Seven reasons why AWS is our chosen hosting supplier for our cloud-based GIS

As you’d expect from a company whose flagship product, iShare, is cloud-based, hosting is extremely important to us. With thousands of users every day relying on iShare in the Cloud (iSiC), our end-to-end GIS, we’re determined to maximise availability and protect our customers’ data. 

Why did we move iShare to the cloud?

Hosting GIS software in the cloud helps GIS and IT teams work securely and efficiently. It also enables users to access GIS software from remote locations, such as home offices. 

iSiC frees customers from the costs and complexity of managing a geographic information infrastructure (servers, networks, bandwidth) allowing GI managers and analysts to focus on delivering geographic Intelligence to staff and stakeholders.

Why does Astun use AWS for hosting iSiC and custom-built applications?

  1. Reliability

Reliability is one of the key pillars of a well-architected framework. The availability design goal for AWS is 99.99%. Of course, things can and do go wrong. However, disaster recovery planning is a key component of the AWS service and restore procedures are regularly exercised. 

The reliability of the platform itself is only part of the story. AWS makes it easy for our engineers to monitor key ‘Astun’ measurables, such as RAM usage. Alarms and notifications are generated across our AWS Cloud Estate through the use of Amazon CloudWatch. They are used extensively for monitoring and sending notifications to our constantly manned, dedicated Support Desk. In some cases, these notifications may include optimisation tasks, such as disk usage warnings, which may require our Support team to contact customers to review and make adjustments to the data holdings that have been uploaded.

  1. Scalability and cost-effectiveness

Gone are the days of customers needing to invest in the biggest server they could afford only to leave much of it unused for months on end. We only pay for the power and storage we use, meaning that we can keep our customers’ costs to a minimum. Should a customer’s needs peak, we can automatically scale our systems to ensure the user experience continues to be optimised. 

  1. Security

As you’d expect from the hosting side of one of the world’s biggest retailers, security is paramount to AWS which uses an end-to-end approach to secure its infrastructure. Precautions include physical, operational, and software measures. Underpinning our cloud-hosting is a big tick when it comes to our annual Cyber Essentials Plus recertification.  

  1. The ability to turn back time

We keep multiple sets of back-ups. If a customer asks us to restore from a back-up, which happens from time, we can do so in a timely manner. 

  1. Training and certification

AWS offers free online courses, webinars, and hands-on labs to help engineers learn about AWS services and prepare for certification exams. 

  1. Support and relationship-building

Like us, AWS builds long-term relationships with clients through account management and user groups. 

Jonathan Lake-Thomas, Senior Developer, and Simon Chapman, Platform & Support Manager, attended an AWS Summit in London in April on behalf of Astun. In their Show & Tell report to the Astun team, they revealed that the free event, designed to bring the latest in cloud innovation to life and inspire digital transformation, included over 80 sessions plus workshops and an exhibition hall. 

Topics included:

  • Generative AI and Machine Learning
  • Digital transformation
  • Serverless computing
  • How to reduce costs without stifling innovation, featuring Ocado
  • The Met Office’s big data journey

The Urban Nature Hub Urban Nature Hub allowed Jonathan and other attendees to learn how AWS is supporting sustainability, which brings us to reason number seven…

  1. Sustainability

Cloud hosting can help reduce an organisation’s environmental impact. Last year, hosting with AWS saved us over 4 tons of CO2 emissions!

AWS has made several ‘green’ commitments including:

  • Powering its operations with 100% renewable energy by 2025
  • Becoming net zero carbon by 2040 – ten years ahead of the Paris Agreement
  • Increasing water efficiency and being water-positive by 2030

You can find out more on pages 9-10 of our 2023 ESG Review

Want to find out more about our Cloud Platform?

Simply contact us to request more info. 

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