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Real World Windows Azure: Interview with Shane Leonard, Senior Director at Givedon

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As part of the Real World Windows Azure series, we talked to Shane Leonard, Senior Director at Givedon, about using the Windows Azure platform to deliver an application that helps charities raise money. Here’s what he had to say:

MSDN: Tell us about Givedon and the services you offer.

Leonard: Givedon is a not-for-profit organization based in London, England, that uses Web technologies to raise money for charities. Users can access different services on the Web, such as search, through our Web site or toolbar. We then raise money through affiliate or partnership agreements, and then we donate directly to the charities that our users choose. One hundred percent of the money we raise from search activity goes to charity.

MSDN: What was the biggest challenge Givedon faced prior to implementing the Windows Azure platform?

Shane: We needed a fast, scalable, and global platform to run our Web site and offer lightning-fast performance to users-it doesn’t matter how charitable people are; if we can’t offer a fast, stable service, people won’t use Givedon. However, as a not-for-profit organization, cost-efficiency isn’t an option-it’s a necessity. We previously hosted the site on GoDaddy, but it was slow and lacked functionality. In particular, we were limited in our ability to offer even simple search functionality, and we also found it difficult to offer a service in multiple languages.

MSDN: Can you describe the solution you built with Windows Azure to help address your need for cost-effective scalability?

Shane: We redesigned our Web site and migrated it to the Windows Azure platform with the help of our technology partner BitStar. The architecture is simple: we use Web roles, Windows Azure Table storage to store data, and Windows Azure Blob storage to store files. We’ve expanded Givedon to include maps, news, images, videos, and shopping, helping ensure that we have a more complete search offering.

MSDN: What makes your solution unique?

Shane: Only founded in February 2010, we are a young organization. Yet still, with Windows Azure, we can showcase a high-quality offering. Windows Azure has been a critical part in getting our organization on the road to success.

MSDN: Have you offered your services to any new customer markets since implementing Givedon on Windows Azure?

Shane: Yes. Thanks to Windows Azure, we added functionality in 14 languages and support 24 countries now.

MSDN: Have you also seen an increase in money raised for charities since implementing Windows Azure?

Shane: The Windows Azure implementation has had a meaningful impact on our organization. We are now much better placed to showcase our services and offer charities a robust platform for developing a new fundraising channel. Furthermore, feedback from other critical partners has been overwhelmingly positive.

MSDN: What are some of the key benefits Givedon has seen since implementing Windows Azure?

Shane: By using Windows Azure, we can provide people with a service that is fast enough to attract the most quality-conscience user. But even more importantly, we value being on a cloud-computing platform that will allow us to scale rapidly and cost-effectively as more and more users start to use Givedon; we can add new Web roles and increase the responsiveness of our application with a single click. Also, we don’t have to worry about managing the infrastructure and can instead focus on the next critical steps of our business: building partnerships with consumer technology companies, deploying our service to charities, and attracting corporate sponsors.

Read more Windows Azure customer success stories, visit:  www.windowsazure.com/evidence

Visit Givedon at: www.givedon.org