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Challenges of Global MLS Communication Twitter Facebook Print E-mail
Written by Mark Soderquist   
Thursday, 20 August 2009

Communicating through the Member and Leader Services (MLS) application presents many challenges for software engineers at Church headquarters. The Church has more than 28,000 units (wards, branches, stakes, districts and missions) scattered all over the world on every continent and in many remote locations. Unit leaders use MLS to send membership, finance, and other support information to Church headquarters. One of the greatest challenges is supporting all the amount of information from Church units, and doing it in a way that can be maintained efficiently.

Communication and electrical infrastructure varies widely around the world from nothing at all, including no electricity, to broadband Internet connections with stable electrical systems. In most units MLS uses modem connections since telephone lines are available in the majority of Church locations around the world. Recently MLS has been able to take advantage of broadband Internet connections in some stakes. In some of the most remote locations, MLS can take advantage of satellite broadband Internet connections. Currently, 92 percent of Church units use MLS, however, only one-third of Church units that use MLS have broadband connections. In all cases, the Church attempts to use the most cost-effective means of communication to spend tithing dollars as wisely as possible.

MLS uses techniques to increase security and to reduce communication costs and the amount of time users spend waiting to communicate with Church headquarters. All data communicated through MLS are encrypted to ensure that information is secure regardless of what type of connection is used. MLS collects information that needs to be sent to Church headquarters and compresses it before sending it. MLS attempts to reduce the number of telephone calls needed to send the data, the amount of data sent, and the amount of time it takes to send the data. More than a dozen computers handle communications from MLS to ensure that units can communicate with Church headquarters regularly.

In addition to sending information, MLS receives updates to membership and finance information and the MLS application itself. Soon MLS will start sending and receiving information about member callings for future integration with Church Web sites. We also plan to upgrade the communications servers for better reliability, scalability, and enhanced features.

Mark Soderquist is a development lead for the Church.

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