How to Leverage Microsoft Azure Cloud against your existing SaaS

Moy M Chambers, SVP-IT, LifeVantage
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Companies are always trying to optimize their software and products to ensure their customers get the most out of their service. The many improvements provided by SaaS (Software as a Service) have given businesses an ever-expanding tool kit to solve the many day-to-day dilemmas that grind business to a halt.

“With Microsoft Azure’s wide array of built in functionality, creating new services has typically been a matter of point and click”

The Azure Cloud from Microsoft was created to help generate and manage multiple applications and services through a multitude of Microsoft-hosted datacenters. This service allows businesses to manage peak demands while also creating flexibility. .

In today’s instant world, it is imperative that we use technology and services like Microsoft’s Azure cloud to the fullest. Its capabilities can greatly help businesses control periods of increased traffic and other demands placed on e-commerce sites.

As Senior Vice-President of Information Technology at LifeVantage Corporation, I have taken advantage of Microsoft Azure in tandem with our vendor’s SaaS interface to pronounced effect. It greatly improves the transparency of our core applications, especially for e-commerce.

We accomplish this by packaging API wrappers on our e-commerce sites that enable a level of flexibility that is indispensable for our industry. This allows us to create a hyper scale computing environment which we can increase exponentially when certain demands are placed on the system. With automatic scaling of services, applications can grow to match the current load. As the load increases, the services automatically scale up to meet the demand. Likewise, when the load decreases the services automatically scale down to meet the lower load. And with Azure’s pay for what you use model this provides a significant cost savings over in-house hardware.

Another major benefit has been the speed of deployment of new features or applications. With Microsoft Azure’s wide array of built in functionality, creating new services has typically been a matter of point and click. Just some of the features we have taken advantage of in this manner have been Redis Cache, CDN, SQL Server, Web Apps and Application Insights. All configuration and monitoring can be handled entirely through simple web interfaces.

Working with our SaaS partners, we execute various performance analyses based on a variety of different load scenarios. With Azure’s ability to scale, we had to make sure our SaaS partners can handle the load and not suffer a decrease in performance due to overloads. We have confidence in our ability to grow out our IT capabilities without having to grow out our physical infrastructure.

This also means that we do not have to rip and replace entire systems when our business needs change..

We’ve also been able to take back control of the user experience. How users engage with technology is paramount to customer satisfaction. First Impressions, specific value, usability and a human-centric approach are key elements that we provide. In fact, we handle significant portion of our UX in Azure.

With today's global economy most companies require the ability to facilitate customers world wide and LifeVantage is no different. With Azure we're able leverage built in geo-location services that fill vital IT roles. Redundancy is critically important and with a single deployment we have our mission critical services running in multiple  locations across the globe. Azure automatically routes traffic to its nearest data center. This increases performance tremendously by reducing latency, creating a far better experience for the end user. But for disaster recovery scenarios this is where Azure truly shines. If one data center was to go down we would automatically continue to run without interruption through one of our redundant geo-locations. And the best part is that nothing special has to be done to set this up. It's all easily configurable through Azure's Web interface, and in fact many services automatically provide this by default.

My colleague, Camron Tucker, who is LifeVantage’s Senior Manager of Software and Development also raves about the analytical tools available.

“Azure diagnostics and their extensive set of tools provide LifeVantage with a performance system is quite easy to use. Real-time monitoring is built in, and with features such as Applications Insights and analytics we can drill in as deep as we need to gain a complete understanding of how our customers are using our systems and the pain points they might be encountering. This provides a layer of proactive understanding that has led to a decrease in customer support inquiries.”

Of course business is all about the outcome and the fact is that Microsoft Azure increases efficiency exponentially and does so in a cost-effective manner.

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