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.
â€œAn 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,â€ said Linda Christie, company president. â€œAfter talking to several Web developers, we chose a custom designed php solution with SQL databases to store thousands of stories and favorite links.â€
However, two months into the project, it became evident that the developer didnâ€™t have adequate programming staff to launch the site within the promised three-month schedule. Unfortunately, Christie felt she had few alternatives. â€œIâ€™d already spent hundreds of hours working on the site design and adding thousands of favorite links and articles to the databaseâ€”work that could be lost if I changed vendors.â€
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. â€œAt last we were making progress. I updated some of the content and began writing press releases for the big day.â€
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. â€œWhat about the backup? I asked.â€
â€œThe last backup file was corrupted,â€ was the answer. A two-month old zip file didnâ€™t match the current software version, making site restoration almost impossibleâ€”but they said they would try. â€œTheyâ€™d lost dozens of other sites and had no backups for them either,â€ Christie said. â€œSo at this point, I lost all confidence in the developerâ€”not to mention over ten-thousand records Iâ€™d uploaded.â€
Christie wasnâ€™t sure what to do. â€œOur e-commerce projectâ€”a major commitment in time and resources--was already four months past due. And I couldnâ€™t afford the time or money to start coding the site from scratch.â€
Christie began searching online for a new developer. Soon, one of the people she contacted emailed her a slew of probing questions. â€œI felt like I was taking a test,â€ Christie said. â€œBut 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.â€
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. â€œNot 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,â€ Christie said. â€œScott said his goal was to make me as independent of him as possible by the end of the project.â€
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. â€œIâ€™d been burned once already,â€ Christie said. â€œSo 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.â€
After resolving some technical difficulties with the PostNuke implementation, Kroeger proceeded to deliver the site on schedule and within the companyâ€™s limited budget. â€œWithin 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 priceâ€”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.