Tech Ops Working Group Budget for Phone Services, Hosting Reimbursement, Infrastructure & Operating Costs, and Livestreaming in HD

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TECH OPS BUDGET PROPOSAL

The Technology Operations group of the New York City General Assembly strives to provide tools that enable our movement to connect and communicate with each other and the world through technology. We provide as many tools we can to supportOWS and the broader Occupy Movement as we all transform the world. Some of our more notable projects include tools thatmany people in the movement use everyday:

  • NYCGA.net - the movement’s largest and most active social network
  • Occupy.net - free/libre/open source tools for activists
  • @nycga.net email for working groups
  • Computers in the Occupied Office and coming soon to 60 Wall Street
  • 855-NYCGA-411 - a toll-free phone service that enables anyone to receive info from the NYCGA.net website

Today, we are brining this budget proposal forward to allow us to continue these successful services and tools, and to give us room to develop more. We will bring the proposal in FOUR distinct parts and seek consensus on each part before moving on. We want the group to be able to decide the merits of each of these ideas and only move forward with them if we all think they are worthwhile.

PART ONE: 855-NYCGA-411 PHONE SERVICES

855-NYCGA-411 democratizes our communication systems by making it possible for people without access to computers or cell phones get up-to-the-minute news and information. It allows anyone to dial a toll-free number from any phone (including pay phones) and instantly access information on the NYCGA.net website, including event information, announcements and action alerts. It also enables people to leave important announcement information that will be heard by people calling into the system.

In the three weeks the system was in available, it received 527 calls, for a total of over 1138 minutes. We anticipate usage to grow as more people learn about the service and its features are improved.

BENEFITS:
  • Free access to up-to-date movement information from anywhere (in the US)
  • Ability to communicate out real-time important information
  • Doesn’t require internet access or your own phone

While 855-NYCGA-411 calls are free, the service is not. On 12/30, our free arrangement ran out and the service as been offline since then, as many of you may have noticed if you tried calling. We plan to build an open source version of this service so other occupations can deploy it themselves. This will take lots of time and resources, so in the interim we’d like to keep the service running using the current provider. If this body feels the services are worth continuing, there are two options for pricing moving forward:

COSTS:
  • Option 1: 25,000 minutes of service at $.06/minute for a total of $1500
  • Option 2: 50,000 minutes of service at $.05/minute for a total of $2500

PART TWO: NYCGA.NET HOSTING REIMBURSEMENT

Since its launch on October 19, the NYCGA.net website has been hosted and maintained using web space provided by one of the members of Tech Ops at his own expense. This was always intended to be a temporary measure to get the site online ASAP. Recently, we have secured a temporary donation of server space and migrated our services there. Consequently, we’reonly requesting reimbursement for past hosting costs.

BENEFITS:
  • The site has more than 8,000 registered users and has had over 1.25 million visits thus far
  • The site is used by nearly all groups represented at GA or Spokes Council to communicate and share information
  • This site is a critical tool for the achieving and the transparency we value in this movement
COSTS:
  • $1216.77 one-time reimbursement

PART THREE: SERVER INFRASTRUCTURE AND OPERATING COSTS

Our current servers for NYCGA.NET and Occupy.net are being donated by a third party hosting company whose generous offer is only temporary, and in a couple months we’ll have to pay (high) monthly service fees. We’ve explored our options and have determined it best for Tech Ops to operate our own servers. We have many exciting new services in the pipeline that we are sure you will all love, including occupywallstreet.net, the new public-facing site of OWS, a Livestream project discussed later in this proposal, and a service to allow people to contribute their own social media accounts to be used for OWS messaging. All of this takes servers and infrastructure  We have been offered a heavily discounted rate by a local colocation facility – basically a hotel for our servers – that will allow us to move in comfortably now, and expand our infrastructure to meet our needs for the forseeable future. To jump on this incredible offer, we need to purchase two servers that are capable of hosting our current services as well as providing space for our new exciting projects to grow into.  Technical breakdown is attached.

BENEFITS:
  • Sufficient infrastructure for our current needs and many future projects
  • We control all of our own data
  • Police, government, etc, would have to ask NYCGA, not a third party, in order to access any of our information
  • We have physical access to servers, enabling us to upload data more quickly
  • We get more bang for our buck
  • Not mis-using out $100/day WG allotment
COSTS:
  • $5,692.24 one-time cost for server equipment
  • $250/month for continued local hosting facility space
  • $200/month for miscellaneous costs (DNS, SMTP services, mobile hotspots, etc) only to be used on an as-needed basis

PART FOUR: LIVESTREAM HD SUPER-CHARGE

Livestream has been an integral part of this movement from the very beginning, and we all love them and the work they do. By making all of our daily successes and struggles open and transparent, we have captured the attention and imagination of the world. After many conversations with the livestream team of the Media Working Group, we are coming forward to offer some amazing technology solutions which will bump our livestreaming capabilities to a whole new level. Using cameras that the livestream team already has, some incredible deals for top-notch streaming equipment from state-of-the-art manufacturers, andnew audio equipment and datacards, our Livestream team will be able to produce crystal clear HD quality video and audio.

BENEFITS:
  • HD Livestreaming of OWS events, actions, GAs, Spokes Councils
  • High quality video feeds that indie and mainstream media outlet can share with their viewers
COSTS:
  • $312 one-time cost for 4G USB modems from each major wireless network: Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile and AT&T
  • $413.68/month for data plan subscriptions for these four modems
  • $888 one-time cost for 4-mic Wireless Microphone System & camera-top Wireless interview mic.

23 Responses to “Tech Ops Working Group Budget for Phone Services, Hosting Reimbursement, Infrastructure & Operating Costs, and Livestreaming in HD”

  1. planetary I/O

    regarding the phone service:

    Is there a specific reason you NEED toll-free dial-in? You can run a bunch of local DID numbers (direct inward dial) #s in multiple cities with unlimited calling & multiple channels for WAY less than $2500 / month. We have a few single-channel DIDs lying around we’d be willing to donate when/if you get a PBX running to test it on.

    Speaking of… do you have a spec for the scope of services to be provided? We might already have a headstart on your FLO option, or know someone who does.

    We’ve been working on an Asterisk config – our Peoples’ PBX project – to provide a bunch of outbound info services (phase 1) & ultimately more secure comms services. We should discuss.

    General questions:

    - Do all of these rates reflect best available (negotiated) rates for new equipment? Have used / refurb / donated options been evaluated? Could you substitute, for example, a donated rooted 4G Android device for one of the USB modems, if one came along?

    - Are all those 4G data plans contract-free? Are ETFs contemplated & does this # reflect the full contractual obligation getting those services represents?

    - Would it make sense to anticipate replacement costs in these budgets? Especially in cases where you might have fairly specialized replacement parts (e.g., one mic in the wireless system gets stomped on by the law)? Given the rate of gear & service loss, shouldn’t you be budgeting a continuous supply of equipment over X time period?

    • Nathan S.

      Batman,

      We do have a significant population within our movement who do not have regular access to internet or mobile phones. The toll-free option allows those people to have equal access to the information that we all take for granted being able to find over the internet.

      That being said, if their was regular (not toll-free) number that the rest of us could call into if needed, that would reduce the amount of minutes needed on the toll-free line.

      • Matt Lepacek

        Indeed. Becaue Angel.com is offering us such a discounted price, the toll free and non-toll free are the same price. When/if we move to our own source version this will be possible. For the time being, local and toll is the same price. When we move to open source we can expect to save 1-2cents/min and we’ll be able to have free local income calls. We haven’t added this to our TechOps timeline, but would love to work with any 3rd parties who are interested in taking this on. The angel solution should be seen as a short term solution. It’s not perfect $$ wise, but its the best we could do with time/resources to get something up.. It’s nice to be out of the “talk” and into the “work”.

    • Monica McLaughlin

      @planetary4th, @sallyarks

      If you do the math, the cost is $2.13 per call. Has anyone analyzed the calls that have come in to determine what exactly the majority are calling for? If we do this, we can then decide whether there is a more cost effective way to satisfy their needs. (We might also discover that the calls are not worthy of being satisfied. Like people calling for directions to the park. At $2 a pop, they can ask a cop –God knows they are all over the place just standing around waiting for something to do.)

      • Monica McLaughlin

        Please disregard my cost analysis. I thought the fee was was PER month. That is not clear in the proposal. I assumed that it was per month, but now that I look back at it, I see that it doesn’t state a time period at all. The correct time period is a package of minutes that can be used over the period of a year. That is a horse of a different story!

  2. Patricia L

    @planetary4th – In reference to the toll-free number, it ensures that people who don’t have a phone can call from pay phones.

    • batman

      seems an unnecessary expense for a very small return, as far as that demographic being minuscule. there are plenty of free voip services, and libraries are a friend for those without a phone.

      • planetary I/O

        What if you offered a local DID and a 1-800 number, advertising the latter as “from pay phones or from prison” (latter being pretty important IOHO), and relied on human behavior & prudence to use the local # when available?

        If you list the local # first in any materials where you advertise the #s, folks with local service are likely to dial the first # presented: so it could offload a lot of the variable cost for those not impacted by cost of local calls: while still providing the 1-800 number option to someone unable to obtain local service.

        Again, we will give you a DID or two for free in perpetuity. We’ll give you the necessary config to route calls into your SIP server. We could make it not cost you anything. We really want to save you $$$ on this…

        • Matt Lepacek

          Thanks, see above comment. I totally want to use a free DID, but it doesn’t offer us a cost benefit with Angel.com at this time. I want to re-dev open source in Asterisk/Freeswitch/Cepstral but I won’t have the time for a few months (other projects taking prioity). This is a patch/reasonable solution. If you have any more ideas matt@nycga.net. I’d love to work with you guys in whatever capacity you’d like.

  3. Matt Lepacek

    @Planetary

    It’s not $2500 a month for voice. Its a package of minutes that can be used for up to 12 months.

    Yes, here is the full list of services implemented for voice: http://wiki.occupy.net/wiki/855-203-7763_NYCGA.NET_Voice_Services

    Yes these are the best rates for new products, we have sought donations for servers but haven’t received any of value.

    http://reservations.nycga.net/to/Tech Ops Hosting Budget Proposal – Merged.pdf
    http://reservations.nycga.net/to/Occupy-Custom-Build-Server-Quote.xlsx
    Has all of the finer details your looking for

    Verizon is the only carrier who offers non contract. All the rest are contracts, T-mobile’s prepaid data has 3gb/$50 limit and isn’t cost effective over a contract.

    ETF fees are discussed in the document.

    We can only use USB wifi dongles as this is for a specific bonding system.

    • Monica McLaughlin

      >>It’s not $2500 a month for voice. Its a package of minutes that can be used for up to 12 months.

      Oh, I thought is was PER month. That is not clear in the proposal. I assumed that it was per month, but now that I look back at it, I see that it doesn’t state a time period at all.

  4. planetary I/O

    Thanks Matt & Patricia, that is very helpful and appreciate your taking the time to clarify.

  5. Sam Redman

    This is what I would appraise as a properly structured and substantiated request for funding. Well done.

    What an amazing group of dedicated and unselfish people. Tech ops should serve as the ethical standard for all other working groups.

  6. Matias

    Hi and thanks for the super-detailed proposal. A few questions that I think were not covered in the docs (apologies if they were):

    1. Does the budget include any kind of automated, ideally off-site backup for the co-located servers? I think this is important because most cloud/hosting services usually include this, and now that we’d be running our own machines, we’d be solely responsible.
    a. I imagine that the production server image and nycga.net database could be rsync’d periodically somewhere else for little to no cost, although there could be issues of authorities being able to access the backup servers (perhaps the data could be encrypted?).
    b. The media server would, I think, be harder to backup remotely because of amount of data stored. Possible options might include using disk mirroring or some kind of RAID configuration for increased reliability, or period tape/HD backups stored somewhere safe.

    2. In the specs, the production and media servers both have 12GB (4×3) of storage (not sure if that was RAIDed and thus effectively less or not). Shouldn’t the media server have more, and the production server less (given that afaik the server image and DB shouldn’t take up that much disk space)? In case the answer is ‘yes’, if the racks are not able to hold more than four drives, an external storage enclosure may be needed.
    Side note: OMG these new Hitachi 3TB drives are cheap (awesome), but they are also “desktop” drives. Might they not be reliable enough for a heavy-duty server environment? Again, putting them in a redundant RAID config would make this mostly moot. Also, keep in mind how hot those racks could get with four 3TB drives in them :-/

    3. Do the proposed hardware purchases include at least 1 year of warranty coverage?

    Thanks!
    matias

    • Matt Lepacek

      1) We plan to auto backup the databases off-site using Linux open source means (our own servers hosted on a diff network (panix/fastpcnet/europe/etc). Non-critical files will be archived @ archive.org as well for public view
      1a) I agree, we haven’t officially discussed this, but we basically do this already with our dev/staging/prod change management procedures. We have other servers online that will be used to auto-synch the mysql tables.
      1b) I don’t think were going to start with any RAID for the media, all the media will also upload to Archive.org & Youtube

      2) The media server has the capacity for up to 16 hard drives (3u), we are only starting with 4. The current plan is not to RAID the media, but we will be raiding the database drives. We anticipate that hard drives will be donated, so we wont have to spend as much. the 4x 3tb drives are a start.
      2b) We priced out SAS drives as well, but its about $900 more for the 4 3tb drives. Sata is starting point, but the chassis/etc supports SAS as well, so we can upgrade/swap/add at any time (check server config excel link above)

      3) Yes, all the hardware includes a min of 1-year warranty.

      hope this helps,
      -ML

  7. Hermes C Liberty (Abu)

    A very clear proposal to say the least. If there is any way to save something somewhere please do so.
    I would like to propose from now on, to give just a half or quater of what some people ask and recommend them to look for funding somewhere else as the well dries vertiginously (maybe not bad?)); not of course those very useful and of general usage like techs.

  8. Sally Marks

    I am greatly indebted to Tech-Ops. There are those with disabilities that the movement would not of been able to include with them.

    They are also impressively organized and clear headed.

    You guys rock!!!!!!!!! But do not let it get to your heads. Keep pushing forward.