Review: Highwinds CDN Reporting System “StrikeTracker” Loaded With Functionality

Anyone who has read my blog long enough knows that I am always saying that content delivery networks need to offer a lot more functionality in their reporting and analytic packages. Earlier in the year, in a survey of over 1,000 customers, more than 75% of them said reporting and analytics was the number one complaint they had with their current CDN. In April of this year, I posted the top twenty customer requests on ways content delivery networks could improve their offering.

Seeing a real demand in the market, content delivery network Highwinds has been working for the past year on improving their web based reporting product and offering all of the functionality that customers asked for in the survey. In that time, I've had the ability to watch Highwinds product continue to evolve and have been able to get a few in-person demos along the way. To date, their reporting package is one of the best solutions I have seen from any of the CDNs in the market.

Highwinds reporting system, called StrikeTracker, enables customers to get real-time analytics, self-service live event provisioning and enable policy-based content-access protection, all via a web based dashboard. They currently offer multiple metrics for live events, something many CDNs don't have, and soon will give customers the ability to watch individual viewers signing on/dropping off of live events. All customer data is updated typically in 30 seconds or less so it provides actionable information during a promotion or campaign, not just after it has ended. While other CDNs offer near real-time reporting, typically it is at intervals of ten minutes or more.

One of the great things you notice right away when using StrikeTracker is that it was built in Adobe Flex, with a major focus placed on usability and providing a graphically-rich, yet streamlined interface that quickly highlights key statistical information. And because to date, Highwinds has primarily gone after resellers, they have spent a lot of time making sure the system provides reporting for sub-accounts and is viewable through APIs in the StrikeTracker console. Their sub-account reporting and billing data is also rolled up through a hierarchy of parent accounts and can be viewed by sub-account or as an aggregate for all levels.

Another really nice feature of StrikeTracker is that the system will go out to 24 months at the monthly roll-up level today. Many CDNs tell their customers that they don't hold onto raw logs for longer than six or twelve months and I hear from many customers all the time who are forced to have to download and save their raw logs every few months or risk them being deleted.

One thing I am always telling CDNs is that they should have a login to their reporting system, on their home page that anyone can demo at any time. It's not enough for a vendor to send a customer a PDF with a screen shot of their system or a document that gives a high-level overview. If you stand behind your reporting, then let any potential customer login and see the real functionality, without saying you can't because you don't wan your competitors to know what you are doing. To date, I don't know of any CDN that does this, yet it's the number one request of customers. Even when a CDN is pitching a customer on their services, many times they still don't give the potential customer a login to get hands on with the system which should make any potential customer wary.

While I asked Highwinds to give me a user name and password that anyone could use to login and see the system themselves, they said only one person can use the same user name and password at a time. So
while Highwinds is not able to provide an account that can be shared by a large group of people, they are willing to provide a unique login and user ID to anyone who is interested so they can see all the functionality in real-time. You can contact Mark at Highwinds directly and he'll be happy to set you up with an account. Highwinds also has a seven minute demo video of their StrikeTracker system which gives you a really overview of all the functionality.

While I took a few dozen screen shots of the system, it's easier for you to get an account to see it in person or watch the demo video for an overview. I think it's great to see Highwinds addressing a major concern of customers in today's market and it is really important for CDNs to remember that customers won't spend more money on services if they aren't provided with the tools they need to measure their success.