Table of Contents
Squirrels LLC is a privately owned software development company that is making strides in screen mirroring technology.
Their apps AirParrot, Reflector, and Ditto, make it easier than ever to share and mirror screens on various devices without the hassle of cables or adapters. That’s right--you can mirror screens wirelessly! Notably, Reflector has had a positive impact on education since it was launched in 2012 as schools and universities began using the app to facilitate classroom lessons and discussions. Thanks to Reflector, students, and teachers can display or record screens on the wide range of devices available in a classroom setting. The increasing popularity of Squirrels apps meant that the team needed an effective way to generate fast and reliable usage statistics. Squirrels found the perfect solution with Hosted Graphite, through MetricFire.
The technical problem
As more businesses and schools started using Reflector and AirParrot, clients started to request usage statistics.
“We didn’t have that kind of data structure framework, and we really didn’t have the developer staff to be able to build it from scratch,” said a Squirrels LLC teammate. For a small developer team of ten, it was difficult to both deliver the information and maintain the apps running smoothly. One of the biggest problems was the price range because “resources were a little thin.”
Squirrels LLC started looking for a cloud-based provider and statistics engine that met all of the team’s needs: “I knew that I wanted to use Graphite and Grafana, but I also knew that I didn’t want to be in charge of maintaining the server.” They needed something that was reliable, affordable, and very easy to use.
- Affordability: Squirrels didn’t have the staff or capital needed to develop their own usage metrics, and creating their own infrastructure would have been egregiously expensive. To generate the metrics the clients requested, they needed to find a budget-friendly alternative.
- Easy to use: One of the main concerns was finding a service that was easy to learn so that could be taught to the rest of the developers.
- Speed: Clients wanted their data usage statistics almost immediately after requesting it. Whatever service Squirrels chose, it needed to keep up with this demand.
I knew that I wanted to use Graphite and Grafana, but I also knew that I didn’t want to be in charge of maintaining the server.
Through Hosted Graphite, Squirrels found a service with a competitive price point and customer support to match.
By sharing metrics like Time Metered and Connection Count, Hosted Graphite lets Squirrels show clients exactly how their service is being used.
Squirrels is very satisfied with the Hosted Graphite team which is “super helpful in using their expertise to guide us. Hosted Graphite lets Squirrels interact with the API, so they don’t have to make their own connections to Graphite. Squirrels was worried about being able to teach the rest of the team how to use the platform “without too much confusion.” Because Hosted Graphite is very user-friendly, the other developers were quickly able to learn how to use it.
The benefits for Squirrels clients are exemplified through the app Ditto. When a client connects to Ditto, the app starts its own metrics gathering. Once the screen-sharing session is finished, it is sent back to the Squirrels API. Squirrels process the metrics and input them into Hosted Graphite. By sharing metrics like Time Metered and Connection Count, Hosted Graphite lets Squirrels show clients exactly how their service is being used.
The metrics, of course, are not only useful to the clients. They also give Squirrels insight on things like trends for high and low periods of usage. Knowing this information allows the Squirrels team to plan for maintenance and updates at times when it is least disruptive to clients. Furthermore, Hosted Graphite shows a connection count of how many sessions are taking place at any given moment, helping the team accurately predict trends in platform usage.
The metric specifications available at Hosted Graphite have been tremendously helpful to Squirrels. The metric Time Mirroring has to be extremely precise because clients want to see how employees are using the software. While most platforms display information as either an average or a sum, Hosted Graphite displays both. They explain that “whenever you set up Graphite you have to define its specifications: whether it’s going to roll its data as an average or roll its data as a sum.” Oftentimes, sum and average measures alone are not an accurate indicator of system usage. Together, though, they give valuable insights into application usage and health - “The ability to have both data sets available to us is incredible and very important.”
For the Squirrels team, it is important to protect client privacy. Instead of exposing the Grafana and Graphite dashboards to the clients directly, the Squirrels team takes the generated metrics and writes their own custom queries to show each client their individual usage statistics. Hosted Graphite makes the process seamless.
The Squirrels team is constantly looking for ways to make technology more useful and accessible.
For a year now, MetricFire has helped them by monitoring their data and letting them do what they do best: create innovative technology. Squirrels can focus on making the best version of their product because they know that MetricFire is a reliable service that will take care of all the metrics for them.
Because of MetricFire, the Squirrels team can work on screen sharing libraries and their integration into platforms. They know that if they ever have questions, they can always reach out to MetricFire’s customer support.
Setting up a platform to generate metrics is an extremely time-consuming task that Squirrels did not want to undertake: "If I had to stop what I was doing, set up the cluster, and do everything on my own, I would have never been able to do it!" Thanks to Hosted Graphite, they didn’t have to!
If I had to stop what I was doing, set up the cluster and do everything on my own, I would have never been able to do it!