OUR WORK

Non Profit Genealogy Company

BACKGROUND

A large nonprofit organization that focuses on genealogy had critical foreign record databases stored on four computers that had become obsolete. The source code for the application used to access the foreign record information was no longer available, and the app could not be configured to work with new computers. To make matters more challenging, the computers were housed in a different part of the building from where the support team worked and, due to hardware issues, the machines were stored with the power off. The computers were on their last legs, with hard drives that were beginning to fail. One drive even had to be stored in a refrigerator.

When a request for foreign records data came to company, a support employee had to fill out a request slip, give it to an IT worker and wait. The IT employee had to walk down two stories to the old server room, retrieve the hard drive from the refrigerator, load the hard drive, boot up the computer, run the query, power the computer back down, return the hard drive to the fridge, and then trudge up the stairs to give the query result to the support employee, who, in turn, would relay the information to the customer. Average response time: 30 minutes.

Contrast that to the process for customers requesting English language records, which are accessed via intranet by the support employees. Average response time: a few seconds.

SOLUTION

STG proposed migrating the data to company’s main database server and then planned and directed the migration, optimizing the data for performance throughout the process. Concurrent to the data migration, STG assembled a team to meticulously reproduce the old standalone app as a web application that included the functionality of the old app so that our client’s support team would be able to use it immediately without a learning curve.

Using Agile methodology, the STG team delivered progress updates every two weeks, getting sign-off from our client at the end of each period. Working in these two-week sprints greatly reduced the need to rework code and allowed for close integration with our client’s IT team, which meant that problems could be solved on the fly.

OUTCOME

The new web application went fully online before the old servers completely failed and, after extensive performance tuning, the average response time for foreign records queries matched those of English language queries—a few seconds! Our client was so impressed with the results, they asked STG’s two developers to stay on board for another six-month engagement to advise and assist with other database projects.

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