Power and Simplicity
Have you ever used a product that was just so simple and intuitive that you just fell in love with it? I’m not talking Pet Rock® simple, but something that is truly useful and solves some problem that you have. Truly great products solve the problem in such a simple and elegant way that it causes dramatic changes in the market and has That is what happened to me 2 years ago when I purchased my first Fitbit.
At its core Fitbit is a pedometer used for counting how many steps you take during the day as a proxy for measuring your activity level and thus how many calories you are burning. Fitbit was not the first pedometer ever created, nor was it the first electronic pedometer. However, Fitbit was the first pedometer which would not only count how many steps you took, but it would also record when you took those steps, and then it would automatically upload all this data to the web and associate it with your online account.
I am a programmer and tend to be pretty analytical – which of course requires data. Of course I am also human and don’t like to spend my day doing boring repetitive tasks like writing down how many steps I took. Sure, I can do it for a couple of days, but then I’ll forget a day, and then a couple of days, and before you know it I am not recording any data at all. For me, the Fitbit was like my own tiny little personal fitness assistant that watched what I did every day and recorded it for me.
When I got my first Fitbit, I would routinely walk between two and three thousand steps a day. This is a really pathetic number (did I mention that I’m a programmer – who works at home). I knew I needed to improve my activity level, and having a device which recorded my activity level allowed me to see just exactly how sedentary I had become. More importantly though, this device helped motivate me to change my behavior and start being more active throughout the day.
After 2 years of using the Fitbit, I now routinely average over seven thousand steps a day and have a couple of days every week where I even exceed 10 thousand steps. For me this is a huge win, and it wouldn’t have happened if the creators of the Fitbit hadn’t found a way to create a really simple device that also has a lot of really powerful features.
A Simple and Powerful Cloud Solution
When we first sat down and started thinking about creating a cloud version of DNN, we knew that we wanted it to be a powerful solution that really leveraged the cloud in order to solve some common customer problems. I also knew from my own experiences that the solution needed to be simple and elegant. As Steve Jobs was fond of pointing out, building complex solutions to problems is easy. Really great products happen when you are able to spend the extra time and really distill the solution down to just the essential elements.
In looking at our customer feedback we saw a few feature requests which really stood out. We identified 4 key features that we felt were important for the first release: 1) Make it easy to backup the website 2) Make it easy to access the DNN installation for direct file management 3) Provide a staging area where customers can perform testing and development 4) Make upgrades easy
One of the first lessons that everyone in IT learns is that you should always make a backup before you do anything which could potentially cause data loss or data corruption. The problem for many DNN users is that you don’t have direct access to backup management. You have to get IT involved or call your hosting provider.
We wanted a system where you are in charge. Where you have a simple interface for initiating a backup or restoring your site whenever you want. We also wanted the system to have some intelligence and take a backup automatically when you perform certain actions like upgrading your site, and the system needed to take a daily backup – just in case. Our cloud backup solution does all this and more, and it does it in a simple elegant way.
It was important for us to get this part of the system correct since many other features like upgrades and staging sites leverage the backup feature to perform their magic. Not only does this feature make it easier for us to provide unique solutions to other website challenges, but it also provides peace of mind for you. Having a sound backup strategy enables you focus on your website without worrying about whether you might break it.
The DNN 7.1 Platform includes a great new Digital Asset Manager. Evoq Content adds even more advanced capabilities to DAM. But sometimes when you are managing a lot files on a server you just want the raw power and speed of FTP. There are also times where you just want access to look at the Windows event logs or to look at the current IIS configuration – for those times we provide Remote Desktop access using RDP.
Most hosting providers provide some sort of FTP access or remote desktop for your website. With our cloud solution we wanted to go a little further and make this an integrated part of the solution. When you are logged into your website, just go to the to control panel for instant access to FTP, RDP or even Web Deploy for use with Microsoft WebMatrix or Visual Studio.
The extensibility features in DNN are great. There are thousands of extensions that are available for your DNN site. How do you know which ones are right for your site and which ones are not what you are looking for? Hopefully you are not using your production website as your test bed for answering that question. With Evoq in the Cloud you don’t have to. In just a couple minutes you can have a fresh site up and running ready for testing. When you’re done, you can just delete the test server, knowing that it is always available whenever you need it.
Evoq in the Cloud makes it a two-click process to spin up a new testing/staging site. Once you have a staging site setup, it is never more than one click away from anywhere in your production site. We make it simple to setup your staging environment to mirror your production site, to use an old backup or even just to use a plain vanilla DNN install. Now there is no reason to use your production site as your guinea pig since an exact duplicate of your production site is always just a couple clicks away.
DNN has long had a simple upgrade process. Unfortunately, with thousands of extensions, and an unlimited number of system configurations, the upgrade process is not always as flawless as it could be. It’s a good thing you always remember to take a backup before beginning an upgrade. You do remember the backup right?
With Evoq in the Cloud we take away a lot of the challenge with doing upgrades. Just click a button and our systems will handle upgrading your site. But don’t worry, because we make sure to take a good backup before doing the upgrade. If we detect any problems during the upgrade, we’ll automatically restore your site and log the issue for further analysis by our cloud team.
For added protection, you can even do the upgrade in a test environment to ensure that everything goes smoothly before you try the upgrade on the production site. And we didn’t forget about your website visitors either. During the upgrade process, Evoq in the Cloud automatically displays a customizable maintenance screen to your customers while the upgrade is in progress. Once the upgrade is complete, the working website is made public. With Evoq in the Cloud you no longer have to worry about how to move the site into offline mode while still allowing for administrative site access.
Simple, Powerful and Integrated
I think our initial release of Evoq in the Cloud provides powerful and simple solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing DNN users. Our cloud management system makes it easy to try out all of the features and functionality of the DNN Platform and our Evoq Solutions. Our integrated solution provides you with everything you need in one place to manage your DNN site. Our cloud tools provide you all the power you need in a simple and elegant way. But we are just getting started.
When Fitbit was first released, it was a simple and elegant product that did a few things exceptionally well. What makes Fitbit a truly great product is that even as it has begun to mature, its product managers have not lost site of the fact that this simplicity is one of its core strengths. As they have continued to evolve the product line they have continued to focus on ensuring that the products embody this philosophy – a philosophy shared by the cloud team at DNN Corp.
I love the Evoq in the Cloud features we have planned for the coming year, and because it is running in the cloud, they’ll just automatically show up in your control panel when they are ready. Our team is constantly rolling out cloud updates with new features and bug fixes. We think you’ll love what we have to offer. And you can be sure that they will all be simple, powerful and fully integrated into your DNN Evoq website. Go ahead and take a test drive today.
Read the full series on Building DNN as a Service
Part 1 – Introduction
Part 2 – Trials
Part 3 – Integrated Solutions
Part 4 – Power and Simplicity