Online florist beats seasonal spikes by hosting web apps on the cloud

Case study

Online florist beats seasonal spikes by hosting web apps on the cloud

Archana Venkatraman

Bunches, a 24-year-old UK family business has come a long way from being a small flower stall in Nottinghamshire to an online florist hosting its web and e-commerce applications in the cloud.

 When the business moved online, Bunches.co.uk followed the traditional IT approach of hosting and operating its business applications, website, and database system in a datacentre.

But as a small business with a handful of staff in the IT team, the company chose Rackspace as a colocation and managed service provider for its IT infrastructure.

“But ours is a seasonal business with the majority of activity around Christmas, Mother’s Day and Women’s Day,” said Barry Parkin, IT manager, Bunches.co.uk.

“We had giant servers capable of handling peak website traffic but these servers remained idle for 40 weeks in a year,” Parkin said. The IT set-up led to a waste of IT resources.

Re-evaluating the strategy

But in the summer of 2012, the IT team re-evaluated its IT strategy when the business was expanding and its IT infrastructure needed an upgrade.

The business, with its seasonal peaks and drops, was a perfect use case for cloud computing – it could have a scalable IT infrastructure that can be used when needed and scaled down when not, according to Parkin.

“As our entire datacentre was already hosted with Rackspace, we opted to use its open source cloud platform to host our online applications,” he said.

Bunches.co.uk hosts online applications such as its website, e-commerce platform and CRM (customer relationship management) systems on Rackspace cloud while its business-sensitive applications such as email servers, financial systems and databases are hosted on Rackspace’s managed hosting services.

“We looked at other cloud service providers, but we would not have got the same level of service support as we get from Rackspace,” he added.

"Having 24/7 service support was critical for the business because the small-IT team does not have dedicated service engineers," he explained. “We use the service support team to minimise downtime when testing and developing applications,” he said.

But Parkin’s move to the cloud is strategic. While the front-facing web applications will benefit from moving to the cloud because of its seasonal peaks, the cloud wasn’t for hosting other services such as its financial applications.

Moving to the cloud

Having assessed its other workloads and applications, the IT team is now planning to move its sales system up on the cloud.

In the last year, the online florist has seen a big difference in the website’s performance. 

“The website is much more responsive, can withstand peak traffics and gives good user experience on mobile devices too," Parkin said.

As a result, the IT team has not felt the need to develop dedicated apps for Apple, Microsoft or Android devices.

“We are not just benefitting from cloud’s scalability but the hybrid IT infrastructure is useful for testing and development scenarios too,” Parkin said.

“We no longer need to dedicate a fixed number of servers for testing. We can spin up as many servers as we need for the testing environments and turn them down when testing is complete.”

The cloud has also given the IT team the ability to test multiple projects at the same time and plan to improve services during peak seasonal traffic.

But that is not all. Despite being a small business, Bunches.co.uk now has a flexible IT infrastructure able to support BYOD policies and the ability to allow its staff to work from anywhere at any time.


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