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Flexible engineering of a multi-tenant SaaS solution



When you design and build a solution you always have a number of key design objectives or principles. Some are obvious like security or performance. With a multi-tenanted SaaS solution, flexibility was one of Airdocs’ objectives.


With all solutions there is a conflict between flexibility and cost. It takes more effort to design and engineer a solution that can be easily modified in the future and a flexible solution may not be as performant as a solution optimised for a single design. The result is that many in-house solutions are difficult to change, adapt or expand.


An example of this is Mail House Integration. Most larger organisations outsource print and mail to a mail house provider. This generally involves adding barcodes to the page to control the insert process, creating print files and manifest files in the correct structure for the mail house and implementing integration to securely transfer files to and from the mail house.


The simplest (and most common) solution is to add the barcoding and controls at the composition step when the document is created and then add the integration process after this to get files where they belong. The result though is a lack of flexibility. If the business wants to change mail house for a specific job, then all parts of the process need to be re-written.


We see similar issues with other parts of client communications such as integrating email delivery, archiving and interactive composition. The result for many organisations is that client communication solutions are hardwired and difficult to change. There are also typically several such solutions in different organisation silos as business units find it easier to do it alone.


From the outset we wanted to make sure that solutions built on Airdocs were easy to change.


  • We started with a micro-services architecture which is well suited to adding and changing services.


  • For external integrations we make sure our services talk to a logical interface rather than directly to the external partner. This enables us to do things like support multiple e-signature providers.


  • We made sure that document composition was independent of delivery. For instance, in Airdocs all mail house barcoding, file naming and integration is done in the mail house module, rather than in composition. This allows an organisation to change mail house without needing to rework all the templates involved. Switching mail house is a simple menu selection at print submission time.


  • The composition service supports multiple composition engines. This allows an organisation to choose the most appropriate composition tool for a template. Templates can also be moved from one version to another or even one composition tool to another without changing any of the application integration.


Our experience is that it takes more effort up front to engineer for flexibility, but the payoffs in terms of long-term cost savings and application functionality are well worth it. The approach is one of the reasons that we have our tag-line: ‘It’s so simple with Airdocs. The clever correspondence platform’


 

Written by James McLeman

Chief Technology Officer


I am responsible for Airdocs’ architecture, platform development & solution design. My speciality is high volume, data driven document management for 30 years now. I am passionate about merging the worlds of high-volume client correspondence & the new cloud-based SaaS technologies to make real personalised communication available to the organisations large and small.

 

If you have any thoughts or comments, please post in the comments box below or contact me at james@airdocs.io

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