Cloud Technology for Data Delivery: Successes and Lessons Learned
The cloud isn’t the future. It’s the now. And for our firm, it means more than a simple place to store your music collection. Recently, we used Amazon Web Services (AWS) Cloud Services to deliver our imagery to a large client, the North Central Texas Council of Governments (NCTCOG), which is comprised of 16 counties. While we experienced great results, we also learned several lessons that we will apply in the future.
What Makes the Cloud Different?
In the past to deliver imagery, we uploaded our data onto a hard drive and shipped it to clients. This process, while reliable, can take several weeks. It is not technologically efficient.
For NCTCOG’s imagery, which covers 2,000 square miles, Woolpert provided photogrammetric, surveying, GIS, orthoimagery, lidar and contour services. Because there were many stakeholders who were expecting different areas of imagery, the Woolpert team devised a plan to efficiently provide and appropriately distribute the deliverables in an easy-to-use way. We looked to the cloud, and more specifically, at AWS Cloud Services.
What Made the Cloud Better?
Instead of giving the client a traditional hard drive, our team uploaded the data onto a secure cloud. Within Amazon, we created access keys and a file that we gave to each city. The file had the tiles that each city would need, with no access to other cities’ data. Each city could download its tiles quickly and directly to internal storage.
“We loved using the cloud for data delivery,” NCTCOG GIS Project Coordinator Shelley Broyles said. “What once took weeks, even months, now takes a few hours, which allows us to get the data into our stakeholders’ hands so much faster.”
To ensure that the client felt comfortable with accessing our deliverables on Amazon, our team gave a short demonstration on WebEx to train staff. In 10 steps and within a week of collection and QA/QC, the clients had their imagery.
What Did We Learn?
While we experienced success with the project, and a happy client, we learned several lessons that we’ll apply to make our next project even smoother.
1. Consider and find a solution for small organizations/cities that don’t have the bandwidth and/or space to download all of the imagery.
2. Simplify the process for clients to access their data—creating a three-step process instead of 10 steps.
When we deliver imagery and data like this in the future via the cloud, we will address these two issues that created challenges during our testing with NCTCOG.
We are exploring different avenues for delivering this imagery, some involve Amazon’s cloud and others do not. One of the issues we are faced with is the sheer amount of data we manage. We easily transfer terabytes of data on a daily basis, which makes us unusual compared to many other users of cloud-based storage and delivery.
For our customers with limited bandwidth and space, we are looking at alternative options that would provide an on-demand delivery of imagery versus providing all of the files at once.