In January 2011, the Australian state of Queensland experienced a devastating flooding event, with three quarters of the state declared a disaster zone and thousands of homes inundated with floodwaters. As the floodwaters peaked and the scale of the disaster became apparent, businesses across the country started pledging their time, goods and services to help with clean up and recovery efforts. But without a system in place to capture these pledges of support and match them to the pressing community needs, the Queensland Government had to rely on inefficient manual processes.

As part of its response to the flood recovery efforts, Microsoft Australia offered to build and host a site to address this urgent need. Utilizing Microsoft’s Solutions Development Centre, a development team comprising of Microsoft staff and partners from Devtest, Readify and Oakton designed, developed, tested and deployed the Queensland Floods Business Pledges site that allowed businesses to search through existing community needs and pledge their support, and allowed Queensland Government staff to manage and coordinate the recovery efforts.

Built on Windows Azure, the site was first released to the public after four days of development, with a fully featured release out just four days later. With no existing customer infrastructure in place to support such a solution and uncertainty about how many users would be accessing the system, Windows Azure allowed a solution to be deployed rapidly and scaled up and down as needed.

As the team was putting the finishing touches on the final production release, the news hit that Tropical Cyclone Yasi was heading towards the Queensland coast – the only part of the state unaffected by the floods. In less than one day, the team was able to develop and deploy an additional site on Windows Azure to assist with disaster recovery the efforts.

Glenn Walker, the Executive Director of Information and Communication Services and CIO of the Department of Community Safety, had the following to say about the solution: “By leveraging Windows Azure Cloud Services the Queensland Government was able to deploy an agile and scalable web capability… the ability of the cloud to rapidly absorb additional users ensured that services were always available and performed at levels beyond our expectations.”

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