How Azure is transforming the Digital Marketing Industry

J BothaJ Botha
Azure cloud. People holding cloud cut-outs over a table

This article is based on my experience as the owner & CEO of a digital marketing agency in Canada. Our entire development environment is tightly integrated into the Microsoft Azure platform, Github and MS Visual Code. We’ve been using our Azure space for roughly 4 years and boy, how we’ve grown.

Recently, we’ve started playing around with Azure AI, otherwise known as cognitive services and machine learning. Our aim is to provide an improved overall user experience that can specifically target a user, based on what they are looking for.

Before getting too technical I would like to point out why we decided to go with Microsoft Azure and not another cloud solution.

Why use Microsoft Azure?

Great question! Obviously my answer to this question is my opinion, based on building a digital marketing agency from scratch. Originally, we were looking for a hosting solution that would not break the bank. Off the bat I knew that a on-prem (Onsite or on-premise) server solution would not cut it. Not only is it extremely expensive but it also takes a lot of time and effort to build and maintain.

We looked at a few cloud hosting options; AWS, GoDaddy, Rackspace and even IBM. However, we quickly realized that Azure had everything we needed. Furthermore, it was very cost-effective for what we were looking to implement.

In addition to the cost factor, what really sold me was the user layout and the simplicity of the entire back-end system. They call it the “blade layout” and personally I think Microsoft hit the nail on the head with this brilliant invention. We got our first basic VM up and running within an hour.

Modern Marketing and Artificial Intelligence

As a digital marketing agency you’re constantly looking at ways to improve overall branding awareness. In fact, a successful marketing campaign lies in getting your product or service to the right audience. With that said, Artificial Intelligence allows you to understand human behavior and make better marketing decisions based on that information.

We’ve started using AI services to better understand how humans interact with any given digital marketing strategy. In our case this normally includes the User Experience and User Interface of a website design or mobile app design.

Recently we’ve started looking into Azure bot services that act as real-time customer support. For example, one of our Winnipeg clients wanted a chat bot implemented on their website. This chat bot’s primary purpose is to answer any basic questions the website visitor might have. Before AI this would’ve been accomplished by getting a physical person to answer these questions.

Machine learning allows the bot to learn as it goes. In fact, the bot gets better at the task at hand as it matures. Overall, Azure bot services are a great tool for improving website conversion. In most cases, you won’t even know that you’re talking to a bot.

Hosting & Website Performance

Website hosting and site performance has recently got a lot of attention from major search engines like Google and Bing. As part of the recent organic ranking algorithm update, they heavily penalize websites that take longer to load. In other words, search engines favor sites that load quickly.

This was a major issue for us before moving to our Cloud hosting space. Our previous hosting environment was just too slow. In most cases shared hosting environments like to throttle the Input/Output between the website and the database. This allows them to utilize all possible resources and at the same time keep the hosting cheap.

Since being on Azure we have full control over our dedicated hosting environment. We’ve also recently implemented a robust load balancer and a WAF device. All this would’ve been unaffordable if done on-premise. Furthermore, we’re currently working on implementing an Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) environment.

With our current Azure hosting solution we’re running more than 200 WordPress-based sites. Each and every page of those sites are loading at lighting fast speeds.

How Azure Batch Rendering saved us time

One of the most recent technologies we’ve encountered is the Azure batch rendering service. This batch rendering service allows you to use thousands of cores and GPU power to render any type of animation. It’s scalable, yet affordable, because you pay for what you use.

A couple of weeks ago we completed an info graphic video on Adobe After Effects that was to be used for one of our law firm clients. From experience I knew that this video rendering would’ve taken hours if not days to render. We used multiple 3D viewpoints within the animation which normally makes rendering more complicated.

We decided to give the Azure batch rendering a go. Holy smokes! It took us less than a hour to render the entire animation. Something what would’ve taken more than a day if done on one of our PC’s in the office.

Once again it’s shown that the right cloud solution can save a lot of time and money. Overall I’m very impressed with MS Azure and what its been able to do for my digital marketing agency. Would I chose this cloud solution again if I had the opportunity? Absolutely! It’s scalable, affordable and robust.

Ullaco Corp is a Canadian-based company located in Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg and Kelowna. We specialize in custom digital marketing solutions that’s aimed at providing a great Return On Investment. Our core services include professional web design, custom web development and strategic marketing & planning.