European Web hosting provider Active 24 wanted to satisfy customer demand by offering a service that could support both Active Server Pages (ASP) and Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP) scripting languages. It implemented the Windows Server® 2008 operating system with Hyper-V™ virtualisation technology. Now, it provides a competitively priced, easy-to-manage service that customers can use to build open source and Microsoft .NET–based Web applications.
Active 24 is among the leading Web hosting providers for small to medium-sized enterprises in Europe. Established in Norway in 1998, the company has expanded aggressively across the continent. Acquired by Norwegian software vendor Mamut in 2006, its head office is in Oslo, Norway, and it serves more than 400,000 customers in 16 European countries.
Many eastern European hosting companies have traditionally deployed open source environments that support PHP, the general purpose scripting language. But, increasingly, customers are demanding hosting based on Windows Server. Jens Fjeldal, Business Development Manager at Active 24, says: “Customers want to create ever more complex Web-based applications, so we need to provide them with a choice of scripting languages.”
In 1998, Active 24 established a partnership with Microsoft and offered its customers the Microsoft® Windows NT® Server version 4.0 operating system, the first product to introduce ASP. Since then, Active 24 has made it a priority to give its customers the latest versions of Windows Server. Fjeldal says: “This helps us keep one step ahead of our competitors.”
Although customers could always choose hosting options that supported ASP or PHP, there was no single solution that was able to incorporate both. Fjeldal says: “We wanted an offering that supported both scripting languages because we knew that would reduce our operational expenses and improve service. However, many eastern European markets such as the Czech Republic are firmly dedicated to open-source software, so we knew it would take something special to change people’s minds. That’s why we were so excited about the introduction of Windows Server 2008 and its support of Hyper-V virtualisation technology.”
As an experienced Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, Active 24 works closely with Microsoft and evaluates its latest technologies early. In 2008, it participated in a Technical Adoption Programme (TAP) involving Windows Server 2008 and its virtualisation capabilities with Hyper-V. Fjeldal says: “Our objective for participating in the TAP was to explore all the functionality in Windows Server 2008, including Hyper-V, and gain deployment experience.”
Active 24 employees were impressed with the technology. Fjeldal says: “We were particularly interested in its support for the PHP scripting language and FastCGI.” This is a protocol for interfacing interactive programs with a Web server, which increases the number of Web page requests a server can process. They also liked its support of the Windows PowerShell™ command-line interface. This helps IT administrators create a virtual Web hosting space four times faster than previously possible.
The improved system administration and security features of Windows Server 2008 also pleased employees. “Our administrators can use simplified management interfaces to easily monitor the servers and correct any problems if they occur. The solution also supports features such as encrypted file transfer protocol (FTP) for data protection and advanced load balancing capabilities, which make sure operational continuity is achieved despite circumstances such as physical damage to a server,” says Fjeldal.
Fjeldal believes that the most useful feature of Windows Server 2008 is its support for Hyper-V virtualisation technology. He says: “With Hyper-V, we can launch a new service where customers are able to upload customised applications on to a virtual private server. This requires no additional hardware, so it’s much less expensive than before and a lot easier to manage.”
With the introduction of Windows Server 2008, Active 24 customers can create Web development projects using either PHP or ASP, removing the need to choose between different operating systems. This reduces their development costs and improves productivity. Active 24 also experiences direct benefits: “Windows Server 2008 not only simplifies server management but its support of Hyper-V virtualisation technology significantly reduces our operational costs as well,” says Fjeldal.
- Reduced operational costs. Lower hardware costs, and better server management and monitoring tools have helped Active 24 reduce its IT expenditure.
- Increased competitiveness. Operational savings are passed on to customers as lower hosting fees.
- Improved interoperability. With Windows Server 2008, customers can use both PHP and ASP scripting languages. This helps them develop enhanced Web-based applications faster and at lower cost.
- Better systems maintenance. Reporting tools and a centralised administrative interface help Active 24 IT employees assist customers in optimising and maintaining their systems.
- Greater flexibility. Active 24 use Hyper-V to provide virtual private servers, ideal for businesses that need root access or dedicated resources to support Web sites or online applications.
- Increased productivity. Tools included with Windows Server 2008 automate previously manual tasks, boosting employee efficiency.
- Enhanced security. Administrators can use advanced encryption tools and Windows® Firewall to improve data security. Centralised monitoring and reporting tools also increase system reliability.
- Strengthened business partnership. The strategic partnership between Active 24 and Microsoft helps to ensure that Active 24 is at the forefront of IT advancements and one of the first companies to take advantage of the latest technologies.
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