Why Ecuador picked us

In our recent post “Ecuador — Love Life” we quickly briefed how the Embassy of the Republic of Ecuador in The Hague received and allowed us into their world.

Now many of you might ask, why busy official diplomats representing a government of a nation, in one of the most politically vibrant cities in the world for government related issues, might want to spend some time with a startup and furthermore give us access to their infrastructure and allow us to deploy our software.

The story is quite an interesting one.

One of our technical guys was out in The Hague had an appointment booked. On his way, he stopped for a drink and heard a man with his wife and kids speaking Spanish. The accent sounded familiar. He reached out and asked where they were from and they kindly replied: “Somos de Quito, mucho gusto”. This started off the conversation. Whilst talking, the man mentioned he was a diplomat and worked for the government of Ecuador.

The conversation carried along (where are you from and what do you do, etc…) and after a while, the diplomat came to a point where he mentioned that they had a huge problem: which was that they were unable to transmit in real time files over the wire securely to a central government repository (outside of their local offices). All they could do was to periodically perform a backup of their data and files, first to a local data storage on their premises and then have this later replicated to the central storage repository. This process, although automated, represented a lot of risks to them.

The first risk was that if loss of data would take place during their periodic backups, they would not have a way to recover that data and would potentially lose hours or days of work and lots of valuable information (digitalised official documents, such as visas, permits, etc).

The second problem, was that due to the asynchronous and unstructured nature of the way they replicated the data, there was no way that there could be a “near to real time assessment” from the Central Office of what documents had been requested or dispatched from the Consulate, leading to lots of emails, duplication of information, redundancy, phones calls and valuable time lost searching for information that might already exist at the Consulate, but might not have been yet replicated to the Central location. Bureaucracy at its best.

It was pretty obvious right off the bat, that the diplomat was very frustrated with the overall process and politely said: “Seems our computers are no more than just sophisticated typing machines. This is not what automation is all about. Computers should at least allow us to access our data from anywhere and when we need the information, now and at the minute. We want to control our data and a public cloud is not an option, as this is government sensitive data bound by law”.

This struck a cord. It was then when our guy turned around and said: “Sir, with all due respect, I have a solution for both of your problems and it is far simpler than you would have ever imagined. Forget about the complexities of networking and data replication or scheduled tasks”.

At first the diplomat, as a typical friendly South American joked and said “Usted me esta bromeando…” but after a while he realised that it was not a joke and pointed out: “We’ve looked and have contracted the likes of KPN and major Internet Service Providers and nobody has been able to solve these problems for us. Not only do we have this problem ourselves, but I guarantee that all the Consulates and Embassies of every country in the world have this same problem or even worst. If they are bigger and have more people registered, the problem only becomes greater”.

As more details of solution were explained, the diplomat was more enthusiastic about it and decided to invite our technical guy for a formal tech chit-chat with their Head of IT. This turned out to be a success.

We were in. The software was eventually deployed and the people at the Consulate could not believe their eyes how seamlessly (without them doing anything), the files and data would be replicated, synced and backed up, as they simply made changes to their existing files or created new ones. No efforts at all: their data was backed up, synced to their local and central repositories and best of all, the data was available to everyone in real time — as things happened.

Turns out that the diplomat only revealed his identity at the very end. He was the leaving Ambassador and would be going back to Quito to serve as the “Sub-secretario de la Cancilleria” (Second onboard the Ministry of Foreign Affairs).

Before leaving, he passed the torch to the incoming new Ambassador, a lady; and mentioned that this project ought to be replicated to other diplomatic instances and taken further notice with the central government in Quito and could even reach the Presidency.

Who would have thought that not having a secure file synchronisation in your own in-house infrastructure, would be such a headache for a government entity?

Turns out that none of the offers in the market by ISP’s and proprietary cloud solutions meet the requirements that government institutions require, which are 1) to be in control of your own data in your own hosts and 2) to be able to have that data seamlessly replicated across all your dependencies in real time.

A regular stop for a drink for the diplomat and his family, turned out to be a life line for a problem they had spent thousands on and had no solution to it. Sometimes the best things, happen when you less expect them.

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