Nigel Billingham knew that the opportunity for developing original e-business ventures would not last forever, so he took the plunge, leaving his e-business manager role at a vehicle leasing company to set up Loads2go.com, writes Martin Couzins.
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"I had been looking for a new challenge for a while and always wanted to manage my own business," says Billingham. So, with his business partner, he set about developing an online marketplace for the transport and logistics industry, providing load matching, optimisation and scheduling. He says his background as systems architect and e-business manager at Lex Vehicle Leasing helped enormously in formulating the ideas for the site.
Billingham was responsible for developing the technical architecture for Loads2Go's first and second generation Web sites. "I am an architect through and through now, so I have taken time with the analysis and design of the site," he says. The site is built around components and a logical data model.
"For the first generation Web site I needed a cheap database solution, and using ASP and IIS allowed me to easily plug in Microsoft Access," Billingham explains. "The second generation Web site moved to SQL Server 7.0, which is a lot more reliable than MS Access. As we move to business-critical applications, I think we will be moving to a Unix, Oracle and OAS platform."
Eventually, the site will also offer a business-critical application that can be fully integrated into a company's business processes. To provide a guaranteed level of service it will be using Raid technology. "Raid is one aspect in the technical architecture that helps to provide a resilient Web application service. Load balancing and redundant servers will also form key elements to a resilient structure," Billingham explains.
The most frustrating part of the site's development has been what Billingham calls the "ludicrous" differences in the two main Internet browsers and their level of application of the HTML 4.0 standard. "Simple things like making input fields read-only are simple in Internet Explorer, but a lot more difficult for Netscape," he says.
As the site develops, however, so Billingham's role will move away from the technical work. It is a change he enjoys. "I am involved in everything from negotiating with potential investors and joint ventures, advertising and marketing the company, sales, product development and technical supplier management," he says.
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