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Agile Computing Authors: Cloud Best Practices Network, Liz McMillan, Georgiana Comsa, Elizabeth White, Jason Bloomberg

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How Cloud Technologies Can Undergird Your Branding Efforts

Whatever you are planning for your clients this year, don’t forget the dull, behind-the-scenes IT

So you’ve had the big brain storm, come up with the latest clever online marketing idea, built a brilliant website, designed the app to go with and you’re about to unleash your latest campaign. Your big bucks client thinks it’s a winner that will generate a surge in interest in its brand and the leap in sales it’s looking for.

The first few hours of the campaign go even better than you expect with thousands of people visiting the site and downloading the app – leads are pouring in. It’s all looking good and you’re about to give yourself a huge pat on the back for a job very well done until….the website crashes. All your brilliant work goes straight down the pan. The campaign hits the rocks and you’ve got one angry client shouting at you down the phone. The client’s brand and your reputation have been seriously damaged.

Why has this happened? Because the one boring, yet vital part of the campaign equation you should have considered – how is the campaign website going to cope with the demand?  - was neglected in the excitement of the rush to execute your big idea. No-one thought to check whether the expensive ‘bells and whistles’ website you built had enough capacity to cope with the huge increase in visits.

Now that online marketing has become the de facto marketing channel that clients are putting their money into, making sure that your campaigns are supported by the right IT infrastructure is vital.

The internet is an infinite resource and once you’ve launched a website or online campaign for a brand, you have to be ready for anything. If it takes off, you need to have planned to cope with the huge amount of hits and online interest that result.

That’s where the technology behind the campaign comes in to play. Many retail, advertising, marketing and events practitioners are embracing cloud and virtualisation technology because of the elasticity that on demand hosting offers. These two complimentary yet slightly different technologies allow clients to scale up and scale down their web capacity according to need, saving them from having to pay for servers that would otherwise lie dormant for much of the year.

Sports events leader Nova International has embraced this way of working. Nova creates and develops some of the UK’s biggest televised mass participation sports events including the Great North Run, the world’s biggest half marathon. Nova’s ticketing and information website gets half a million visitors over the weekend that the Great North Run takes place – that’s a fifth of its total traffic for the whole year over a two day period. Nova now uses the cloud to cope. Chris Kewin, Nova’s IT Director, says using cloud technology means he gets “additional processing power during peak business periods rather than owning, managing and paying for that processing power all year

The cheap flights specialist Skyscanner, gets 14million+ visitors to its website every month. It’s totally online business is growing at a tremendous rate. Skyscanner has migrated to a fully virtualised private cloud, allowing it to reduce the number of servers it has while at the same time making the ones it does use much more powerful.

As Phil Dalbeck, Skyscanner’s Infrastructure Architect says, “Migrating to a fully virtualised private cloud provides the business agility we need to support our exceptional growth….the business can now expect to see additional server resources deployed within minutes rather than weeks.” And, he adds, this “has allowed us to scale up as fast as possible, while still allowing us to serve our millions of customers in a professional, responsive and personal manner.”

At the end of the day the slogan ‘the customer is king’ still rules whatever devices you use in your campaign. If the customer is annoyed by the failure of whatever channel you’re using to communicate or sell, this is not going to do you or your client any good. Perception of failure reaches right through the marketing concept, right down to the IT you choose to use. Just ask the guys at this year’s Olympics. Despite creating a hugely successful London 2012 brand, they’ve still taken a kicking from customers and the media for the significant glitches around their ticketing website.

Even the most basic IT support is necessary in this mobile marketing world we live in. Activinstinct is one of the fastest growing online sports retailers in the UK, specialising in high quality, performance sportswear and sports equipment. It’s already launched successfully in France and this year is targeting the German markets. Key to its marketing campaign has been to make sure its website is 100% available at any time of the night and day from wherever it’s being accessed.

Activinstinct CEO Mike Thornhill says, “Great marketing and customer service is of course hugely important but what has been absolutely crucial for our commercial success this year has been our decision to move to a new hosting provider. We now have a beefy hosting platform that doesn’t collapse when subject to increased demand, something that had happened to us several times before.”

Most online campaigns are pretty quick hitters. As human beings we now got such short attention spans that after a week or two, or maybe even just a day or two, we’ve moved on to the next ‘latest thing’. Having web servers that can be scaled up to cope with the initial rush of interest and then scaled back down again afterwards so you’re not paying for extra capacity that you no longer need is the way forward.

So, whatever you are planning for your clients this year, don’t forget the dull, behind-the-scenes IT.  It’ll mean that you can get on with making your campaigns the successes they ought to be, without the ‘bits and bytes’ letting you down.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Phil Worms

Phil is the Chief Marketing Officer of one of the UK's largest managed hosting and cloud computing services companies - iomart Group plc. He is a 30 year IT industry veteran, having started his career with BT plc, joining the company as it emerged into a brave new commercial world following privatisation.

A full and varied career has seen Phil move through various senior product/project and marketing positions with companies as diverse as Centrica plc, One.Tel and VarTec Telecom, Phil has been described as “an old head who has been around the block more than once” who “continues to be a powerhouse of ideas in all areas in which he provides his considerable experience to” - which probably means he should have been pensioned long ago.

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