Phil Worms of iomart Hosting explains why cloud computing is playing an increasingly vital role in many digital campaigns
So you’ve had the big brainstorm, come up with the latest clever online marketing idea, built a brilliant website, designed the app to go with it and you’re about to unleash your 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.
Rush Hour Traffic
The first few hours of the campaign go even better than you expect with thousands of people visiting the site and interacting – 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…. you vanish. The online equivalent of the blue screen.
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. And all you have to show for months of planning is #FAIL associated with your client’s brand and your reputation.
Why has this happened? Because the one boring yet vital part of the equation you should have considered – how the campaign website was going to cope with the demand – was neglected in all the excitement and the rush to execute your big idea.
No-one thought to check, or test, whether the brilliant website you built had enough capacity to cope with the huge increase in visits.
Online marketing is now central to any campaign be it TV, outdoor or sponsorship. Viewed as one of the most cost effective elements of the marketing mix, it also has the potential to do the most damage to the brand.
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. The warm, smug glow that you have acquired after managing to get @StephenFry to mention your product/service/cause will soon be forgotten if half of his followers bring your site crashing down within minutes of his tweet.
That’s where the technology behind the campaign comes in to play. A lot of our clients in the retail, advertising, marketing and events sectors are embracing cloud and virtualisation technology because of this. Computing elasticity is now a key component of any campaign.
You now have the capability to scale up and pare back, not just the web servers but any underlying databases, according to variable demand and without incurring additional capital expenditure and associated costs. The cloud also provides a secure, agile and scaleable environment for testing and building various campaigns, removing the spectre of the marketing graveyard of servers full of redundant apps and half finished sites.
Marketing, as we know, is not an exact science. It’s very hard to predict what will fire an audience’s imagination or what will constitute a viral hit. But cloud does offer the opportunity to meet the unexpected high demands of a hit efficiently whilst also minimising the potential losses of a non-performer.
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 round.”
Cheap flights specialist Skyscanner gets more than 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. Customer frustration at the lack of instant availability of whatever channel you’re using to communicate or sell is not going to do you or your client any good.
Perception of failure reaches 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.
Bits And Bytes
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 per cent available at any time of the night and day from wherever it’s being accessed.
Activinstinct came to iomart after suffering previous problems with its hosting. 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 have now got such short attention spans that after a week or two, or maybe even just an hour 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.
Ben Harris, Managing Director of digital agency New Brand Vision Group, says that what’s been lacking is a specific message from the market to clients about the importance of hosting. New Brand Vision Group is based in Shoreditch’s Silicon Roundabout and has changed from a physical to a fully virtualised hosting environment in the last year. “The use of cloud servers is never going to provide you with a scenario to beat good planning for a campaign but it gives you a great framework for planning it. If a small campaign takes off we can quickly assign a new server and if we’ve already planned for a greater resource it’s quicker and cheaper to roll out.”
So, whatever you are planning for 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.
Phil Worms, Director of Marketing & Corporate Communications, iomart Hosting