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Fauna and Cloaked: A multi-region database solution for a privacy-focused app
Sep 21st, 2022|
Protecting consumer privacy is no small feat in today’s technology-driven landscape. From a multitude of trackers to an onslaught of ads that follow you into the darkest and most intimate corners of your search history, consumers are assaulted with the constant feeling of being monitored.
As CEO of the privacy startup Cloaked, Arjun Bhatnagar, together with his co-founder Abhijay Bhatnagar, have made it the company’s mission to empower people with control over their own data.
Cloaked allows users to create and own identifiers for websites and even people you interact with day-to-day, and aims to make people’s lives easier. “It works to their lifestyle and workflows,” Arjun says.
With that kind of functionality and promise, Cloaked’s database was an important choice in their architecture. They needed their database to be serverless, global, and secure with bonus points for a database that could scale vertically to deal with traffic and horizontally to keep up with the number of new users. They were also conflicted about whether to go with a NoSQL or SQL database - they loved the flexibility of the no schema in NoSQL but they loved the power of building relationships and stored procedures in SQL databases.
About the company
Cloaked at a Glance
👁️ Consumer privacy-focused startup founded in 2020
💡 Generates unique email addresses and phone numbers on the fly
🔒 Fully encrypted, personalized databases with personal data separated and secured
💰 Recently raised $25M Series A funding, co-led by Lux Capital and Human Capital
👥 Target market is ages 25-35, but some even younger (and some older) love it
Cloaked’s challenges and choices
Cloaked is in its private beta phase, but the company is already building a loyal following. With the rise of data concerns, VPNs and other privacy software, its potential is already clear. Cloaked therefore needed to ensure that it could secure encrypted user data so the information wasn’t even visible to the team at Cloaked — for maximum user data protection.
Cornering the market
“We find that our business is entirely B2C,” Arjun says. “Our target market is from ages 25 to 35. People in the workforce who are building their careers and just starting their families and realizing that privacy and security are really important.” But Cloaked appeals to younger and older demographics, too.
Cloaked is aware that capturing all segments of the market is a monumental challenge. “Building Cloaked is an interesting challenge because we have to not only solve future potential security issues and scale problems today but also refine the experience so that people can love it,” Arjun says.
Users’ control of their own data is often deprioritized with startups — but not Cloaked. “Often a lot of startups and companies ignore scale and ignore security vulnerabilities or privacy concerns. Those are all paramount to us from day one.”
Balancing privacy, functionality and scalability
Making decisions that impact the user base in the right way and providing a frictionless user experience — while keeping security as priority number one — is Cloaked’s greatest challenge.
Sharing information freely and creating “cloaks” while handling 10 million simultaneous users was never going to be easy, but Cloaked is iterating away on the issue day by day.
Making the choice for architecture
Choosing the right technical architecture is another challenge. “This decision has to last a while,” Arjun says, “but it has to be something we can also iterate on, while also not compromising internal security.” This applies to current efforts as well as what the company decides to push for at a later time.
Arjun looks at it through the lens of balancing three different principles: Delivery speed and subsequent iteration; architecture security; and reliability. “We need to make sure that this stays up and doesn't cause any friction for users down the road,” he highlights.
The architecture has to be the right choice from the get-go. “Otherwise, we have to go and impact the customer experience later on and or do a complete technical rewriting,” Arjun explains.
Searching for a database and finding Fauna
While searching for a database, Cloaked looked at a few products like MongoDB and DynamoDB. But these solutions didn’t cut it on several key features. Cloaked needed a database governed by its own privacy rules. The team also found Fauna’s ease of use to spin up databases on the fly while keeping user data separate, a key differentiator.
“When I looked at all these different solutions, I realized that Fauna was the one that stood out for using API calls and instant access databases — spinning up horizontally and resource-managed vertically on their own,” Arjun explains.
Ultimately, Cloaked landed on Fauna as the database of choice. “Fauna was a no-brainer really,” he says. “Because I knew that so many database solutions out there required us to do a lot of work to get speed, scale and security all at our fingertips.”
Data remains in users’ hands
The idea was to see if Fauna could be the end-all solution for individual user databases. But this doesn’t mean Cloaked collects data via Fauna. “When users create an account on Cloaked, we can separate their data out from our own infrastructure, because we believe every user’s data should belong to them,” Arjun says.
The data remains encrypted and is only visible when decrypted on the user’s front end. Most importantly though, users’ real identifiers — like email address and phone number — remain within their control, whenever and wherever they want it.
Fauna was the perfect solution for encrypted user data
Fauna takes the work out of database management. “We realized this data had to be separated and organized in their own individual instances,” Arjun says. “With Fauna we don’t actually have to actually create instances on the fly immediately.” Fauna does it for you. “We're able to secure those instantly with our own rules and parameters,” he says.
“Knowing that this data can be moved geographically to different locations gives us the flexibility we need to comply with regulations. … The speed to deploy and secure became a big factor in choosing Fauna,” Arjun explains.
Favorite Fauna features
✅ Serverless architecture
When you’ve gone through the alpha and you’re starting to build a customer base, the last thing you want to worry about is administrating horizontally and vertically. Fauna offers managed serverless architecture, which took the pressure off for Cloaked. “It can be all done via API calls,” Arjun says.
✅ Multi-tenant scaling
For Cloaked, one of Fauna’s most valued attributes is its multi-tenant horizontal scaling. “Because no one does it,” Arjun explains. “And that was the problem.” He nailed down core requirements for the database: vertical and horizontal, with a minimal workload. “Fauna managed both horizontal and vertical scaling instantly with strong failover support,” says Arjun. It protected user and company data perfectly.
✅ Document-relational database
Fauna’s document-relational database is also a big boon for Cloaked. “We got all the power and flexibility of a NoSQL database,” Arjun explains, “but can leverage relational database aspects of both tools at the same time.”
“We didn't realize that we can utilize NoSQL-like thinking with SQL-like support in one system,” he says.
✅ Distributed architecture
Distributed architecture is crucial for a consumer privacy company like Cloaked. “We realized that Fauna takes care of all of that,” Arjun explains. “We don’t have to worry about it at all.” There’s international potential too. “What’s really exciting about this is that we can use Fauna’s region groups to easily move our architecture from the US to the EU,” Arjun says.
The bottom line: serverless infrastructure with all the SQL capabilities
What was Cloaked’s overall experience with using Fauna as the company’s database solution?
“When I think about Fauna, I think about the serverless infrastructure,” Arjun says. “I also think about how the data is stored in a NoSQL-like fashion — with all the SQL capabilities.”
Fauna’s winning combo of this infrastructure, along with multi-tenant scaling, distributed architecture and a unique document-relational model made it Cloaked’s database of choice. Customer data remains secure and encrypted, and Cloaked looks forward to real growth and success.
If you enjoyed our blog, and want to work on systems and challenges related to globally distributed systems, serverless databases, and GraphQL, Fauna is hiring!
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