Increasing efficiency while adapting to market trends

Scribendi Inc.

May 07, 2013— Chatham, Ontario

Scribendi vice-president Terence Johnson with the switching and security equipment that connects the 20 headquarters staff with the datacenter and remote employees worldwide.
(Photo: Scribendi Inc.)

It might come as a surprise that a business as old-school as editing and proofreading might get a productivity boost by adopting digital technology. But that’s exactly what Scribendi Inc. has done since 1997, and continues to do with the assistance of the Digital Technology Adoption Pilot Program (DTAPP). Delivered by the National Research Council of Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP), DTAPP represents a significant investment into the Canadian economy in an effort to increase the productivity growth of small- and medium-sized enterprises in Canada.

Scribendi was founded in 1997 as the world’s first online editing and proofreading company. It has more than 10 in-house editors and another 180 working remotely around the world. Since its inception, the firm has edited more than 600 million words and now offers its services 24/7 in 140 countries with turnaround times as short as four hours.

The firm had previously participated in a project through NRC IRAP. But this year its founders, Chandra Clarke and Terry Johnson, had an enhancement in mind that was clearly an ideal fit for DTAPP: they wanted to build a private server cloud. A step beyond relying on an external service provider, this would permit Scribendi to more easily design and optimize every layer of the system to support their proprietary software and the functionality of Scribendi’s website.

Specifically, Clarke and Johnson were looking to increase efficiency when releasing new features and updates to adapt to market trends, and wanted clients to be able to load their website within seconds anywhere in the world.

"As a result of our growth, we needed to expand our server capacity and resilience while upgrading our cyber-security capabilities to protect our company and customers from emerging threats," explains co-founder and vice-president Terry Johnson. "The DTAPP project allowed us to acquire new servers and storage arrays and install the cluster at a datacenter in Saskatchewan. The equipment will power our production website, with the standby capacity in the cluster also providing computing resources for our research projects."

Scribendi also acquired new firewall equipment and contracted SkySQL to provide on-site consulting and training to its IT staff on database administration and clustering.

In search of maximum flexibility

“Our ITA, Millan Yeung, helped us to identify the opportunity to leverage DTAPP to combine our system upgrade with staff training on virtualisation, clustering and database administration.”

Terry Johnson,
co-founder, Scribendi Inc.

Millan Yeung, the Industrial Technology Advisor (ITA) who worked with Scribendi on the project, says the firm first considered the idea of finding a service provider to host its cloud data, but the operating cost would have been higher than for a private cloud, and it would have meant moving Scribendi’s primary servers outside of Canada.

The DTAPP project helped the firm assess and analyze its system infrastructure, install a new system, perform operational testing and review, and fine-tune performance. While the company paid for the new servers and storage arrays, DTAPP funding contributed to the labour costs associated with installing it and training Scribendi’s employees in its use.

Yeung says his role was to provide a holistic understanding of how the project would help the firm and to offer oversight and value-added technical knowledge.

"I helped steer the project in a number of ways," he says. "I made sure it aligned with their business goals and their revenue and marketing objectives by making suggestions any time I thought there was a better or different way to do something."

Thanks to the digital technology it adopted with support from DTAPP, Scribendi:

  • Has reduced the first-page load time for its website worldwide to an average of 4 seconds—a 30 per cent improvement
  • Has increased its 2012 revenues by more than 20 per cent compared to 2011
  • Has created one new full-time IT position in its head office and four new full-time positions in other roles
  • Reports that its uptime average exceeded 99.95 percent in August 2012

The future is filled with international promise. Scribendi participated in a trade mission to Korea and China in fall 2011, and has seen its exports to China rise significantly thanks to assistance from the Canadian consulate in Shanghai.

"We launched a Chinese-language portal to our site in conjunction with the system upgrade, and we will be using our increased computing capacity to support sales growth in the region," says Johnson.

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