Secret Lab finds answer in Internode NBN


Although Secret Lab achieved ADSL2+ speeds that could reach 24 megabits per second, the company found its Internet access performance was holding it back, especially with upstream speeds. Secret Lab often spent as much as one quarter of its time working out how to get large data files to and from customers.

However, Internode has eliminated that bottleneck for Secret Lab by deploying an NBN Platinum 100/40 Mbps service, with a 600 GB data quota and a Business Pack, for Internet access. Both company directors also use Internode’s NodeMobile phone plans.

"We're fans of the iiNet Group. Our ISP is currently Internode. There's no other choice for a high tech small business in Australia. We wouldn’t consider anyone else. Internode and iiNet as a group tend to push things in a way that delivers a really good experience for customers."
Secret Lab Director Paris Buttfield-Addison

Business problem: Slow Internet access speeds were holding Secret Lab back

Although Secret Lab in located in one of the southernmost parts of Australia, the computer games development company is a global business with most of its customers in the US.

Based in a nearly 200-year-old sandstone building in the middle of Hobart, the business, founded in 2008, is an award-winning software development studio that builds games for iPads, iPhones, Android, Macs and PCs.

Secret Lab has developed a number of popular iPad applications, including the Foodi app for iPad, Play School Play Time for iPad, and the Play School Art Maker for iPad, for the ABC. Secret Lab founder Paris Buttfield-Addison and Jon Manning have also co-authored a number books on game development, including one in the “for Dummies” series.

The major challenge for Secret Lab in that game development was its need to exchange between three and 30 gigabytes of data each day with customers in the form of the many large files it generates for the graphics, sound and music in its games.

Secret Lab Director Paris Buttfield-Addison said it was impossible to move that amount of data with ADSL2+. "Basically, we had the best ADSL2 connection you could get in Australia, maxing out at 23-24 Mbps down and 0.9 Mbps up, and it still wasn’t good enough," he said.

"We couldn’t upload anything at a reasonable speed. We had to send hard drives or USB flash drives, through the postal service, or we‘d leave uploads running overnight in the faint hope that they’d successfully complete while we slept."

"Worse still, and most deleterious to a small business, we resorted to an expensive Telstra 4G LTE service, which can upload between five and 10 Mbps at a cost of about $50 per four gigabytes, so our uploads went up relatively fast, but cost a fortune in doing so. We could spend hundreds of dollars a month like that."

"We were spending from 10 to 25 per cent of our time trying to figure out how to send things to and from clients. This was not sustainable. You can’t run a game development studio for very long like that as it’s simply too stressful, expensive, time-consuming and unproductive."

Technology solution: Fibre to the Premises transforms the business

When Secret Lab heard that NBN services were becoming available for its premises, the company placed an order for a top-tier 100/40 Mbps service from Internode.

In the third week of October, Secret Lab was connected to the National Broadband Network (NBN), with a Fibre to the Premises service that ran four times faster downstream than its former ADSL2+ service - and more than 40 times faster upstream.

Mr. Buttfield-Addison described the cutover to the NBN as “absolutely painless”. “The NBN guys installed their box and a couple of hours later our new service was on,” he said.

"We continued using the same hardware to connect, which is a FRITZ!Box router, and our static IP address with Internode came over without a problem."

"Now we’re saving something like 20 per cent of our time because the network now just works. We also don’t have to spend money on Telstra 4G services, which in the worst months was up to $300. Until the NBN came along, it was crazy. We were saving all the uploads until we went home so we could send them overnight from there."

"NBN is one of the most transformative, impactful things that could have happened to us."

We're fans of the iiNet Group,” said Mr. Buttfield-Addison.

"Our ISP is currently Internode. There's no other choice for a high tech small business in Australia. We wouldn’t consider anyone else. Internode and iiNet as a group tend to push things in a way that delivers a really good experience for customers."

Business benefits: More productivity, reduced costs and greater responsiveness

Mr. Buttfield-Addison said the NBN had made Secret Lab much more efficient. "It has completely changed the way we work," he said.

"It has exceeded our expectations. We thought it would be fast and useful, but we weren’t clear how much faster our upload speed would be."

"Now we’re turning work around faster. No longer do we need to waste no time messing around, for example, stripping all the sound out of a game so the build is small enough for us to send through to the client."

"We’re now much more productive because we’re not wasting time trying to squeeze every drop we could get from our ADSL2+ service. Because of that extra productivity, we don’t have to raise our prices, which is what we were looking at doing."

"Another benefit is we can push code to our source code repository for better revision control, The more we push, the better we can track our changes if there’s a problem. Prior to NBN, we might do it once a day. Now we can do it live as we go which is much better for business continuity."

We are also much more confident of our ability to take on big name projects. We know we can do anything technically, but the inability to go back and forth in a timely manner was holding us back."

Using the NBN is also saving us money. As well as getting rid of our monthly Telstra LTE costs, we will save $2500-$3000 a year on no longer having to host two Mac Mini servers at a data centre in Las Vegas in order to assemble remotely the code for an app bundle for easy delivery to US clients. Now our Internet connection is fast enough to run them from here, so that’s another saving when our contract runs out."

Another benefit is less network congestion. Because of our location, we spend a lot of time on Skype. Until the NBN arrived, we had to shut down other network activity so that it didn’t interrupt the Skype calls. Skype no longer breaks down if something else is happening on the network."

Also, previously the post could be faster than using the Internet. We work with an animation studio in northern Ireland which is generating 300 megs of hand-drawn animations for each frame of a game about Leonardo da Vinci."

During the past year, we slowly downloaded bits of this. About two weeks before the NBN was connected, they posted us a 500-gig hard drive containing artwork. That hard drive arrived the week after NBN was connected, so we’ve not needed to use it. Now we can download that data in a day."

"Best of all, we no longer have to consider leaving Tasmania – a beautiful place to live and work – solely because we couldn’t get the connectivity we needed to make our business more effective, sustainable, and better equipped to make new games and software."

The NBN provides a business-class service at a price small business like us can sustain.

More Information