Publishing and consulting firm Write Solutions wanted to launch a fully-featured and easily managed e-commerce Website to help computer value added resellers (VARs) improve their technical know-how, consulting, marketing and management skills.
“An Internet portal, DoctorVAR.com (http://www.doctorvar.com) would aggregate up-to-date information technology news and some of the best articles and resources for VARs,” said Linda Christie, company president. “After talking to several Web developers, we chose a custom designed php solution with SQL databases to store thousands of stories and favorite links.”
However, two months into the project, it became evident that the developer didn’t have adequate programming staff to launch the site within the promised three-month schedule. Unfortunately, Christie felt she had few alternatives. “I’d already spent hundreds of hours working on the site design and adding thousands of favorite links and articles to the database—work that could be lost if I changed vendors.”
After returning from a two month assignment in Europe, during which no progress was made, Christie spent a couple of days with the programmer to iron out the final details. “At last we were making progress. I updated some of the content and began writing press releases for the big day.”
One night the site went offline. The next day it was still down, even the backend admin area. Then the dreaded call came: hackers had broken into the server hosting facility. “What about the backup? I asked.”
“The last backup file was corrupted,” was the answer. A two-month old zip file didn’t match the current software version, making site restoration almost impossible—but they said they would try. “They’d lost dozens of other sites and had no backups for them either,” Christie said. “So at this point, I lost all confidence in the developer—not to mention over ten-thousand records I’d uploaded.”
Christie wasn’t sure what to do. “Our e-commerce project—a major commitment in time and resources--was already four months past due. And I couldn’t afford the time or money to start coding the site from scratch.”
Christie began searching online for a new developer. Soon, one of the people she contacted emailed her a slew of probing questions. “I felt like I was taking a test,” Christie said. “But the quality of his inquiries gave me confidence this person wanted to clearly understand the scope of the project, as well as my level of expertise to manage the site.”
Soon Christie scheduled a meeting with Scott Kroeger, owner of Hudson Avenue Technologies in Omaha NE, to discuss the challenges of launching such a complex site on a limited budget. Scott recommended utilizing a proven and supported open source content manager: PostNuke. “Not only is this software free, but the friendly user interface would allow me to perform all of the daily administration, even make page layout changes,” Christie said. “Scott said his goal was to make me as independent of him as possible by the end of the project.”
One of the primary reasons Christie contracted with Kroeger was that he wanted to work himself out of a job instead of creating a customized program that would require his ongoing support. “I’d been burned once already,” Christie said. “So I was excited about integrating supported public domain software that could be maintained by a multitude of providers, should Scott and I part for whatever reason. Plus there would be no software debugging needed.”
After resolving some technical difficulties with the PostNuke implementation, Kroeger proceeded to deliver the site on schedule and within the company’s limited budget. “Within two weeks, I was able to start laying out pages and uploading data. And by the end of two months the site was up. Scott integrated free PostNuke modules to provide an ezine, forum, job bank, and banner/ad management, as well as an html-oriented content manager, Content Express, that simplifies adding html pages, uploading content, and searching the entire site.
These two companies have shown that partnering with a developer that understands your business needs and integrates off-the-shelf solutions can help you quickly ramp up the right solution for the right price—without having to invest in custom software development and personnel.
For additional information about DoctorVAR.com visit their Web site at http://www.doctorvar.com.
Linda Freeman is a freelance writer based in Omaha NE.
Copyright 2003, Write Solutions, Inc., Tulsa OK. Reprinted by permission.