraLinks and the client base. The AWS environment has been chosen as an excellent “base of operations” to meet those challenges.

SpiraLinks will continue to work with Effectual as a Modernization Service Provider to utilize their expertise in addressing the company’s long-term goals and challenges. In addition, SpiraLinks and Effectual have developed an evolving roadmap that includes further modernization efforts to increase automation, availability, reliability, and security – further establishing the position of SpiraLinks as an industry leader.

FISMA Moderate Requirements met with AWS Infrastructure

FISMA Moderate Requirements met with AWS Infrastructure

Effectual led a Federal Government client in their journey from on-premises infrastructure to a secure cloud environment in AWS.

The Challenge

This Federal Government customer required a move from its on-premises infrastructure to a centralized cloud environment. This move was predicated on the requirement for increased security, flexibility in provisioning infrastructure, and a refresh of technology. The new AWS infrastructure must also be assessed at a FISMA Moderate level for production.

The Solution

Our team led the discovery, architecture, and implementation of an agency’s new infrastructure. We designed a multi-region, international architecture that allowed end users to quickly access virtual desktops at regions closest to those users. The centralized management and region-based architecture allowed devices to move outside the boundary, the virtual desktops infrastructure scaled as users joined around the world, and the agency was able to provision lower cost technology, such as thin clients, to achieve a refresh.

The Benefits

Increased Security

Our team supported the agency in its ATO efforts by provisioning compliant infrastructure and services in alignment with FISMA Moderate controls, then produced documentation supporting the architecture, allowing the agency to get a full ATO.

Privisioning Infrastructure

Our AWS-based architecture and deployment supported configuration of infrastructure to meet minimum workloads, which then scaled as users came online. Additionally, multiple user desktops could be provisioned on a single server, cutting down on associated costs.

Network Efficiency

The agency’s network needed to be overhauled as a result of security concerns. With the AWS backbone and multi-region architecture, users experienced a decrease in latency and the zero-trust model improved network security.

Data Analytics Offer Insights for Tsunami Disaster Response

Data Analytics Offer Insights for Tsunami Disaster Response

Effectual worked with a federal government customer to provide information for local land-use and emergency response planning to avoid development in hazardous zones and to plan evacuation routes to communities along low-lying coastlines vulnerable to tsunamis.

The Challenge

The customer engaged our team to quickly and effectively move their public-facing web applications and internal applications to the AWS cloud for greater resiliency and availability as well as to implement real-time logging, data analytics, and continuous monitoring for tsunami data.

The Solution

To collect data that would help scientists understand tsunamis and develop effective strategies for improving tsunami preparedness and disaster response, our team implemented a solution utilizing Amazon CloudWatch, AWS CloudTrail, alarms, and Serverless storage.

The Benefits

Resiliency
We implemented Amazon CloudWatch in order to schedule data collection that self-triggers when a tsunami is detected. This innovative continuous monitoring and observability service allows you to detect anomalous behavior in environments, set alarms, visualize logs and metrics side by side, take automated actions, troubleshoot issues, and discover insights to keep applications running smoothly.

Availability
By deploying AWS CloudTrail, we were able to provide the customer greater accessibility to critical tsunami data analytics for helping scientists understand the sources of local tsunamis and mitigate the impacts of  future events. 

Real Time Logging
Our team set up Serverless storage to collect data from seismic networks to process key components in the impact of tsunamis.

Disaster Response: UAV Imagery Alerts

Disaster Response: UAV Imagery Alerts

Effectual delivered a mission-critical solution to a client that ensured the delivery of UAV imagery taken from infrastructure towers that were used to alert high risk fire areas of a wildfire and other natural disasters.

The Challenge

Our customer required a move from its on-premises infrastructure to a centralized Cloud environment in AWS. They looked to us to handle high availability architecture and fault tolerance to meet workloads over many geographical locations. We automated common activities such as change requests, monitoring, patch management, security, and backup services, and provided full-lifecycle services to provision, run, and support enterprise infrastructure.

The Solution

We provided a client with Technical Amazon Web Services Infrastructure architecture to deliver a comprehensive, secure, and cost-effective hosting solution for supporting their efforts with Pacific Power. In addition, our team delivered Managed Services for the customer’s AWS environment. This assisted with the client’s ability to deploy drones to inspect the infrastructure of electrical towers and ensure their efficiency in wake of natural disasters.

The Benefits

Resilience

The implementation of Amazon CloudWatch Events for serverless workflow to trigger Lambda functions. Drones are programmed to deploy and inspect electrical towers to ensure that they are performing correctly.

Cost Optimization

We created a proprietary AWS-hosted solution in order for the customer to lower costs by running their workloads in the cloud. Our team assisted the client to utilize cloud purchasing options and offerings to meet their technical requirements while remaining cost-efficient.

Scalability

We configured EC2 instances that ensure adequate capacity to meet traffic demands and compute capacity. The implementation of automated launch configurations to allow the client to quickly launch and/or scale application severs in target environments in the future.

RFD & Associates

RFD & Associates

RFD & Associates, Inc., is an IT Technical Services Company with over 30 years of experience delivering IT solutions to public and private sector clients.

RFD delivers IT solutions from Mainframe to Mobile and everything inbetween. They have helped hundreds of organizations design, build, purchase and implement optimal technology solutions to achieve business goals. RFD needed help designing and developing a scalable, Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud hosted, multi-tenant web and mobile friendly application. The proposed solution had a requirement to integrate with external APIs to ensure flexibility for future enhancements and integration with third-party tools. The application was also required to be compliant with Personally Identifiable Information (PII) and the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) security.

Effectual Provided Guidance in the following areas

  • AWS design and architectural services to include making RFD’s multi-tenant hosting environment PII/HIPAA compliant
  • Provided AWS Training and best practices guidance on how to leverage AWS resources
  • Assisted in helping RFD achieve its defined goals:
    • Identify the challenges presented in third-party hosting of AWS.
    • Evaluate the use of cloud services to meet RFD business and technical requirements.
    • Determine portable containerization services.
    • Evaluate architectural decisions in AWS Commercial and GovCloud Regions.

Our Approach

A four-phased approach was developed to implement an AWS hosted environment for RFD:

  • Phase 1: Discovery, AWS Service Selection, and PII/HIPAA Security Requirements Determination.
  • Phase 2: AWS Foundation Build. Provisioned appropriate environments and access; established AWS accounts
  • Phase 3: AWS Service Build. Provisioned AWS services to include: EC2, Route53, S3, WAF, etc.
  • Phase 4: Process Documentation and Environment Review. Created AWS documentation of resources and provided reports on overall solution, security and cost.

The Benefits

Auto-Scaling

We configured EC2 instances that are PII/HIPAA compliant ensuring adequate capacity to meet traffic demands and compute capacity. In addition, we implemented automated launch configurations to allow RFD to quickly launch and/or scale application severs in target environments in the future.

Security & Compliance

The implementation of AWS Compute, Storage, and PII and HIPAA compliant Database services to ensure the security of sensitive data used in the environment.

Monitoring Services

To maximize the functionality of many services, AWS CloudWatch was configured to help RFD set thresholds/alarms to monitor custom metrics for auto-scaling needs.