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AWS cloud gives marina company reliability, cost savings

After suffering repeated power failures that took down internal servers, Dock Boxes found calm waters with AWS.

A marina equipment company that experienced repeated downtime improved reliability and saved money with AWS.

Dock Boxes Unlimited Inc. of Irving, Texas, had a private network of about a dozen servers inside its offices, but its headquarters lacked an ideal power supply and it experienced reliability issues, especially in strong weather.

"We'd come in in the mornings and our systems would be down," said Ray Verbyla, CEO of Dock Boxes. "Then we'd be trying to take care of customer calls and working with the maintenance service to try to fix things while everybody was trying to get their work done."

When there was a power outage, which happened at least once a quarter, uninterruptible power supplies (UPSes) attached to the servers would shut them down gracefully as planned. But when power came back, the UPS units would think it was a power surge and wouldn't bring the servers back up, according to Dock Boxes' technical partner, NexGen Inc., based in Dallas.

Fed up with these issues, Dock Boxes engaged NexGen to come up with a new infrastructure in December 2012.

NexGen used software from CopperEgg Corp. to monitor the internal hardware for 90 days before upgrading to virtual servers in the cloud, which gave the companies insight into what kind of Amazon Web Services (AWS) instances it should use.

Dock Boxes now has between 13 and 18 instances in the AWS Elastic Compute Cloud, depending on Web traffic. The instances are a mix of Windows and Linux machines, as well as a combination of reserved instances and on-demand instances. About half the instances are on demand.

The CopperEgg software was also brought in to monitor the AWS cloud environment since it was first spun up, for ongoing health checks as well as renewed sizing recommendations as workloads changed.

"On the Exchange Server we migrated, it was an m1.xlarge, and when [AWS] came out with the new m3s [instance], we migrated the Exchange cluster to m3.larges," said NexGen EVP of Business Development Ron Cousins, who oversaw Dock Boxes' implementation.

Since migrating to the AWS cloud, Dock Boxes has realized a total savings upwards of $25,000 per year, because of a 40% decrease in maintenance costs and a 10% overall growth in revenue due to increased website reliability.

Dock Boxes also has moved its desktops to a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) environment in the AWS cloud, at first using a product from 2X Software with plans to move to Amazon WorkSpaces. The company is expected to be fully on WorkSpaces by 2015, according to Cousins.

"Now, when a user calls and says, ‘I have a virus,' we no longer have to worry about going through and scanning it and reloading the system, " Cousins said. "We just delete that instance or that VDI session and create a new VDI session and they're back up and running."

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for SearchAWS. Write to her at or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

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