Online photo printing company Photobox has become the guardian of the biggest collection of consumer photos in Europe, ingesting between three to five million new photos every day.

Eventually, straining at the limitations of its infrastructure, the company orchestrated a mass file migration from its data centres onto the cloud with Amazon Web Services (AWS), using its specialist Snowball device to move 6 billion files in just five months.

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“We spent a lot of time before getting into any kind of doing phase, trying to understand what goals and what structure we should provide for the team that would allow this to be successful,” Photobox CTO Richard Orme told Techworld.

“As a leadership team we tried to make sure that goal was clear, and that if the team felt they needed help, that we were getting that help to them,” he continued.

It was agreed early on that the project was important for the organisation as a whole, meaning that the team felt supported throughout.

“I think it’s entirely down to that team and the way that they started to work together that made it so successful,” continues Orme. “They would meet every day, they would talk about success, they set a bunch of reporting dashboards that allowed them to not only share with themselves, but with the whole company how well they were doing.”

There were also regular catch-ups and releases from the software engineering teams. Orme also puts the success down to the initiative taken by the project manager.

“He was the one going around saying, ‘hey, how can I help you with it?’ He was very proactive on the team together,” he says, but notes that the principle of the project was to self-organise.

Initially, the team thought it was a job that required the tech ops and sysadmin people – the people who run the data centres – because the job felt like a large-scale ‘copy and paste’ job. 

However, Photobox quickly realised the size of the task would require checks and balances from the software engineering team. The project involved writing a lot of the software to start manipulating the file size and compression files.

At the end of the project, the team’s work is paying sizeable dividends.

“We’re making savings, our customer serving of photos is now radically faster than it was and our ability to ingest new photos is relatively limitless, compared to what it used to be,” says Orme. “We don’t have any worries going into peak this year.”

The team that managed to complete this mammoth task in just five months was recognised at the techies 2019 by snapping up the Best Team award.


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