Torch: Empowering student research with robust analytics

About Torch

Torch, a Google Cloud partner, helps philanthropic organizations, activist campaigns, schools, and other nonprofit organizations use data-driven research to improve communications, fuel fundraising, empower learning, and increase the impact of advocacy.

Industries: Education
Location: United States

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Torch partners with Google for Education to improve access to quality social media-derived insights for students, activists, and civic sector professionals while leveraging Google Cloud services to power its infrastructure.

Google Cloud results

  • Expands reach of Torch in higher education through existing Google relationships
  • Introduces powerful big data and machine learning solutions to make more of massive information stores
  • Maintains lean, cost-effective infrastructure to provide nonprofits and universities with affordable, accessible solutions
  • Reduces the engineering time required to service upgrades of data infrastructure by 80%

Enables fast, efficient infrastructure scaling

Increased information access through digital platforms has transformed learning for students and discovery for researchers in higher education. However, the sheer volume of data can make it difficult to find quality materials directly related to coursework.

Torch originally created a social intelligence platform to support philanthropic organizations in fundraising, communications, and advocacy needs. After a few years, the company recognized the potential advantages of applying its platform to higher education and expanded its platform to universities and students to use it for research.

“We especially liked that Google Cloud would process upgrades for us automatically, meaning we simply restart our machines and can scale from six cores to eight cores, or from 8 GBs of RAM to 32 GBs of RAM.”

Mike Seiler, Chief Technology Officer, co-founder, Torch

“Our foundation is in public life, government, law, sociology, activism, and many other areas,” says Rick Greenberg, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Torch. “After working with our clients in different industries, we realized that Torch could serve as a powerful research and learning tool for students and faculty, especially those focusing on public health and civics.”

After much success with the first higher education institutions to deploy the platform, Torch quickly began spreading the word to other schools. While building momentum, the company knew it needed to move from on-premises to the cloud. Torch decided to build with Google Cloud and tap into Google for Education for monumental growth.

“We were impressed with Google Cloud’s ability to seamlessly scale with our compute demands, its competitive pricing and its ‘secure-by-design’ approach that help us meet the security obligations we have to our clients.” says Mike Seiler, Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of Torch.

“On the education side, Google Cloud big data tools help us directly integrate into classroom and student workflows, while empowering academic research and other university work.”

Rick Greenberg, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder, Torch

Elastic infrastructure boosts scale

Torch started off by hosting web application testing and staging environments on Google Cloud while managing its database elsewhere. Thanks to the intuitive Cloud Console and cost-saving features, Torch decided to migrate more of its core infrastructure to Google Cloud.

“Our testing and staging environment showed us the power and efficiency of Google Cloud,” says Mike. “We especially liked that Google Cloud would process upgrades for us automatically, meaning we simply restart our machines and can scale from six cores to eight cores, or from 8 GBs of RAM to 32 GBs of RAM. This has helped us save valuable engineering time and enabled us to better respond to the requirements of our clients.”

This approach stood in contrast to other market options that require full migration and stand-up of new machines to meet higher or lower specifications. Given the massive data demands of Torch’s platform, it hosts a compiled version of PostgreSQL through a Google Cloud instance using Compute Engine.

Migrating to Compute Engine was a straightforward process, thanks to the well-structured Console tool, as well as the ability to fine-tune the deployed VM specifications to the performance requirements of the Torch database. This experience migrating over to Google Cloud inspired Torch to continue building a unified data pipeline and warehouse by integrating with Google APIs, Pub/Sub, and Dataflow. Torch is also working on projects that tap into ready-made ML APIs in sentiment analysis and named-entity recognition to get better analytics and insights into the data it gathers and stores from social media sources.

“For the philanthropic side of our business, Google Cloud helps us to more quickly and accurately analyze elected officials’ social media behaviors and equip organizations that use Torch with key insights,” says Mike. “On the education side, Google Cloud big data tools help us directly integrate into classroom and student workflows, while empowering academic research and other university work.”

Google Cloud has designed education solutions like Student Success Services to help educational technology (EdTech) companies like Torch promote their platforms to the next level by transforming the ways they engage and support their learners. Google Cloud gives Torch a valuable promotion and sales channel, which in turn helps Torch bring to market transformative EdTech products at greater scale.

“Torch offers the infrastructure for powering good, and Google Cloud powers our infrastructure. It’s made a huge difference in our growth and ability to have a positive impact on more people.”

Rick Greenberg, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Torch

Partnering to expand research through technology

Torch views the Google for Education partnership as a win-win. Aligning with a leader in education like Google has opened the door to more universities, while Torch also capitalizes on DevOps support from Google Cloud.

With its platform constantly growing, Torch is now working to enter more classrooms, public health organizations, hospitals, and activism groups and further strengthen Google search capabilities for a wide range of users.

“We’ve been collaborating with social leaders in the US on key issues that should be covered in classrooms,” says Mike. “With our partnership [with Google], we’re excited to continue giving students access to real-time, professional streams of information so they can excel in their courses and achieve greater success after graduating.”

Torch has experienced an increased ability to fulfill its mission of disseminating quality, accurate information to as many people as possible by working with Google. Additionally, the Torch platform has benefits that the company intends to expand beyond education and into other social services such as public health and the arts.

“Torch offers the infrastructure for powering good, and Google Cloud powers our infrastructure. It’s made a huge difference in our growth and our ability to have a positive impact on more people, such as enabling public school districts to become more responsive to the real-time needs of their respective communities,” says Rick. “We’re a mission-driven company that serves universities and social-impact organizations. Having a partner like Google that aligns with our goals is extremely powerful.”

Tell us your challenge. We're here to help.

Contact us

About Torch

Torch, a Google Cloud partner, helps philanthropic organizations, activist campaigns, schools, and other nonprofit organizations use data-driven research to improve communications, fuel fundraising, empower learning, and increase the impact of advocacy.

Industries: Education
Location: United States