Dragons' Den is a UK television show which has local versions in over 24 countries including Ireland, similar to Shark Tank in the US. It showcases start-ups and entrepreneurs and allows them to pitch their idea to a panel of Dragons (successful entrepreneurs) and hopefully receive cash in return for an equity stake in the business. It is a fantastic way for entrepeneurs to not only get an investment and secure critical funds to grow their business but it is also a great way to showcase their company and gain the type of exposure that would otherwise be very difficult or expensive.

For me Dragons' Den is a great end to the weekend. It's on a Sunday night so it's not quite work but it does get me thinking sometimes. This week yet another entrepreneur went on and had a big stand advertising their website. Their business wasn't just about their site but it was a critical part of what they do as they took online orders. The service was great and one I needed so I went to their website to find out more but the website was down and of course with loads of server side information about the hosting provider. This is not a problem that is unique to Dragons' Den entrepreneurs, this happens whenever a new company or start-up gets TV or Radio coverage of their site. I saw it only last week when a local Cloud consulting company had a display on the news and of course the site was down when I tried to access it. The coverage generates a lot of attention and hits to the website which the server can't handle.

I don't blame entrepreneurs for this, they pay for a web hosting package and assume the site will stay up. Entrepreneurs cannot be expected to be experts in hosting websites and with a limited amount of cash will pay for the cheapest package they can find, and that makes sense. However, a slot on TV or even Radio can be a super charge for a start-up, for a brief period of time this super charge can elevate the company's profile into the realms of online retailers and more established organisations. So for this brief period of time the start-up needs a hosting infrastructure that matches that of organisations with a lot more cash.

This is exactly why Microsoft Azure was built, to bring enterprise level technology to everyone. Most people think of free email or storage when they think of cloud but it's a lot more. With Microsoft Azure start-ups can create a website based on a gallery of content management tools and for free, which is great news for a company not getting much exposure.

 

One of the things you will note is that there are plenty of options from Drupal to Wordpress to Wikis, so no matter what type of website the company is looking for there is a solution.

Is Free Really Free?

The real power of Websites within Microsoft Azure is that there are pricing modes and you can switch between them at any time. At the lower end of the tiers (free) your website will sit on a shared service, which is basically what most website providers offer start-ups. The site will sit on a single server which means it has limited resources available to respond to hits. This means that if your site is hit hard it will go down, it simply won't handle the traffic. This mode is very useful if your site is only new and wont be hit for any more than about an hour a day. BUT, if your site is going to receive a spike in traffic then this service will not be enough, you will need to consider another mode ..

The shared mode gives you much more control. It is still hosted in a shared environment to keep costs down but it allows you to scale your site to more servers and allow your site to work when hit aggressively. This is the first step in helping your site survive Dragons' Den. NOTE you must switch to this mode and manually update the number of servers (instances) before any event where you know you will get more exposure than normal, it is not automatically done for you. This is a great option if you know your site will be hit for no more than 4 hours during any day, you can simply scale the number of servers up for the time period required and scale back down when no longer needed, or switch back to the free mode. You are charged by the hour for this mode from between 0.7 cent to 1 cent per hour depending on the account you want to setup. This is what we call preview pricing so this will jump by about 33% when it goes into general availability. But remember you only pay for the hours the site is running in this mode, so you can control the cost. Think about the cost of your business if the site goes down during Dragons' Den?

Check out this link to get a full price calculator

http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/pricing/details/web-sites/

As your business starts to grow you can switch to standard mode which now gives you a dedicated number of servers from 1 to 10 to host your site. Even better you can control how your site responds to increased traffic by defining rules that will create new servers whenever the demand increases and remove them when the load reduces automatically. You can even define how your site should scale at defined times, like during the night or at weekends. In this mode each server can cost between €38 and €222 per month depending on the type of power you need, so as you can see 10 of these could power a very large online presence. Again you can switch between this mode and the cheaper modes if you like and you only pay for the hours you use in any one mode.

 

What else does Microsoft do to Help Start-ups?

Supporting start-ups is more than investing cash. A lot of start-ups these days rely on technology to either build their offering or to run it. But best of breed technology can be expensive and this forces start-ups to use free or unsupported technology that may not stand up when really needed. BizSpark is a programme Microsoft run to support technology based start-ups across the globe providing access to all of our software worth over €120,000, Azure usage (about €115 per month plus discounted rates beyond that) as well as a global community for exposure and support. This is a great programme and I have the pleasure to work on a daily basis with some of Ireland's best start-ups in the tech sector.

If your company builds a software solution as a core part of your business why not check it out here: http://www.microsoft.com/bizspark/default.aspx

Conclusion

Having worked for over 4 years as a CTO for a number of start-ups and now in my role with Microsoft, working with BizSpark startups every day, I feel quite passionate about enabling young businesses to avail of software and services at a scale that would normally be reserved for the elite. Microsoft Azure gives companies choice and allows them to adopt the right technology at a level that suits their business. The ability to scale in or out when required provides an agility that is essential in today's agile and dynamic business world. Couple that with a pay for what you use model and it's clear that Microsoft Azure is perfect for any start-up.

I hope this post was useful, please feel free to connect with me if you would like further information. @niallermoran

or check out the website

www.microsoftazure.com