One of the biggest challenges I face daily is how to build and architect cost effective technical solutions to improve our business processes. While we have no shortage of ideas for processes we can enhance, we are very constrained on capital to invest. With all that said, we still have to operate and improve our processes. Our goal as a business is to be the best at what we do which means we also need to make sure we have appropriate scalable technical solutions in please to meet the demands of our users. Over the past few years our Customer Relationship Management (CRM) database has become our Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. This system tells our staff everything they need to know about our customers, potential customers, and what activities need to be completed and when. This system is an ASP.NET web application with a SQL database on the back end. In the days leading up to our busy season, we had an Internet outage (thanks to some meth tweakers for digging up some copper!) and only one of our offices had access to our system. At this time, I knew that our business required us to rethink the hosting of our server and services. After working with various technical partners, we determined we could collocate our existing server in a data center for a mere $400 per month. While this was a workable solution, the only perk this would really provide us was redundant power and internet access which we didn’t have in our primary location. We still had huge redundancy issues with our server in general, and by huge I mean non-existent. In other words, if a hard disk failed, we were SOL until Dell was able to get us a replacement. Since our busy season of work had just begun, I decided that we’d roll the dice and address the concerns in the 1Q of 2012.
Enter AzureWhen Azure was announced from Microsoft, I initially brushed off the platform. I found the Azure pricing model way too difficult to comprehend and I really wasn’t willing to spend the hours, weeks, or months trying to put it all together. Things have changed though! On February 14th, 2012 Microsoft announced that it was reducing the pricing of SQL Azure and I decided to see if I could figure out what that meant. While digging into this, I came across a nice article written by Steven Martin that did a good job explaining the costs. After reading the article, I decided to evaluate the pricing calculator again. Winner Winner Chicken Dinner! I could move our entire database to the SQL Azure platform for $9.99 per month! This would at least handle some of the disaster recovery and scalability concerns. The only other piece to the puzzle would be our ASP.NET web application. While I have scalability concerns with that, disaster recovery isn’t really a concern because the data drives the app. In other words, a Windows PC can running IIS would work until the server is fixed. But what if the cost wasn’t an issue on the Azure platform? Would it be worth it? Five months ago, I couldn’t have told you the cost. With the updated pricing calculator, I can see that running 2 extra-small instances of our ASP.NET web app will cost $60.00 per month. VERY AFFORDABLE! While I’ve not deployed our solutions to Azure yet, it is something that I’ve got on the list to complete within the next 60 days. Hosting our entire application for less than $70 per month (ok, a penny less… but still!) is amazing! I’ll write another blog entry once we’ve tested the Azure system out, but very promising!!!!!
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