Do you dislike waiting for a web page or application to load as much as I do? The moment I load up a website, whether I’m on a mobile device or desktop, if it takes more than the count of two to load, I generally move on. According to Google and other web researchers, this puts me into a pretty small group of the most annoyingly discerning of web users. Think of it this way – if my “need for speed” were something else, say, a need to clean (it’s not.. but let’s go with it) it would drive me utterly bat crazy if the floors weren’t mopped every day, or if one stray loose sock was sitting all by itself without it’s buddy. This is great news for Rentec Direct users though because my need for speed helps save you time every day!
While I’m somewhat lucky in that I get to choose what hat I’m wearing each week, one of my favorite hats to wear is the one that does something to save you time. See, I’m using the system every day just like you are. If something loads slow for anybody I’m on top of it (like cheese on macaroni).
If you aren’t interested in the technical details, I’ll summarize what’s coming for you. “Rentec Direct is getting some major upgrades and will continue to be the fastest property management software solution on the planet!”. If you want to know how or why our system is so amazingly fast, read on. Otherwise, that’s pretty much the gist of this article and you can stop here if you are content knowing that you are using the fastest system.
The meat & potatoes of the upgrades…
I’ve watched thousands of Rentec Direct clients grow from managing a handful of properties to hundreds, even thousands, of properties. At ten, fifty, or even a couple hundred properties it’s hard to notice any performance issues. Once you grow up to 500+ properties you might notice that some reports and lists don’t load as quick as they used to. This is because a report might be loading 500 lines of data, but to generate those 500 lines of data it needs to reach out to the database 10 or 20 times per line for a total of 5,000 to 10,000 data inquires. Now multiply this time the other 2000 or so people that are using the system simultaneously and we’re asking our database to return up to 20 million pieces of data at a time. That’s a lot of data, more than I ever dreamed Rentec would process when I came up with the idea over 10 years ago.
To ensure that our growing clients experience the same ultra-fast system they have always been used to, I’ve been working with our engineers to improve the overall speed of the system. Here’s what we’re working on, and some things we’ve already done.
- Database Updates. Let’s just start with the elephant in the room. Without a database, there is no application. All your data is in the database among billions of other records. When you load a page in Rentec Direct the database is tasked with sorting through those billions of records to return just the records you need. Needless to say it takes a fair amount of processing power to do this effectively.
The entire database layer was recently converted to a new platform that is over 500% faster and, even better, an auto-scaling architecture. The “auto-scaling” piece is what I’m most excited about. While a 500% performance increase is nothing to sneeze at, the auto-scaling allows a nearly infinite amount of on-demand resources.
Our database back-end now will continuously monitor load on the database, and if load reaches a threshold (say 40% because I like there to be lots of spare capacity at all times so you never have to wait), the system will automatically add another server to the database cluster and automatically add it to the load balancing. Pretty cool right? This gives us virtually unlimited capacity.
- Server Updates. Last year we also converted the application servers to use a load balanced design while at the same time quadrupling our capacity. Each individual server has 4x the capacity it did previously, plus these servers are load balanced to evenly distribute the load, while simultaneously providing failover capabilities.
- Active slow query monitoring. Even the fastest database hardware can be brought to its knees by what’s called an “unoptimized query”. Fortunately we have the best developers on the planet, so this rarely happens. But, in the event something slips through in an less than optimized state, we are implementing an active query monitoring system in the system this year.
I know, that’s a lot of geek-speak… What this means is if you load a report or page in the system and it loads slow due to a less than optimal query, our engineers will automatically get notified so they can fix it. That way, the next time you go to the same page it will be faster.
- Content Delivery Network. In the past ten years, Rentec Direct has added clients all over the world, while our entire operations and engineering team has remained right here in Grants Pass, OR. When Rentec started in 2007, all the servers and data was in a local data-center about 30 feet away from my desk. Boy things have changed.
We no longer manage our own hardware, we let Amazon do that since they have about ten gazillion times more hardware available in dozens of data centers. Plus they maintain the security of that hardware far better than we ever could, which lets us focus on building better software rather than maintaining hardware.
We utilize a content delivery network (CDN) from Cloudflare which serves your data from the closest data center to you. Let’s say you, or your tenant, is in New York logging into Rentec Direct. While our hardware might be located at an Amazon data center on the west coast, your request will go to the Newark, NJ node and be served out of there.
If you are travelling for business to Singapore and need to login, we also have a data center in Singapore serving your data. So no matter where you go, our network of 165 data centers around the world will get you the fastest, most secure access to your data humanly imaginable.
- User-friendly Practices. Because we are investing heavily in database and server resources, not to mention writing really good code, we are able to do things that other property management software systems can only dream of.
Here’s an example: When you go into your bank account ledger, you can set your filter to show you the current month’s transactions, the current year’s transaction, or all transactions. If you select one of the latter options it might be thousands, or tens-of-thousands of lines of transactions all displayed on the same page. This gives you the ability, with Rentec Direct, to scan or filter the entire list of transactions without clicking through pages of data.
Other platforms (we’re not naming any names….. but pretty much ALL OF THEM) can’t handle the load of showing the entire set of transactions, so they do what is called pagination. This means if you are looking for a transaction you might have to click on page 2, then page 3, then page 4 ……… then page 532 to get to what you need. That’s never the case with Rentec. We’ve designed our systems with you in mind, rather than saving money on server resources, so you have faster and more efficient access to your data.
If you read past my summary above and read all this, thank you! It might mean that you are as passionate about performance as I am. I assure you, the performance of Rentec Direct is one of our major ongoing goals, but as I mentioned above we’re really focusing on some major steps for this year to keep Rentec light years ahead of the curve.