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Launching a Community? Questions and Comments

Designing, launching, and integrating community platforms that leverage trends in modern computing such as Cloud Computing and Virtualization well can be a tremendous strategic benefit for a company. However, much of those benefits can be quickly erased by operational and development issues surrounding doing that successfully are often marginalized. This has fiscal, operational, and morale impacts over time.

ROI no matter who you might calculate it will include the total actual costs (TCO - Total Costs of Ownership) of running or renting the platforms that community sites run upon.

Will your system stand up to Digg/Slashdot/TechCrunch/Reddit or exponential user base growth? Does it have a clear scalability path? These are questions that development, operations, and business staff need to discuss periodically throughout any community development project and long after when the project is live.

I saw a case study recently about a facebook community app that went from zero to a billion page views per MONTH in just a short time. I’m sure they thought about scalability and operations upfront at least a little or they would not still be in business. Do you know what you would do if your community caught fire like that? Would you get a dreaded “Site Not Available” message at your time of greatest success?

If you plan your communities technology platform correctly from the start you have a much better chance of succeeding and fully leveraging your investments in your businesses technology over time.

Here are some things you might want to think about and questions to ask. They pretty much all break down to how you spend time and money. Since time and money are often inexorably related.

Time.
How much time is needed to upgrade, maintain, and manage the underlying infrastructure as the site grows?

Time. How long will it take you to build the infrastructure out from development through production with proper environments and capacity?

Money. What are your up front capital costs?

Money. What are your on-going maintenance costs for infrastructure and operational support?

Money. How much operational support will you need to keep things running and scaling?

Money. What is the total cost of ownership of this community including the underlying infrastructure, software, and people?

Ask those questions and you will lay the groundwork for better understanding of your project and a better opportunity for success.

Note:  This is a Re-Post of my Blog entry for blog.solutionset.com

AWS EC2 Email Problems and Solutions

If, like pretty much everyone else, you are thinking of launching your web site/service in the "cloud" on Amazon Web Services?  One of the things people don't often realize is that they will not be able to successfully send email from an EC2 AMI's.  Why?  You need a few things these days to be able to successfully send mail from a server.  In most cases you need reverse DNS, SPF record, and a static IP address.  At AWS you do not have a static IP or a reverse DNS entry.  That is a non-starter.  You will need to use an external to AWS relay server or service.  Following are 3 services you might want to review depending on your needs.

http://www.authsmtp.com
Subscription service by email volume in numbers of emails, tiered pricing.

http://www.easydns.com
Email forwarding by subscription.

http://www.dnsmadeeasy.com
Email forwarding by subscription.

http://www.rackspace.com good location to build your own SMTP server if you are so inclined and install either open source (postfix) or commercial software.  That choice will likely come down to your needs for tracking the data your emails generate.  It's difficult, but not impossible, to mirror the functionality of a product like Port25's PowerMTA (http://www.powermta.com/) when it comes to tracking and reporting on email sending and activity.

How to choose?  It's all about business needs, volume, and what technical skills you have available to you to manage your services.  So, just take the time to look at your options.