Experiment, Trash and Start Over

Good, well functioning websites don’t happen by accident. They are the result of a lot of behind the scenes work – developing an idea, writing code to handle all of the different tasks and making sure everything runs smoothly on every page. Above all, the website needs to be sturdy enough to handle heavy traffic.

Despite how they look and perform for the visitor, the reality is that websites are relatively fragile. Even the simplest-looking sites can have powerful coding behind them, which is why one small change behind the scenes can bring down the entire site. If a website goes down, even if it is for a small amount of time, it is bad news.

Yet, no company can avoid updating information on their site or upgrading its technology, nor should it want to. Instead, businesses need an environment that mirrors the live environment. Without that your only choice is to experiment on your production environment. You can choose to make changes to the public facing environment, but you take the risk of making mistakes that are visible to visitors or errors that can kill the entire site for an extended period of time.

An environment created specifically for building and testing websites used to be expensive.  This forced businesses to make a difficult decision – spend the money to create a test environment or take the chance that an error in the production environment could occur.

Thanks to advances in cloud computing, there’s now a way for businesses to have it both ways — a cost-effective solution for a seamless transition to a new website design.

In the cloud, web developers can deploy a configuration of their website along with creating a mirror image of their site. The mirror site in the cloud costs pennies per hour. Not only is this cost effective for the continuing development of major projects, businesses can also create a mirror site for just a few hours to try out some changes.

In the public cloud mirror site, you can replicate the ratio of usage rather than purchase all of the horsepower. It can be just for your development and experiments.

Additionally, all your experimentation can be behind the scenes and no one outside the company (or the IT department) will ever know. When testing in the cloud, you can make all the changes you want because the mirror site in the cloud lets you make mistakes without any damage. As far as your customers know, it is business as usual. The public website is still humming along unchanged, bringing in revenue, collecting customer data and keeping the company’s online presence intact.

The cloud is an inexpensive place to experiment and test new and bold development ideas, so web developers can take their time to perfect the changes they want to see on the production site. At the point in time when the developer is ready to move the mirror site into production, it can be uploaded directly.

Furthermore, when you have major changes or do a complete overhaul of your site, you can make a change to the load balancer, redirecting traffic from the old site to the new site in the middle of the night. This is easily done from a systems administration point of view.

Before the cloud, I would receive frantic phone calls from business people or web developers who didn’t know the code and had to make changes to the website. They would have one server and were trying to make these changes on the production side of the website. There was the potential of bringing down the whole server, or even worse, they could erase part of the database or the code base – errors that were irreparable.

Testing in the cloud, however, provides peace of mind that an error isn’t going to delete information for good. Peace of mind is worth every penny it costs – and luckily, in the public cloud, it won’t cost very many pennies.

Check out Joseph’s previous video where he discussed how to get an enterprise configuration on a small business budget. You can also watch the next video where he talks about using the cloud to troubleshoot issues. Learn more about how the Managed Cloud offering can support your business.

Rack Blogger is our catchall blog byline, subbed in when a Racker author moves on, or used when we publish a guest post. You can email Rack Blogger at blog@rackspace.com.


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