Liberty Tax Service Files for a High Value Load-Balancing Solution with Barracuda Networks
Background: Liberty Tax Service is the fastest growing retail tax preparation company in the industry's history with over 3200 offices in the United States and Canada. Founded in 1997 by CEO John T. Hewitt a pioneer in the tax industry Liberty Tax Service quickly established a reputation for quality computerized tax preparation excellence. The company has prepared over six million individual income tax returns and strives to set the industry's benchmark for customer service by exceeding its customers expectations. The Liberty Tax Service franchise opportunity is ranked the #1 tax franchise opportunity on the 2009 Entrepreneur 'Franchise 500' and has climbed to #3 overall.
Challenges: Liberty Tax Service provides computerized income tax preparation electronic filing refund loans and online filing through eSmart Tax (www.esmarttax.com) for its retail and online customers. For those opting to turn the task over to an experienced tax preparer franchise owners are available to complete their returns and day-to-day business via Liberty Tax Service's extranet.Each year Liberty Tax Service sees the number of online filings increase nearly 20 percent as more individuals opt to file their tax returns online. The amount of traffic to the Liberty Tax Service Web sites has steadily increased as more individuals visit for information tips and to search for a local office. Traffic during tax season January 1 to April 15 to each of the eight Web sites operated by Liberty Tax Service ranges from one million to three million connections per day.
"We cannot have downtime during tax season," said Jeff Sharp director of network and communications for Liberty Tax Service. "It is paramount that we have a load-balancing solution with high availability that can manage multiple sites."
High growth rate demands a scalable solutionLiberty Tax Service had a solution in place that proved to be problematic and could not keep pace with the incremental growth of the business. The company's plans for adding 500 new franchise offices in 2010 pushed the envelope for a replacement load-balancing solution.
"We got to a point where we had maxed out the capacity of our Radware solution," said Sharp. "It was very expensive to maintain and without a complete re-write of code I wasn't going to be able to add any more servers in the background. So we decided to get rid of it and start anew."
Best Deployment Scenario - Load Balancing Solution
Solution provided by Baracuda Networks, Inc.: Liberty Tax Service was already using the Barracuda Spam & Virus Firewall and was very satisfied with its value and performance so further evaluation and consideration of the Barracuda Load Balancer was an obvious choice. Sharp and his team decided to deploy two Barracuda Load Balancer 640s in active/passive configuration mode to meet the network's high availability and future growth needs.
"I don't think we're ever going to hit the limit of what the Barracuda Load Balancer can handle," said Sharp. "l will be installing additional servers in our Toronto data center this summer and it won't be a problem at all. That's a relief to us."
In any competitive market businesses need to optimize their human assets and infrastructure investments so that they can in turn provide that same level of value to their customers. In discovering the Barracuda Load Balancer Sharp was thrilled with the time and cost efficiencies.
Barracuda Networks has simplified everything; we set up both boxes ourselves in 4 hours and the solution works great. The difference was astronomical. The Barracuda Load Balancer is extremely easy to deploy featuring automatic discovery and configuration tools through an intuitive Web interface. To minimize ongoing administration associated with security the Barracuda Load Balancer automatically receives current intrusion prevention and security updates from Barracuda Central an advanced 24/7 security operations center that works to continuously monitor and block the latest Internet threats.
Summary: Five people in Liberty Tax Services IT department manage the company's data center and eight Web properties while supporting 500 corporate employees in three offices. With that scope of responsibility having an effective load-balancing solution requiring minimal resources to manage is important and is now possible with Barracuda Networks. With the capability to quickly add servers or service as well as features such as health monitoring and automatic discovery the Barracuda Load Balancer is easy to use.
"Earlier this year our eSmartTax site experienced a slowdown. For about a week it took five to 10 seconds to navigate from one page to another. It was due to a database issue and thanks to the Barracuda Load Balancer we were able to quickly throw in some more Web servers to solve the problem during that time," said Sharp. "With Barracuda I do not need to talk with consultants or take servers out so that our development team can make production changes; we can do it in a matter of seconds said Sharp. "Overall I spend 70-to-80 percent less time with the Barracuda Load Balancer and that frees me up to handle other strategic projects."
Looking forward Sharp and his team also plan to implement the Barracuda Link Balancer to load balance the two ISPs they currently utilize." It's a manual failover to the second ISP so we definitely want to get those in," said Sharp.
Barracuda Networks Inc.
3175 S. Winchester Blvd.
Campbell CA 95008