Since 2006, ESUPERFUND has helped customers in Australia create self-managed super funds (SMSFs). ESUPERFUND administers all aspects of a SMSF's compliance obligations, including financial, tax return and audit statements. The company provides an online client portal, a tax-return service, free pension compliance reviews, and other financial products. In 2012 and 2013, SmartInvestor magazine identified ESUPERFUND as the nation’s number one provider of low-balance and discount SMSF services. With headquarters in Melbourne and partnerships with major Australian financial institutions, ESUPERFUND has a client base of 12,000 customers.
When Min Li joined ESUPERFUND as its IT Project Manager in 2012, the company still relied on a local data enter that was struggling to keep pace with the growing business’s IT requirements. During periods of increased traffic, such as the first few months of each new financial year, servers at the data center often crashed because of insufficient memory and processing power. “It was a disaster,” says Li. “On the one hand, we knew that our service had the potential to really change the way Australians approach their retirement savings. On the other, the frequent downtime we experienced was incredibly damaging to our business confidence.”
The company faced three central challenges. First, ESUPERFUND needed a secure environment to protect its clients’ sensitive personal and financial data. Additionally, the company wanted to avoid spending money on physical solutions that might require expensive upgrades. And finally, the IT infrastructure had to be able to handle significant user growth. To address these challenges, ESUPERFUND wanted to find a cloud provider that could scale to support traffic to its website and store client data securely while reducing overall IT costs, “We were determined that any changes to our IT infrastructure should help us overcome our existing challenges without creating new ones,” says Li.
Why Amazon Web Services
While Li worked with Amazon Web Services (AWS) previously, the company still considered several cloud service providers before choosing AWS. “We consulted several network specialists and scrutinized our options very carefully,” says Li. “In the end, we found that nobody could compare to AWS in terms of reliability, security, scalability, and performance.
ESUPERFUND began its transition from its data center to the AWS Cloud in January 2014. To minimize security risks, the process was staged over six months. “We had very high expectations when it came to speed and security,” says Li. “But not once was AWS unable to provide a product that perfectly matched our needs. It made the entire transition smooth, simple, and even quite exciting.”
ESUPERFUND’s website infrastructure and customer database are now entirely hosted by AWS. The company runs its client portal and internal applications on Windows .NET 4.0 servers hosted by 26 Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2) Reserved Instances. The instances are also used to host ESUPERFUND’s online customer database. Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) stores about 2 TB of data for its .NET applications. “This figure is growing by 5–10 percent a month,” says Li. “Thanks to our ability to scale up with Amazon S3, we know that we won’t need to worry about running out of space.” Elastic Load Balancing routes application traffic between services. ESUPERFUND uses Amazon Relational Database Service (Amazon RDS) for MySQL to host a database containing clients’ personal information. The company also uses a Linux-based Amazon EC2 environment to host its data transfer services.
The entire website infrastructure is run within AWS Virtual Private Cloud (Amazon VPC), which allows the company to maintain tight control over who can access the data. For additional data security, ESUPERFUND uses AWS Direct Connect to provide a secure and private link between AWS servers and ESUPERFUND’s Melbourne headquarters. The company uses Amazon Glacier to routinely back up and archive ESUPERFUND’s proprietary information. Amazon CloudWatch gives the company the ability to monitor server usage and Reserved Instances as required.
ESUPERFUND has now migrated its entire infrastructure to the AWS Cloud and no longer uses an alternative datacenter. The company started to see the benefits of the change almost immediately. “From the very first day we completed the transition to AWS, our website was running two to three times faster than before,” says Li. “It now provides a secure environment in which customers can comfortably share their financial information and learn about new opportunities in the world of retirement funds.”
Using AWS has allowed ESUPERFUND to achieve its goal of implementing a cost-effective IT solution. “By using AWS, we were able to increase our server numbers by six times while reducing our operating costs by 40%.” says Li. “Because we’re spending less on equipment maintenance and upgrades, we can spend more on ideas that will actually differentiate our company and help customers have the best experience possible.
ESUPERFUND has about 12,000 users and hasn’t experienced latency issues or downtime since moving to AWS. “The scalability of AWS has empowered the company’s business planners to anticipate growth without worrying about the infrastructure’s ability to handle it,” says Li. “As a result, ESUPERFUND is a more agile, adaptable, and confident company.” Li currently uses AWS Business Support and has enrolled in several product-knowledge courses, including ‘AWS Essentials’ and ‘Architecting on AWS’.
“There’s no substitute for the peace of mind that comes from knowing that your company is being supported by knowledgeable and committed professionals,” says Li. “That’s why I can see ESUPERFUND staying with AWS in the long term as we continue to enjoy growth and success.”