With Windows Azure, WeddingHappy had finally found a cloud service that it could trust to store its customers’ valuable data. The company was also pleased with the overall pricing structure as well as a wide range of integrated services that would reduce their dependency on services from different providers.
BizSpark Discounts for Startups
To reduce costs, WeddingHappy was able to take advantage of a valuable Windows Azure discount offered through the Microsoft BizSpark program. BizSpark, a free Microsoft program dedicated to startups, provides three years of free software and support as well as valuable networking opportunities. The program also includes US$150 monthly credits toward Windows Azure, lower rates, and no additional charge for using MSDN software on Windows Azure.
Along with the data storage account, the availability of an integrated backup service was a key reason that WeddingHappy chose Windows Azure. Windows Azure Backup provides a simple way to back up the company’s customer data on Windows Azure Storage. It’s a fully automated system that also uses incremental backups to help ensure efficient use of storage and reduced bandwidth consumption, while ensuring point-in-time recovery of multiple versions of the data.
Familiar, SQL-Based Reporting
Another aspect of Windows Azure that the company values is the ability to use a standard SQL tool to query its data. “We’re using Windows Azure SQL Database for all of our data storage, and Azure blob storage for backups of the SQL database,” says Eric Hedstrom. This has made it easy to develop detailed records for each device that uses the app, which, in turn, has generated valuable customer data. For example, the company can find out exactly how many days prior to a wedding that people start using the app and how often they continue using it. Insights into this kind of customer behavior have helped the company refine the app to develop longer-term customer relationships.
Easy Integration with Third-PartyProviders
The WeddingHappy application integrates with Yelp, making it possible for users to find local wedding vendors—a feature that was made easier by using Windows Azure Web Sites. As Liz Hedstrom explains, “We have PHP pages hosted on Azure Web Sites that are formatted to look like the app. When the user accesses the vendor search feature, the app calls the webpage with the user’s location and type of vendor (venue, florist, caterer, etc.). We have PHP functions to call the Yelp API and format the results appropriately.”
Multiple Services for FutureDevelopment
With its core Windows Azure infrastructure now in place, WeddingHappy is now focusing on the next phase of development using additional Windows Azure services. This includes taking advantage of user authentication in Windows Azure Mobile Services so that multiple people can use the wedding planning data at the same time.
The Windows Azure platform is also ideal for the company’s rapid international expansion. Eric Hedstrom says, “We now have users all over the world. So Windows Azure services in Australia or China may well be part of our future plans.”