Solomon Gifford's picture

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  by  Solomon Gifford

This week a member of my team came to me and reminded me of how desperate we are for two new database machines. For those of you that aren’t familiar with techno-speak, a database machine is essentially a large storage container for information. As we post more news, blogs, articles; as users post comments; as we store more information about bills so we can produce the Gradecards and Profiles; as we provide more faxes, phone alerts and other actions to your Action Buffet; as we store each member’s log in credentials; and I could continue this list, each of these pieces of information have to be stored.

My point is, as we have grown to almost a million members, helping users send more than seven million faxes to Congress a year, our database machines have reached the point where they are almost full. You may have also noticed a few of our pages running a little slower after an Action Alert. Without sounding too apocalyptic, unless we start deleting valuable information, for example users’ Fax Libraries, we will run out of storage space in about four months – unless we can raise the funds to purchase new machines. These machines will cost $15,000 plus installation and a yearly service plan to guarantee immediate servicing if they fail.

Also, as I mentioned in a blog comment last week, our email capabilities are also suffering severely. We used to be able to send all of our members an Action Alert in under 30 minutes. If we see a bill speeding through committee or heading for a vote, we must be able to send an Action Alert and have it delivered in time for you to have your voices heard. We have received some quotes the past few weeks from vendors with prices ranging from $25,000 to $150,000, depending on the speed, features, and support. Our effectiveness will solely depend on the level of support our members provide.

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We are also in need of two laptops for our programming staff. I for example, have been bringing my personal laptop to work with me daily. Our Deliverability Manager needs to be able to watch our faxing progress (see example report) around the clock, regardless of where he is, so he can make sure your faxes are reaching congress. These machines and associated software licenses will cost around $5,000.

Suffice it to say, besides the things mentioned above, there are other very specific technical needs. We have allowed some of our software support subscriptions to expire, meaning that if certain things go wrong, we will not be able to respond in a timely manner. We need static caching servers to speed up how quickly you can download images off the website. We need a dedicated backup email server so that if we have hardware trouble, we can still communicate with you on the backup machine.

We have set an initial goal of $200,000 to cover these costs. This pales in comparison to our yearly operating expenses for sending faxes. As I explained last week, at $0.05 a fax, if we help send the expected 8 million faxes this year, that will incur costs of $400,000.

We thank you in advance for considering a donation. It would be my extreme pleasure to be able to announce a few purchases during the month of June.

SOLOMON GIFFORD is the Director of Technology for NumbersUSA

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Updated: Fri, May 29th 2009 @ 3:56pm EDT

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