It’s no secret that I am fan of Microsoft technologies but there is no point in being a fanboy of a technology if it’s not delivering for your clients and ultimately for you as a business. It’s always great, when as a business owner, you can deliver a solution that makes a fundamental impact for your client and allows them to grow their business and be more successful. This is one of those occasions that I’d like to share.

Last year we started working with a company in Luton which provides car parking facilities for the popular Luton Airport. The car parking is provided offsite and is just outside the perimeter of the airport. It’s a competitive business and relies on taking much of it’s bookings online. It is therefore imperative that the business has an efficient and usable site.

Our client had a website but it was an old site which had been developed in ASP and used SQL Server 2000 as the backend database. It was hosted by a relatively unknown company which didn’t deliver the best service in the world. The website could only be accessed by Internet Explorer because key parts of it were implemented using VB Script. The payment system was integrated through to SagePay and there was a VB Basic application which the staff ran to access bookings from the SQL Server. It was a system that was not scalable and not reliable as the site would often stop connecting to database (at least once a week). This could only be fixed by a support email to the hosting company, who would reply with saying it was fixed but never said what the problem was or how to resolve it permanently. The system was no longer supported by the original developers.

Our client recognised all these issues and that it was holding their business back and had employed a relatively large IT/Software outsourcing business to develop a new site for them. This business failed to deliver and produced virtually nothing after 12 months and a serious of money having been spent.

Having eventually approached us, that is Ardent iSys, we embarked on a complete redevelopment of the site. We chose to develop the site using ASP.NET MVC 1.0, JQuery and SQL Server 2008. The aim was to put the entire business online, so that the backend booking management could be accessed via the browser as well. We moved the hosting to iomart using two dedicated servers running Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008 on the second server. This gave significant scalability and the possibility of hosting multiple sites on this platform/configuration. Since deployment at the beginning of the year there has been zero downtime due to platform issues and the hosting is backed by SLAs. The costs have risen for the hosting but this is well worth the money for having your business up and running all the time. The new site can be found at http://www.airportcarparkz.com and is a complete end to end development by Ardent iSys including the site design. This site was developed in about a 6 month period and since going live has functioned without any critical issues or causing the business to be offline for any time at all. The site can now be accessed via any browser and as we are using ASP.NET MVC we will eventually make the site W3C compliant. We are working on a new site design which is why we haven’t made the site fully W3C compliant at the moment. Gone are the days when Microsoft Web technology was the poor mocked cousin when it came to web standards.

The most important thing is that the new site is competing with some of our client’s bigger car parking competitors and after seeing the site they have started to get in touch with our client. The traffic to the site jumped rapidly after initial launch as people were able to use different browsers. Bookings have been steadily climbing and the search engine ranking of the site has gown as well. During the last few months traffic to the site has risen again by 40% and the revenue is greater than at anytime during the businesses existence.

There are plans to add a content management system, provide business reports from SQL Server about bookings and build an affiliate programme. The site is no longer a block to growing the business and our client can now concentrate on building and further growing revenue and profitability. They now know they have a technology solution that can deliver for them a Microsoft partner who can make that happen for them.

We are now developing a new site for a holiday business for this client which will be developed using ASP.NET MVC 2.0 and hosted on the same platform.