From the Vancouver Sun – Monday, July 9, 2012
Local tech firm brings back cycling to Gastown
By donating $1 million for Grand Prix bike race, data storage company Global Relay can peddle its name
by Scott Simpson
A Gastown tech company that is a world leader in data storage is committing $1 million to return competitive cycling to its home neighbourhood.
Global Relay Communications CEO Warren Roy got a huge thrill out of watching the Tour de Gastown, which took riders right past the front lobby of the Cambie Street brick building that houses his company’s head office.
But when the event stopped in 2008, Roy was so focused on his growing business that it took a couple of years to realize that the race, once part of the BC Super week of cycle races around the Lower Mainland, wasn’t coming back.
Global Relay stepped up as the primary sponsor, others including All stream and the Gastown Business Improvement Association joined in and, with support from the City of Vancouver, brought the event back to life under its original (1973-1993) name, the Gastown Grand Prix.
This year, the first of a five-year commitment by Global Relay, the company’s name is part of the race title as well.
The race takes place Wednesday, beginning with opening ceremonies at 5: 45 p.m.
Roy and the rest of the company’s executive team hope Vancouverites with digital technology skills take notice and remember the event’s full name when they’re job hunting.
From a challenging struggle to survive amid the 1999 tech meltdown, Global Relay has grown to a 200-employee organization that provides data storage for 15,000 regulated firms, such as hedge funds, global banks and brokerages that have to keep emails, documents and even social media content on file for review by regulators.
“We service about 70 per cent of the U.S. hedge funds, which is a big amount. We serve 1,500 out of 4,500 broker-dealers. We do pieces of 23 of the top 25 global banks – so that’s all the major banks,” Roy told The Vancouver Sun.
Later this year, it’s opening a new $20-million data storage centre in North Vancouver – the largest such facility in Western Canada – and next year it expects to launch a new messaging service that costs a similar amount to develop.
“We’ve been able to pull some of the best people in from Reuters, from Nortel and from IBM because you need that level of experience to deal with the scalability and the volume of the data,” Roy said.
“To attract developers, you need to be building cool soft-ware and in the technology world we’re really looked at that way, so developers love working on this type of stuff even though from the outside most people don’t even under-stand what we do.”
The company has regional offices in New York, Chicago, London and Singapore.
The amount of data processed is almost unimaginably large and the regulations for storing it vary by jurisdiction.
The company measures the volume of data in storage in petabytes, one of which is estimated to comprise enough text to fill 20 million four-drawer filing cabinets.
“It’s a trillion-plus messages,” Roy said. “It’s really hard to even wrap your head around it because it’s all the messaging that’s incoming, internal and outgoing from all of our customers. A single customer can generate a million messages a day in the banking sector. You are talking enormous data flow across the border to hold in our data centres.”
Customers expect the company to operate at Google-like speeds when they are retrieving documents from the Global Relay archives.
Despite that, Roy said, “We have never lost a piece of data or had a security breach in the history of the company.”
The sector is growing more complex, according to Global Relay president and legal counsel Shannon Rogers.
“Whether for compliance, legal or business reasons, archiving communications such as email, text and instant messaging, together with newer message types such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook, is becoming critical,” Rogers noted.
“Today, especially in the after-math of the 2008 economic crisis, worldwide concern over economic stability has led to global responses such as the G20 mandating new rules focused on financial stability, counterparty risk and trading records.”
Roy said the company expects to hire about 100 new staff over the next year, at a rate of about 10 per month.
About 50 Global Relay staff have been working over the past year on the logistics of staging this week’s race – Roy calls it the best imaginable team-building exercise.
“It’s really a positive thing for a business to get involved in something like this because it helps our company be a better business and I think it has a surprising effect on anybody else that would get involved in it.
“Probably the No. 1 business benefit we wanted out of it was to get exposure in the city, to be able to get employees, to continue to grow the business.
Eighty-five per cent of our revenues originate outside of the country. How do you become a recognized brand that young people coming out of school want to go work for?” he said.
“For us, the race was really about marketing Global Relay. We are in a position today where we have about 200 people, but we need to grow to 300 people to remain competitive in the U.S. markets. It’s hard to attract that without a branded presence.”
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