March 3, 2017

Running a business in the cloud

Eagle Genomics is a growing company, and as such we need to have efficient tools that help us run our business without getting in the way. In the early days of the company we had a basic email system, a "quirky" calendaring system, and our time tracking and holiday management was done with spreadsheet-based procedures which were far too laborious.

About six months ago we decided that this needed to change, and in this post I'm going to share the solution we came up with. So far it's working out very well. I'm not going to give an exhaustive description of each of the services - their own web pages can do that - I'll just point out how we're using them and what they do for us.

One thing that all of the products have in common is that they're cloud-based - this was important to us as we are in the business of providing innovative genomics services, not babysitting email and calendaring servers.


The system we use revolves around Google Apps for Business - obviously we use the email, calendaring and document collaboration features, but also most of our other services use the same Google Accounts, so the identity management headache is much reduced. It also provides a one-stop-shop for logging in to each of the services, via the Google Apps More … dropdown:

Account management

Google Apps provides a centralised control panel for managing user accounts and other configuration details. This has really streamlined the process of adding new users when people join the company.

Email

We like the flexibility that GMail gives us - some of us use the web-based interface, but the IMAP support means that it plays nice with the multitude of desktop email clients that people use (Outlook, Thunderbird and Apple Mail to name a few). It also provides enterprise-level facilities such as DKIM and SPF for email domain verification, and TLS which is an important requirement for communicating with some of our customers.

Calendaring

What's not to like about Google Calendar? We have individual calendars, as well as specialised ones for things like company-wide events, holiday and so on. Again, there is the flexibility to use either the web interface or a stand-alone client.


Timesheets - Beebole

We work with a lot of clients, so we have to keep track of the time each of us spends working on what projects. Beebole does this for us; it provides a nice web interface for people to book time against particular projects, and comprehensive reporting functionality for administrators to see what's going on. All the account information is taken straight from Google Apps, so there's no need to maintain parallels sets of user accounts.


Holiday booking - Appogee Leave

 

Appogee gives us a way for people to book leave online, and be able to see who is on holiday at which time, as well as tools for managing allowances and dealing with the complexities of things like unpaid leave, end-of-year carryovers and so on. There's even a shared Google Calendar which we can subscribe to. Like Beebole, the user accounts are based on our Google accounts.


Wiki - Confluence

We're still in the process of migrating our internal wiki to Confluence, but so far it's been a smooth process, and the extra features that Confluence gives us, such as better sharing and fine-grained access controls, will be very welcome.


Backup - Backupify

Last but not least, we use the Backupify service to provide us with a backup of the email, calendar and account data from our Google Apps account. Its completely automated, and uses Amazon Web Services on the backend, so we have no concerns about reliability. 


All of the services are commercial, pricing is around $2-4 per user per month, so we can scale up as we go along. Support has generally been very good on the few occasions we've had to use it.

This system is working out very well for us so far, we are confident that each of the services will scale well as Eagle Genomics continues to grow.

Topics: Big data technology, Cloud