Totaljobs Group, the recruitment firm behind Totaljobs.com in the UK, has been using public cloud services including AWS services, Microsoft SharePoint and Office 365 for improved performance, agility and robust IT infrastructure.
When Totaljobs Group was sold by Reed Business Information (RBI) to StepStone, a European online jobs firm, in April 2012, the IT team had to move out of RBI’s datacentre on to its own IT infrastructure.
Instead of building its own datacentre or using a colocation facility, the IT team decided to adopt public cloud services.
“RBI had already done some due diligence around security and reliance on the public cloud and had identified AWS [Amazon Web Services] to host some of their workloads,” said Edward Vassie, the database architect at Totaljobs Group.
The recruitment firm’s IT team decided to use AWS too. “As due diligence around security was already done, it was just a matter of investigating whether AWS could cope with our workloads and if it is suitable to our business requirements,” Vassie said.
The team then proposed to StepStone its plans of using AWS and started using AWS services in November last year. “StepStone gave us a seven-month timeframe to migrate our workloads to the cloud,” Vassie said. “Today, all of Totaljobs Group’s web-facing workloads are running on AWS platform.”
Overcoming public cloud security concerns
But why did the IT team choose public cloud over in-house IT when data protection and security is paramount, as it stores people’s CVs and personal data?
“Yes, security was a big part of the due diligence and we also had an external third-party security review,” said Vassie.
The firm uses AWS’s Dublin site. “As our data resides in Ireland, we can remain compliant with the Data Protection Act,” he said. The IT team also takes other security measures, such as using AWS’s security access control restrictions.
“We are more confident with our data on the public cloud than our previous hosted IT because it is more transparent,” Vassie said.
Having resolved the security concerns around the cloud, the IT built a business use case for cloud computing.
Totaljobs Group processes about two million page impressions daily, processes 200,000 job applications daily and sends out 4.5 million emails to job-seekers and recruiters.
“A big part of this traffic is on TotalJobs.com brand,” Vassie said.
Multiple availability zones strategy for a resilient environment
Performance, scalability and zero downtime were crucial for the business and cloud seemed a natural choice.
As part of its public cloud strategy and to avoid service glitches during cloud outages, the team has split the service on two separate Availability Zones. “This is for resilience. Even if one zone fails, we will be able to run normal services for our users on the second zone,” Vassie said.
In the last four months, the IT has not experienced any failure in either zones. “Operating in two availability zones has increased our cost only by 10%, but gives us a lot of confidence,” he said.
The driver for using public cloud was not all about cost savings. “The focus was not to save cost or try to outsource,” said Vassie. “It was more on the functions and features and also to become more agile and enable IT to respond to business changes quickly.”
“Cloud is about having an ‘evergreen’ infrastructure. When we have to introduce a new technology, or add something new to the infrastructure, we don’t have to worry about depreciating IT assets,” Vassie explained.
But it has also saved costs. Vassie did not share recruiter’s cloud IT budget but said that the new infrastructure has helped it save “half a million dollars” when compared with the previous datacentre service it used to buy from RBI.
While it is using AWS for web-facing workloads, the corporate IT team has implemented Office 365 and SharePoint – both cloud services. The IT team also uses a number of software as a service (SaaS) such as SalesForce.
Much of its IT is cloud-enabled and it hosts only core products such as printer servers in its internal server room.
Important to do “just-in-time” builds
While it has seen benefits such as improved performance, agile infrastructure and a high degree of resilience, were there any lessons learnt?
When doing the build, it is important to only build what you are able to test, Vassie advised. “In one of our builds, we started defining the disk volumes in advance and by the time we started testing, AWS had brought out new servers and features such as provisioned IOPs,” he said
“We did not have enough time to rebuild using the new capabilities. If we had followed the just-in-time strategy, we could have shortened the span of the project,” Vassie said. “Do not pre-determine disk volumes if you cannot test, because it makes you less agile,” he warned.
But the cost savings and performance improvement that the IT team has yielded has impressed the parent company StepStone which is now looking to use cloud services.