Buildertrend: Helping home builders with reliable, responsive software

About Buildertrend

Buildertrend develops cloud-based software and mobile apps for construction professionals, with tools for managing pre-sales, projects, customers, and financials. Founded in 2006, the Omaha, Nebraska-based company currently has more than 300 employees. Buildertrend has some 500,000 users in 40+ countries.

Industries: Technology
Location: United States

Frustrated by frequently slow performance, Buildertrend switched from a shared cloud infrastructure to Google Cloud Platform. The company now delivers faster, more reliable performance to customers.

Google Cloud Platform Results

  • Experiences faster, more reliable performance, providing customers with record low response times
  • Frees up time and money that would have been spent handling performance issues
  • Saves money with committed-use and sustained-use discounts

Superb Uptime and fast speed for customers

At any given time, Buildertrend cloud-based software and mobile apps help construction professionals build about 65,000 residences in the United States. Its software played a role in the construction of nearly 13% of American homes last year.

Buildertrend is also growing rapidly. It’s now available in more than 40 countries. The company is entering new verticals and revenue areas and achieving a 50% user increase year over year, with traffic on its system growing even faster.

Builders, general contractors, subcontractors, and specialty contractors rely on Buildertrend’s software in real time to automatically clock employees’ time spent on site, upload videos and images taken at a construction site, provide easy access to PDFs and other construction-related documents, and enable contractors to check completed items off checklists. Many of those tasks are interdependent. General contractors need correct information on subcontractors’ time spent on site, for instance, in order to invoice accurately.

So, if the Buildertrend system slows or goes down, the whole chain breaks. “Anything that stops our apps from working right away affects not just us but our 500,000 users, too,” says Thor Johnson, Senior Systems Engineer at Buildertrend.

“With Google Cloud Platform, our team is better able to keep up with the business demands of our infrastructure. We can look ahead at what technologies we can get into, as opposed to spending time reacting to issues that weren’t our fault.”

Phil Brammer, Senior Database Administrator, Buildertrend

Buildertrend has run its IT entirely in the cloud since its founding in 2006. Until earlier this year, its database-driven tools were hosted on a public cloud infrastructure as a managed service. But with the company’s rapid user growth, along with the need to continually develop its platform and service offerings to fuel expansion, the shared infrastructure wasn’t able to keep up. “We couldn’t get the processing power we needed, nor the RAM to get the performance we needed. A lot of times we weren’t even getting the overall performance we should have gotten from our systems,” says Thor.

Buildertrend was looking to improve IT performance and eliminate problems that could arise from a server migration or maintenance performed by its hosting provider—or issues that might come up from another one of the provider’s customers taking up too many CPU resources. “Adding an extra second or two across the board to all our service load times and application request times just wasn’t something we were willing to accept,” says Jeff Dugger, a Buildertrend Cofounder. “When you have customers trying to capture information at multiple jobsites per day with a mobile device, a one-second delay per request could add up to a lot of lost time and money for them. That’s really at the heart of why we wanted to make sure we were fast.”

As the contract with its hosting provider was set to expire, Buildertrend engineers and IT architects investigated their options. After evaluating numerous cloud platform service providers, they chose Google Cloud Platform for its performance, monitoring and metrics, transparency regarding outages, scalability, and ease in building new features and tools for customers.

“With Google Cloud Platform, our team is better able to keep up with the business demands of our infrastructure,” says Phil Brammer, Senior Database Administrator at Buildertrend. “We can look ahead at what technologies we can get into, as opposed to spending time reacting to issues that weren’t our fault.”

“We couldn’t get anything to compete with the performance of Google Compute Engine. The storage performance alone just blew everyone out of the water.”

Phil Brammer, Senior Database Administrator, Buildertrend

Migration with only 6 minutes downtime

The team at Buildertrend ran performance tests on every cloud platform it considered and documented the results. To be safe, the team ran the tests a second time, to make sure the performance results were correct. And they performed the tests on local hardware, for comparison sake.

“We couldn’t get anything to compete with the performance of Google Compute Engine,” says Phil. “The storage performance alone just blew everyone out of the water.” Backups ran so fast that “we actually hit our storage throughput limitations on Google Compute Engine,” he adds. “It’s nothing I’ve ever seen, hitting the top limit on disc throughput performance.”

With Google Cloud Platform, the performance and easy user interface made it attractive for the company to do a lift-and-shift migration from its shared infrastructure provider to Google, “because we were going from virtual machines to virtual machines,” says Phil.

Buildertrend’s database management system contained about 79 million files at the time, including about 30 terabytes of image files. Nonetheless, the migration to Google Cloud Platform ran quickly and smoothly. The team built its own infrastructure of 32 virtual servers from scratch using the Google infrastructure. Buildertrend tested everything, migrated all the files, and switched over in one night, experiencing only about six minutes of downtime.

Committed to customer needs

The migration was completed in March 2017. Since then, “we’ve spent a lot less time and money chasing performance issues,” says Rich Kalasky, Application Development Architect. “It’s hard to put an exact number on it, but everything has been running much smoother.”

The infrastructure transparency supported by Google Cloud Platform is a big benefit for the Buildertrend IT team. “We’re always able to see if there’s an issue, and what the issue is, so we can be proactive with it,” says Thor. “Those insights have been huge for us.”

“We haven’t stood up separate copies of our application in different parts of the world yet, but it’s on our roadmap. It’s comforting to know that when we do, the underlying infrastructure won’t be a bottleneck for that growth.”

Jeff Dugger, Cofounder, Buildertrend

“Our uptime has been superb since we moved to Google Cloud Platform,” adds Thor. “I can sleep at night, knowing we’re running on it.” The Buildertrend team feels comfortable knowing it has an infrastructure in place to support international growth. “We haven’t stood up separate copies of our application in different parts of the world yet, but it’s on our roadmap,” says Jeff. “It’s comforting to know that when we do, the underlying infrastructure won’t be a bottleneck for that growth.”

The security in Google Cloud Platform provides Buildertrend with further peace of mind. The company is PCI-compliant, though it isn’t required to be because it doesn’t store any customer credit card data. Nonetheless, third-party companies have audited the company’s PCI-compliance because of the payment types that flow through its servers.

“With Google Cloud Platform, our customers are experiencing record low response times,” Jeff says. As a result, the company can offer even more favorable Service Level Agreements to customers, which wasn’t possible before.

Smart, cost-effective growth

Buildertrend uses Google BigQuery for analytics of its billing data. “It’s so easy with cloud providers to spin up and start spending money on unnecessary resources,” says Phil. “Google BigQuery enables us to look at the finer details of where we’re spending our money and to trim that over time as needed.”

Google support has been another benefit for Buildertrend. “Our collaboration with Google far surpasses anything we’ve had with other providers,” says Thor. “We have a Google engineer available to us who we can talk to if we have a problem or if we’re looking at doing something new. We’re getting the benefit of a large cloud provider, but we also have the high-touch support we’d get from a smaller, local provider.”

Buildertrend relies on Google Stackdriver for uptime and other monitoring. There are plans to leverage Google Stackdriver for operations monitoring to receive green/yellow/red light status of services and processes the company is using. The hope is to extend Google Stackdriver use into service level monitoring as well, so Buildertrend can measure its system performance.

By taking advantage of committed-use and sustained-use discounts from Google, Buildertrend also saves costs. At the same time, the company participates in beta programs for Google solutions, which helps its IT team prepare for new features before they go into production.

On its road map, Buildertrend is investigating Google Cloud Spanner for its database as well as running Windows containers via Google Kubernetes Engine.

Ultimately, the performance, reliability, security, monitoring, metrics, and transparency on system issues enables Buildertrend to focus on using Google Cloud Platform to meet customer needs, scalability, and future growth. Equally important, the company’s busy IT team is freed up to explore new customer features to continue driving revenues. “It’s nice to be in that position,” says Phil. “Google Cloud Platform lets us cost-effectively scale to meet current service demands and quickly scale to take advantage of new opportunities.”

About Buildertrend

Buildertrend develops cloud-based software and mobile apps for construction professionals, with tools for managing pre-sales, projects, customers, and financials. Founded in 2006, the Omaha, Nebraska-based company currently has more than 300 employees. Buildertrend has some 500,000 users in 40+ countries.

Industries: Technology
Location: United States
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