When it comes to South Africa’s industries, none are perhaps as unique as our tourism one, with the abundance of wildlife on offer here certainly making the country a worthwhile hotspot for overseas travellers.

It’s not just those entering South Africa that stand to contribute to tourism and wildlife locally, with Africam being one of the major online platforms for enthusiasts to experience what the country has to offer.

We recent caught up with Paul Penzhorn, CEO of the specialised live streaming company, to find out more about their operation, and how Amazon Web Services (AWS) has played a part in improving their offering.

A sensory experience

In explaining Africam to us, Penzhorn notes that the online platform is completely unique, and therefore one of the most popular of its kind not only in the country, but across the globe.

“The free streams are aimed at connecting people from around the world to African wildlife and create an online community focused on education and conservation. Africam is free to anyone,” he notes.

It’s the free aspect of the offering which makes it so alluring to outsiders, he says. This will change moving forward, according to Penzhorn, especially as Africam looks to add more features in future such as live chat, which will facilitate the need for moderators to monitor the platform, as well as provide viewers with interesting information.

“To bring this platform to life, Africam has a large community of camera operators from around the world who “move and zoom” the cameras and monitor the system,” says Penzhorn.

“We also have a real-time alert function that pushes alerts to email and social media. Each sighting is recorded and sighting photos are distributed via a Daily Email to their users. In addition to the live streams, they have an iOS app where we can send alerts based on user preference selection,” the CEO adds.

A little help from the cloud

These new functions, as well as whatever Africam is planning for the future is all driven by AWS, says Penzhorn.

“AWS allows us to scale with the confidence that all the ‘moving parts’ are scaling with us within the AWS / Elemental ecosystem,” he points out.

“With AWS’s large global footprint– we also feel confident that we are getting the best value for our service and that AWS will always be at the forefront of new solutions In terms of next steps, Africam will be gathering lots of data and security and encryption will play a big role in keeping it safe from poachers and other parties,” continues the Africam CEO.

Penzhorn explains that AWS’ ecosystem has proved pivotal in the company being able to live stream content from watering holes and other sites in Full HD.

“The cloud and virtual servers also allow us to add more servers to handle spikes in traffic without them crashing. This was a big problem in the past. It also allows for effective storing of all video highlights and snap-shots taken from the cameras,” he says.

Three key benefits

Thrilled with the experience on AWS to date, Penzhorn points to three key aspects in particular that have resulted from Africam’s relationship with a company like Amazon Web Services.

“We use AWS from source to distribution now which has made our streaming platform more robust, scalable and cost effective. With a real-time approach, AWS offers benefits around cost, scalability and security,” the CEO enthuses.

In terms of cost, Penzhorn notes that with AWS you have the confidence that you’re getting the highest quality at the best price. This is an important consideration when you’re a lean and agile operation like Africam is.

As for scalability, he notes that AWS’ ability to look at the overall infrastructure has proved vitally important. “In the past we had servers crash with peaks in traffic and AWS solves this important problem for us. AWS can also monitor various critical points in the system infrastructure that allows us to diagnose any problems fast and reduce down-time on any camera,” Penzhorn tells us.

Lastly for security the Africam CEO highlights the free DDOS protection as a specific benefit. “With everything within AWS your eco-system is safe and protected. We had huge problems with DDOS attacks when we were with another provider and had to install expensive hardware solutions which did not work,” says Penzhorn.

“By moving over to AWS – DDOS protection is free and we have not had any more problems allowing us to grow our business without having to worry about security, he concludes.

[Image – CC 0 Pixabay]