From 0 to 80,000 Servers.
What we've learnt so far.
All we did was scratch our own itch.
David was looking for a simple way to get metrics and alerts from his servers. He did not need a large enterprise product, and did not want to deal with legacy on-premise technologies. There was no product that fit the bill, so with the help of his school-friend, Harry, they decided to build their own.
In Early 2009—while both working at another company—David and Harry developed a prototype using MySQL and PHP, and convinced friends in the tech community to try it out. Server Density launched into private beta in March 2009, hosted on a single VPS at Slicehost.
It was surprising—and a bit dazzling—how quickly people started using it. In fact, data volumes were the first big challenge. With surging demand came the need to scale our infrastructure. We had to be able to replicate our servers, and do it quickly. So in summer of 2009 we transitioned to MongoDB and from a single VPS to multiple!
Everything was now in place. In June 2009 Server Density launched as a commercial product.
The Value of Time
In September 2009 we were one of 6 winners of Seedcamp Week 2009.
The SaaS idea had not gone mainstream yet, but our technical audience were early adopters. They didn’t want to deal with the hassle of running their own monitoring. In an age where folks would happily pay to avoid any drudgery, Server Density was the right product, for the right market, at the right time.
As our client-base grew, so did the amount of data we processed. The first lesson we learned was that it pays to automate. Don’t do anything more than once. Figure out how to do things and then automate them. Safeguard your time.
As a young company, time proved to be our most precious resource. Engineers are notoriously bad at valuing their own time. In fact, our biggest challenge when discussing server monitoring, is convincing engineers that their time is worth significantly more than they think.
After focusing on product development for a full nine months, the first non-founder engineer was brought on board, bringing the team to 3.
There’s no API to Life
Things grew gradually into 2011 which is when we started to grow the team further. We then realised we can’t be doing “everything else” ourselves.
To avoid knowledge silos we embraced documentation. Every component had to be documented and easily accessible. To help our engineers deal with production issues while on-call, we began using checklists. The less we depended on people for information, the more time we saved.
In 2011 we closed a small funding round off the back of real revenue, upon which we expanded the team. We were now able to spread things out and have an on-call rotation. That meant sharing responsibility. It also meant trusting others to do a great job.
In its early days, Server Density catered to smaller firms with limited IT requirements. As our product evolved, we won major clients. To cope with burgeoning demand and exponential server loads, in early 2012 we moved our hosting to a hybrid cloud/dedicated environment at Softlayer.
In June 2013 we launched version 2.0, adding major new features. In February and April 2014 we re-launched our iPhone and Android apps, allowing customers to view all open and closed alerts while on the move.
To accommodate our growing team, in November 2014 we moved from our smaller, first office into to bigger new offices in West London, Chiswick. We chose Chiswick because it is a quiet area just out of the centre, with great transport links on the London Underground.
Our location isn’t the obvious choice for the majority of tech companies setting up shop in London. In fact many people still believe you have to be in Silicon Valley or New York to have your startup noticed. We obviously disagree.
It’s About Time
So that’s our story so far. From the first beta user in 2009, to thousands of production deployments around the world in 2015, our true north has always been time.
We build software that helps teams save time. And we have a great time doing it.
Questions? Email us anytime: email@example.com