Technology makes every company a global company, and our focus on data security means Intercom customers all over the world can experience the full benefit of Intercom – no matter where they’re geographically located.
Ten years ago, we built the initial Intercom infrastructure in AWS’ us-east-1 data center in North Virginia, USA. From there, we’ve helped thousands of businesses to connect and build better, trust-based relationships with their customers.
Customer trust and data security are critical to everything we do at Intercom, as evidenced by our SOC 2, ISO 27001, and HIPAA certifications. Over the last few years, hosting data locally to a region has become a preference for certain businesses with specific needs, or within certain industry verticals. Many value the option of storing their data locally to their jurisdiction.
“We are committed to making sure the topic of data residency never causes unnecessary friction or concern”
We are committed to making sure the topic of data residency never causes unnecessary friction or concern for these businesses, and allowing them to concentrate on what’s most important: leveraging Intercom to grow their business and build relationships with their customers.
As a first step, we built European data hosting – allowing your most important data to remain entirely in Europe, stored in the AWS-eu-west-1 region. Now, we’re delighted to announce that we offer Australian data hosting as well. The same great Intercom experience hosted closer to your company’s home. Regional data hosting is just our latest offering to help global businesses support their customers: last year, we updated Resolution Bot to support over 30+ languages.
Our Regional Data Hosting program is by far the biggest infrastructure project we have ever taken on. We started with European data hosting, and while it was a daunting challenge, our vision was clear: we needed to recreate the exact same Intercom experience and feature set to the same high standards of quality, in new hosting locations – AWS-eu-west-1, and later, AP-Southeast-2 region.
Building Intercom in Europe
The Intercom platform was not initially designed to support this type of capability, and we knew implementing it would require changes to every layer of the Intercom technology stack. We wanted to ship as quickly as possible while avoiding any impact to the velocity of our product teams as they focused on shipping new features.
Luckily, our Infrastructure Group was well suited to the task. We own the production environment and are responsible for Intercom’s availability, scalability, observability, and efficiency. We are uniquely positioned within our engineering organization to develop deep knowledge and context on the inner workings of the entire platform.
We also have a wealth of talent in the group; a unique blend of engineers with specialized experience of building across the front and back ends. This means we didn’t have to borrow significant capacity from outside the group, something that could have led to disruption and coordination overhead.
“We prioritize building automation that ensures our critical operational systems and services stay effective and reliable”
In our usual day-to-day work, we prioritize building automation that ensures our critical operational systems and services stay effective and reliable. With these strong foundations in place, we can explore bigger, proactive projects that create more value for our customers.
Think big, start small, learn fast
Our initial brainstorm meetings produced long lists of unknowns and risks. We realized we wouldn’t learn more until we got started, so we resolved to dive right in and stick to one of our core R&D principles: think big, start small, learn fast.
“We wanted to produce a repeatable playbook that would allow us to quickly spin up more data hosting options in future”
The learning element was crucial. Our approach was to continually document findings and learnings as we made progress. We knew this project wouldn’t be a once-off, and we wanted to produce a repeatable playbook that would allow us to quickly spin up more data hosting options in future.
We kicked things off with a small handful of our most well-tenured engineers focused on building out the core infrastructure – the required servers, databases, caches, and queues. This stage was made easier by recent investments in infrastructure automation tooling that allowed us to provision infrastructure in minutes using version-controlled configuration files.
Once the foundations were in place, we switched our attention to our development pipeline, making sure we could automatically deploy to the new region and the old one simultaneously. Shipping is our heartbeat, and we soon had a steady pulse. After tweaking configuration files and resolving exception after exception, we soon had a basic version of the main Intercom monolith application deployed on just a single server.
“Excited by our quick iterative wins, we rapidly accelerated”
By now our momentum was strong. Excited by our quick iterative wins, we rapidly accelerated, making our way through the various Intercom features. Before long, we were partnering with our Customer Support org to execute QA on each feature, scaling up the infrastructure, completing our operational readiness tasks, and finalizing our launch plan for the announcement of European data hosting.
We learned a lot along the way, and were able to apply those lessons to the development of our Australian data hosting capability. It took us about 10 months to launch EU data hosting, but because of our experience and experimentation, we were able to build and launch Intercom in Australia in just four months.
We expect that almost all of our current European customers will continue to use our existing infrastructure. Moving workspaces from one region to another is not a trivial process, but if you’re already a customer and want to explore the option of migrating your data, stay tuned for more details in the coming weeks!
We would also love to hear from potential customers who may have other specific data hosting requirements – feel free to reach out!
European and Australian data hosting is now available to new customers – if you’re interested in signing up, reach out to our Sales team via the Intercom Messenger at the bottom of this page.