BARBRI Inc. is best known for its live and on-line bar exam review courses, which feature lectures by law professors on all of the major areas covered on the exam. To date, more than 1.2 million law school graduates have passed the exam with help from BARBRI. The company also offers other educational services, such as the Law Preview course that prepares students for law school, and courses leading to certification in areas such as financial crime investigation and e-discovery (the discovery of electronically stored information).
BARBRI was part of Thomson Reuters until April 2011 when it was sold to Leeds Equity Partners. BARBRI’s IT infrastructure had been provided by Thomson, so after the sale the company’s IT team had to quickly architect and deploy a new infrastructure. “We had a two- to threemonth timeframe to get everything moved and working in our own data center,” explains Greg Birdwell, infrastructure architect at BARBRI.
The infrastructure needed to support a number of public web sites, such as barbri.com (the bar review site), lawpreview.com (the law school prep site), aceds.org (the e-discovery site), and afcs.org (the financial crimes site). The bar review site gets the most traffic, with between 40,000 and 50,000 people logged in concurrently during peak periods.
The site’s traffic fluctuates according to the twice yearly bar exam schedule. (All states administer their own bar exams, but on the same days across the country: the last Wednesday in July and the last Wednesday in February.) “Usually our traffic peaks between April and July in preparation for the July test and then again between the end of November through February for the February test,” says Birdwell. “After the exam, traffic tails off and then gradually rises again.”
To handle this fluctuation costeffectively, and to ensure an excellent user experience with the on-line review courses, Birdwell included load balancing in the infrastructure plan.