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Web Developer on Track to Double Revenues with Site Creation, Hosting Platform
The high costs that web developer Web Station incurred with its third-party hosting provider didn’t help the company’s competitiveness. To boost business success, Web Station switched to Windows Azure Websites to create and host customer sites. Now, Web Station creates new sites in seconds, saves 60 percent on hosting costs, and is on track to see revenues double.
"Our customer base and revenue growth look amazing, and Windows Azure is playing a big part in our success with both."
After serving with the United States Marine Corps in Somalia during Operation Restore Hope and in Kuwait during Operation Desert Storm, Glenn Boothe opened a one-person web business he called Web Station. Web Station grew to provide every aspect of web design, development, and hosting to hundreds of customers. It grew to support national and international consumer brands.
And it outgrew the infrastructure that had served it for a decade. Web Station hosted its customers’ websites at a third-party hosting company. The direct hosting costs had to be reflected in Web Station’s rates to its customers, and they hurt Web Station’s competitiveness. Even more significant was the effect of indirect hosting costs—such as the time that senior management spent on hosting-related tasks instead of income-producing activities. As competition increased, Web Station found itself losing 70 percent of the new-business calls it received, largely because of its cost structure.
The technical constraints of the third-party hosting system concerned Web Station, too. When the occasional problem or outage occurred, Boothe—President and CEO of his company—and his staff had no direct insight into the problem, nor into its anticipated resolution. It could take hours to get that information from the hosting provider—which meant Web Station had to keep its customers waiting for hours, too. Also, the infrastructure was a series of single points of failure: single server, single firewall appliance, single surge protection, and so on, all of which hurt reliability. Nor did Web Station have simple, agile options for handling sudden traffic spikes.
“The stress level was definitely up,” says Boothe. “It wasn’t a great way to run a business.”
Boothe now has “a great way” to run the web hosting business at Web Station: Windows Azure Websites, a service of the Windows Azure cloud-computing platform.
With Windows Azure Websites, web developers can create and deploy Microsoft ASP.NET, PHP, Python, or Node.js websites in seconds. They can launch sites with a few clicks using popular Open Source apps. And they can use secure sockets layer (SSL) technology to keep customer traffic secure.
Web Station is now in the midst of migrating its approximately 300 customer sites to Windows Azure Websites. It moved the first half of the load over the course of two months and expects to continue that pace through the completion of the migration. Boothe says the process is “extremely easy,” taking about 10 minutes per website; a site that also supports email can take another 10 minutes.
Creating new sites in Windows Azure Websites is even faster. Boothe and his staff use a point-and-click web interface and a highly automated process to create a site, name it, provision it, and have it ready to publish, all in just five seconds.
Web Station has used a large standard instance of Windows Azure, 4 cores, and 7 gigabytes (GB) of memory. Most of the sites are backed by Windows Azure SQL Database. Both have automated backups for data redundancy.
Boothe says that one of the appeals of Windows Azure is the range of options it offers to support Web Station’s growth.
“As we add customer sites, we can scale with a second instance and use load balancing to tune performance,” he says, also citing Blob storage and the Windows Azure Content Delivery Network (CDN) as features that can help to maintain low latency as the workload grows.
Web Station is more productive and cost-effective thanks in part to its use of Windows Azure Websites. Business is up and the company expects revenues to double.
Speeds Web Creation from Minutes to Seconds
Boothe wanted a web hosting platform that didn’t require much time and attention from him and his senior staff. He’s found that in Windows Azure Websites.
The few seconds that it takes to establish websites contrasts with the 10-to-15 minutes it used to take with a more manual process on the former platform. Boothe doesn’t even have to take those few seconds; the process is easy enough to be assigned to junior staffers, giving Web Station greater flexibility in assigning work.
Meanwhile, Boothe uses the freed time to provide more services to his customers—for example, creating training content to help them market their sites and succeed in other ways.
Reduces Hosting Costs by 60 Percent
In addition to saving time with Windows Azure Websites, Web Station uses it to save money. Once all of its websites are on the platform, Web Station will see monthly hosting costs drop by 60 percent. It will be able to pass along the savings to customers in the form of more competitive prices.
Web Station is also using Windows Azure Websites to help support what it says is a more competitive, and compelling, business model. It now sells its services on a subscription basis rather than a project basis, a change that brings those services within the reach of more price-sensitive customers.
Boosts Projected Revenue by 100 Percent
In part as a result of its new business model and the new efficiencies supported by Windows Azure Websites, Web Station has seen its success with new-business calls climb from 30 percent to 80 percent, an increase of 167 percent. Its business volume has doubled and Boothe anticipates its revenues soon will, too.
“Our customer base and revenue growth look amazing,” he says. “And Windows Azure is playing a big part in our success with both.”
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