To launch its online privacy service quickly, PrivacyCentral wanted technology that would interoperate easily with Ruby open source programming. The company used Windows Azure and Ruby to build PrivacyCentral.com, a website with online privacy
tools for consumer and enterprise customers. By using Windows Azure, PrivacyCentral built a powerful online privacy service and accelerated its time to market by three months.
In February, 2011, Zoiner Tejada founded PrivacyCentral to help people protect themselves from Internet threats such as cyberstalking, cyberbullying, and identity theft. Tejada wanted to offer online services that would help consumers discover exposures
of their private information, and help them monitor and control that information.
“We see ourselves as identity theft protection 2.0,” says Tejada, CEO at PrivacyCentral. “Most identity theft services work like insurance; they try to make it right after the fact. We wanted to help people safeguard against identity theft happening in the
Many people have personally identifiable information (PII), such as addresses, birth dates, and even their mother's maiden name, exposed on the Internet. Identity thieves and other cybercriminals can use this information to gain access to bank accounts or
other confidential resources. PrivacyCentral wanted to introduce a browser-based service that would work like a PII search engine. When users enter the type of information they want to protect, PrivacyCentral finds and reports where the information is exposed
on the Internet. The service has to be powerful enough to generate high confidence matches and present relevant, accurate, and complete results for any user.
PrivacyCentral wanted to launch the service quickly, and it wanted to support the service with technology that could scale up to meet consumer demand one customer at a time or for enterprise partners with hundreds of thousands of existing customers. But
as a startup, the company wanted to avoid the costs of building the necessary infrastructure.
“We are just four developers,” says Tejada. “We could have spent US$150,000 and taken a few months to configure servers―and have zero lines of code written―or we could get busy building and running PrivacyCentral.”
||By using Windows Azure with Ruby, we could focus on building our services instead of managing servers and writing extra code, and we saved three months getting PrivacyCentral.com to market.
|| Zoiner Tejada
PrivacyCentral wanted to support its online services with cloud technology, and it evaluated several cloud systems such as Amazon, Google, and Windows Azure, the Microsoft cloud service development, hosting, and management environment. The company chose
Windows Azure because it worked seamlessly with not just Microsoft technologies such as the Microsoft .NET Framework and the Microsoft Visual Studio development system, but also with open source development languages such as Ruby, which PrivacyCentral planned
The development team wanted to support PrivacyCentral search functions with prebuilt Ruby web crawlers. In tests, the team found it could easily run Ruby on Windows Azure web roles. “Because we could use Ruby with Windows Azure, we didn’t have to write our
own web crawlers, which sped development significantly,” says Tejada.
In July, 2011, PrivacyCentral launched PrivacyCentral.com. The website provides online privacy tools for consumers, but it is primarily a working demonstration for large financial and identity theft protection enterprises that want to provide PrivacyCentral
services through their own brands. PrivacyCentral earns revenue based on the number of its partners’ customers that use PrivacyCentral services.
PrivacyCentral.com runs within Windows Azure web roles that host the website, the user services, and the web-crawler search functions. The web crawlers run in separate web role instances in order to scale up independently of the website. When a PrivacyCentral.com
user makes a search request, Windows Azure executes a Ruby web crawler search, and results are stored for presentation in Windows Azure Table Storage. PrivacyCentral uses the SQL Azure database service to manage account, geography, and other user data. It
accelerates searches by adding more web crawlers while using Windows Azure resources to generate efficiencies that reduce computing demand.
PrivacyCentral used Windows Azure to deliver powerful online privacy services that it can scale elastically while it avoids costs and supports its business plan.
Easy Interoperability, Fast Development
PrivacyCentral developers used the flexibility of Windows Azure to build the powerful features and processes that its services need to offer meaningful online privacy protection. Tejada estimates that PrivacyCentral saved three months of development
by using Ruby web crawlers.
“By using Windows Azure with Ruby, we could focus on building our services instead of managing servers and writing extra code, and we saved three months getting PrivacyCentral.com to market,” says Tejada. “That’s three more months to talk to customers, develop
our marketing strategy, and start delivering value.”
Minimal Entry Cost
By supporting its services with Windows Azure, PrivacyCentral avoided at least $150,000 in infrastructure investment. “With an on-premises environment, we would have had to make a large upfront investment just to validate our first prototype,” says Tejada.
“Low entry cost was a hugely enabling aspect of Windows Azure for us.”
By using Windows Azure to optimize the performance of PrivacyCentral.com, the company can reduce its own costs and offer competitive terms to enterprise customers. “When we added more web crawlers, we tripled search speed for end users, at the same cost
to us,” says Tejada.
Scale to Meet Demand
Without investing in more resources than it needed, and with the flexibility to scale Windows Azure up or down, PrivacyCentral had the agility to launch a consumer website while focusing its business plan on enterprise customers. By early 2012, PrivacyCentral
was close to a significant agreement with a large identity theft protection service that serves major financial institutions and retailers with millions of customers.
“With Windows Azure, we can confidently tell a potential partner that we can accommodate 300,000―or a million―new customers,” says Tejada. “But with an on-premises infrastructure, we could not have gone down that path.”
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