Entrepreneurs have a lot to consider when starting a business: How they’ll finance it, who the target markets are, who the toughest competition will be, and how to develop an edge.
Indeed, when Scott Mitchell and Scott Cate decided to create EventDay – a company that develops software to help organizers market, manage, and monetize their events – they knew that they had many decisions to make.
They began developing EventDay during the fall of 2010, feeling that the tools available to event planners and participants were lacking.
“Our technology is trying to make the in-person experience at an event more enjoyable,” said Mitchell. “A lot of events have similar pain points – propping up a site to talk about the agenda, getting speakers, registering guests, getting sponsors. And then at the event, it takes a lot of time to check in attendees, which can set a bad tone for the event. Unfortunately, there weren’t a lot of technologies to make these common pain points less painful.”
But in developing the online version of their application, Mitchell and Cate had a pain point of their own to tackle: choosing a cloud service provider.
And these days, with so many providers to choose from, making this decision isn’t easy.
Entrepreneurs have lots of factors to weigh before choosing a cloud service provider: Who has the best track record? How does a provider manage security? How much work and money will it take to operate and maintain? What features do they need, and which ones do they want?
Fortunately, Mitchell and Cate were very clear about what they needed from a cloud service provider. Before EventDay, they founded LoopLogic, a company that provides all the tools needed to work with online and mobile media. And while they were pleased with the cloud provider they chose for that company, Mitchell said they needed a different system for EventDay.
“When we started EventDay, we basically said, ‘Okay, has anything changed in the last 12 months with cloud technologies?’ One of the things we wanted to get away from was doing a lot of sys-admin stuff,” Mitchell said, adding that with LoopLogic, it took a lot of resources to operate their cloud and manage the data.
“We wanted all of the cloud services, but we were also looking for something where we didn’t have to use as much sys-admin time.”
For that, Mitchell and Cate looked to Windows Azure.
Because Azure provides a Platform-as-a-Service, EventDay could run its application without having to manage the data that comes from operating on other clouds. Mitchell said that Microsoft essentially takes that labor off of their hands – hands that Mitchell and Cate see as better-used elsewhere.
“We just said, ‘What do we think is going to allow us to provide the maximum things our customers are going to care about?’” Mitchell said. “Developing a great user experience and deploying relevant features are things customers absolutely want. When we made that choice to use Azure, it basically allowed us to take one person out of the role of a sys-admin and have them focus on user experience and features.”
EventDay’s features work in lockstep with Azure’s. In fact, hosting their website utilizes every facet of the Azure platform. EventDay’s web application operates on Azure’s Web Role, the back-end users operate on Azure’s Worker Role, and materialized views of site activity are provided through the BLOB Storage unit. Also, the user interface, user devices, and API are coordinated through Azure’s Service Bus, and all of the data is stored and processed through the Queues, BLOB and Table Storage, and Service Bus.
In particular, Azure’s web role feature serves web pages up to both event hosts and participants. Once an action is made on that web role, it is stored in the BLOB storage unit within Azure. To track how the site is being used, Mitchell said they have listeners watching on the worker role to detect interesting usage patterns.
“In addition, the data produced via web role is already formatted and available, versus having to hunt for it in a database,” said Mitchell.
But for Mitchell and Cate, Azure is more than their cloud computing provider; it’s the key ingredient in their secret sauce.
When an event is hosted through EventDay, the pain points organizers face are not only solved with a more efficient planning process, but they’re transformed into a technological snap with a personal touch.
“The data is cycling through the cloud within just a couple seconds right there in the live event,” Mitchell said. “We have a [mobile] application that … scans a piece of paper and sends a message with the participant’s information into a cloud, and a printer responds to create a badge, and a message is posted to a digital signage welcoming that person to the event – all connected to a cloud application working together to provide the user experience. It’s not just a laptop. It’s not just a phone.”
Choosing Windows Azure as their cloud computing service was one of the easier decisions Mitchell and Cate had to make when developing EventDay, because Azure allowed them to focus on giving customers what they needed and wanted most.
“The big thing with Azure is that it is a Platform-as-a-Service versus an Infrastructure-as-a-Service,” Mitchell said. “With Infrastructure-as-a-Service, you have to worry about sys-admin stuff. Azure gives you an option where you don’t have to worry about it, which was exactly what we were looking for.”