Not just a server install - a whole technology makover
This case study is divided into two sections.
Okay now here's the deal: We want more control over our e-mail and we want it to be more reliable than it's been. We want our online-wedding website hosted in-house. We want to save money on our total data-traffic costs. We want a backup solution that actually works instead of these portable HDDs that are too small and not working."
-You got it. Consider it done!
So what did we do?
We began by supplying New Regent Studios with a server. Because of it's incredibly cheap price when compared to it's features, Windows Small Business Server was chosen as an operating system and an HP machine for hardware. On top of the base server, we added just under 1TB (1,000 Gigabytes) of storage space, for backups and websites. This storage space was set up in a RAID 5 array, which means that if any harddrive fails, no data is lost, providing peace of mind.
One of the features of the Windows Small Busines Server is the IIS web server platform. So we moved the entire www.photos.co.nz website from it's external hosting to this, and handled all the setup and configuration complications. The entire website was just under 3GB (that's over half a million text emails worth of data!), as all clients are provided with a gallery online to order prints from!
To make the process of adding new computers and staff to the company easier, and remove the hassle of using an external email provider, Active Directory and Exchange were setup. So instead of downloading emails from an external server, and waiting while large emails are recieved, emails are delivered and stored on the in-house server. When a staff member is employed, their name is simply added to Active Directory and everything is set up; email, computer logins, network access and permissions. It couldn't be easier!
New Regent Studios now have consistent and realtime access to their data and websites. Their email is always available, even from home or abroad, and everything is backed up and secure. The best part; the entire system is virtually self-maintaining!
New Regent Studios Website
Okay; so we have a few problems: We are shooting multiple weddings every weekend, then have to put them on our website. This means resizing the images for web, making thumbnails, adding watermarks then sending them to our current web designers to create pages. The pages and images are then uploaded to our web hosts server. We don't want to have to do this. Oh, and we want online ordering, instead of downloading the PDF order form and writing down which images you want then faxing or snail mailing it to us, which is how we do it now.
-Awesome, no problem!
Add PHP, MySQL, GD, a touch of innovation and stir frequently
After sitting down with New Regent Studios and figuring out the requirements and processes we got to work! The site was written in PHP, with a MySQL database for storing information about the galleries. This part of the solution created an easy and efficient way for the Studio to add their galleries. All they do is put the images in the correct directory, then input some details about the gallery into an online form. The website goes through the folder and builds an index of all the images for the website. It's then instantly available to the end user.
But what about resizing images and thumbnails?
By making full use of the features of PHP we took the image manipulation process away from the Studio, and put it in the hands of a computer. Using the GD library, when the gallery is created, all the original images are evaluated then recreated in a web friendly size, along with thumbnails and watermarks to protect the Intellectual Property of the studio.
All right, but what about ordering?
Ordering online can sometimes be a frustrating process, so from the get go we wanted to create a fast and easy to use ordering system for the photos. As part of this, we used a relatively new technology in the web world called AJAX. This allowed us to do things like adding photos to the shopping cart, and changing sizes of prints, without actually leaving the page! Simply click 'add to cart' and your image appears in the shopping cart like magic, saving the user from having to reload the entire page (and it's images). Imagine adding 40 images to a cart, and having to reload the page 40 times, each time loading all the images on that page.
The benefits of this are two-fold, the user saves time by being able to add multiple images in the time it takes to reload the page once, and New Regent Studios saves money in internet bandwidth, because they don't have to send all the images multiple times!
Orders are sent to New Regent Studios, with sensitive details (Credit Cards etc) secured via the Hot Source payment gateway and only available through a secure login provided to New Regent Studio staff.
New Regent Studios have streamlined their gallery and ordering process.
- We removing the pain of photo resizing (some galleries have over 400 photos) saving hundreds of man hours.
- We removed the manual inputting of orders. Instead of recieving paper copies, which are entered into the computer, the orders are recieved ready to be sent to the printer once payment is confirmed.
- We cut down the bandwidth costs by using smart, modern and efficient web technologies.
- We saved the environment! Reducing the amount of printed orders recieved can only be a good thing.
New Regent Studios Weddings Gallery