Data diversity and resiliency at AllisonHouse: making a great customer experience

The AllisonHouse pimary and backup satellite dishes for receiving weather data. Thanks to data resiliency, we are able to stay up, even when these dish antennas and ground system got hit by lightning last year. Since then, the antennas, coax and ground system were replaced and upgraded. Photo credit: Gilbert Sebenste/AllisonHouse

In my previous blogpost, I talked very briefly about data diversity and data resiliency. My boss wanted me to expound on that some, and how it affects you as a customer, improving your experience with us.

But first, a little background: the National Weather Service text products, satellite images from GOES-16 and GOES-17, many models, and level 3 radar products are sent via the Satellite Broadcast Network (SBN) from the National Weather Service. If you receive the feed outside of the National Weather Service, like we do, the same feed is given a different name: NOAAport (like how we call hurricanes in the eastern Pacific and Gulf/Atlantic Ocean, and typhoons in the western Pacific. It’s the exact same storm type, it just has a different name!). Anyone can pick up NOAAport with a large (think WAY bigger than a pay TV ) satellite dish, a receiver, cables, antenna (LNB for you tech geeks), support bracket and mast…and then a server in a data center to send it out to be processed. That’s expensive, but that’s one reason why we have to charge for the data. And, we have all of that equipment, top notch at that, to pick up the broadcast reliably. But why is having only one dish a bad idea?

Let me ask you a question: what would happen if lightning hit the antenna on the satellite dish, fried it along with the coaxial cable, and burned up the entire grounding system? That would make for a very bad day for us, right? Well, thanks to data diversity, you didn’t even know that it DID happen to us last year. Other dishes we have access to across the country kicked in and kept the data flowing without even a moment of data drop or loss (since then, we replaced everything but the receiver, server and dish, which were not damaged). This means that because of our data diversity, we are resilient to disastrous or catastrophic failures. We have redundancy to keep going with frequently no loss of data to the customer.

Data diversity means that if our satellite dish is affected by severe/bad weather, or a twice a year “sun outage”, the other backup dishes we have access to across the country kick in and automatically take over sending us data instantly. The end result is no downtime for us and you, the end user. In fact, when a feed goes down these days, typically the issue is outside of our control. It also means the same for our feeds coming in via fiber. We are one of a few data vendors have that have access to BOTH level 2 radar inject points from the National Weather Service. If one is down or delayed and the other is fine, you don’t notice a thing. Everything works just fine on your end. We get the data that is coming in fastest, process it, and then get it to you almost instantly.

Nearly 20 years ago, when AllisonHouse was new, outages would occur with software ingest crashes, network issues, power outages….our server was literally in Tyler Allison’s basement! In 2020, we have multiple servers all over the country in data centers that have copious amounts of backup power, with very high speed and redundant Internet connections. Blazing fast new servers, software ingest programs that are state-of-the-art and reliable, and multiple data ingest points along with excellent system administration mean very high reliability for our customers today. How high?

If you want to pay thousands of dollars every month for 24/7/365 service where an engineer is monitoring everything, we understand (and if you want that, just drop us an email!). Even so, our servers alert us 24/7/365 when one has a very rare issue, and we do stagger our work times during periods of severe weather in case something breaks. But, as a result of excellent equipment and system administration from Ryan Hickman, our CTO, we now consistently achieve 99.999% uptime on all of our services, and in some cases, that goes out 5 decimal points! And we’re constantly improving and frequently upgrading to make our equipment and our services the very best they can be.

Such redundancy and resulting reliability and resiliency should be priced around $300 a month for Level 2 data alone, according to the research we have done. But we want to bring reliable service at an affordable price to everyone! But because we like to eat and sleep in apartments and houses, we do have to charge for our data. So, having said that, we believe we have the best combination of value and service of any weather company, anywhere in the world. Give us a try…and for those who are already our customers, THANK YOU for placing your hard-earned money with us. We couldn’t do what we do without you, and we are most grateful and humbled for that.

And if you want to see our reliability in action, as an example, check out:

(Note: the National Weather Service had an 18 minute outage that affected EVERYBODY on November 12, and they were unable to send warnings and radar data to anyone, including WITHIN the NWS. We can’t work around that, as you might imagine).

So, if you are interested in extremely reliable data, AllisonHouse Maps, or helping you with making your weather software the best it can be, drop us a line at our support email address. We would love to help you out!

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