The Story of PHIWUG and The Cloud

The Philippine Windows Users Group (PHIWUG) by nature is a non-profit local technology community. By day we are all Server Administrators, Enterprise Administrators, Engineers, Consultants, Etc. With end users and enthusiasts coming every once in a while. We do our events, monthly meetings, meet ups, tech demo sessions, micro-talks and some crazy stuffs.

Everyone in this group is by definition the IT of some company, consultants based in Singapore, a missionary brother manning the IT infrastructure of a major University / Religion here in PH, An IT guy that has two Jobs, Trainers and Technologists. In short, we are all busy and have our own respective jobs.

We still need (and wanted) to keep our infrastructure but no one available in full time to do this. We also wanted to expand our reach and bring back the old forum sites that we have because lets face it, its really hard to search answers let alone archive information in the social media now.

PHIWUG in Modern IT.

To make us more agile and have more agility (and time) to do what we want, we have to move our infrastructure responsibilities to the cloud. We also this to our customers and companies, unless you are in the IT consulting + RND you should think about what IT can help you with but keep in mind the operational overhead and cost of these.

PHIWUG cannot afford to build an expensive datacenter, after all we are a non-profit organization. But we feel we can make a difference, especially in Schools and Universities to give them an idea what the industry looks like now. These talks are all freely done by PHIWUG, we will not and ever will ask for payment for a talk. Ever. Yes we are allotted with some funding for Food and Drinks for our major events, but that’s for the attendees as we do events late at night – after work.

So, we cannot (afford a) setup of an environment with redundant cooling / moisture control system, with redundant and fast internet connection. Not to forget power and fire suppression systems and of course those expensive rack mounted servers etc. etc. But we are all IT professionals, we can figure this out.

In fact, we treated our situation as an example of how IT can directly support the growth and operations of the business (in our case, our non-profit group). We always say to our clients and in our companies, be in the Modern IT. Where IT is used as a strategic move and not be a burden for a company.

We moved everything to the Cloud.

There are a lot of articles on the internet that says about cloud, Where do you start if you want to move everything?

Our first candidate is our Web Presence and Emails. So we decided to transfer to Office 365 thru the sponsorship of Microsoft Technical Communities.

This is one of the major move that we did but to my surprise – it was really straightforward. You sign-up, follow the steps on the DNS migration and that’s it. I just emailed the requirements my domain registrar on pointing our domain PHIWUG.ORG to Office 365. There were even a very well written troubleshooting guide.

Why the major one: It now uses our official domain, in which we became “official”. And its blazing fast!

Our external website is now on SharePoint, easy to manage – no brainer CMS for us. Plus I get to mess around with some themes. Check it out here: http://www.phiwug.org/ 

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Because we now have SharePoint, we are now sharing files thru it. Most of our meeting contents / pictures / etc are going to be migrated here.

Then instead of having to use Skype or other messenger service for some event, we had Lync. We now have the ability to record online sessions, do multiple screen sharing and more.

 

Next candidate is our Forums.

PHIWUG’s drive is to have a more localized site where we Pinoys can talk about anything Windows. We are not thinking of replacing the TechNet and Social forums but there are times that IT Pros here wants to ask in a way that it is more ‘localized’ and that’s one of our targets. We also miss the MSForums type of discussion. We hope to get it back to its former glory, even only on the Windows discussions side.

Our forum has very unique requirements, in fact we needed to custom build it and host it somewhere. Our solution, ASP.NET MVC based forum, hosted on Windows Azure with a SQL Back end. Pretty neat ha!

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We are not leaving Facebook so, this integrates with Facebook Auth (Login using Facebook) and all the bells and whistles of sharing to social media.

Ill blog about how we did this in detail, for now I’d like to first thank http://www.mvcforum.com/ for the codebase and also make sure that you are on “Shared” website mode so that you can use a custom domain like us: http://forums.phiwug.org

 

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As you can see, this is a custom .net code and needed to be source controlled. Enter VisualStudio.com – a TFS instance in the cloud!

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Lastly, so lets integrate Windows Azure with TFS. The old way is to download the source code and then publish it to your hosting provider using FTP or other trivial way. I remember my friend asking me for help because his provider is asking P5000.00 per publish in his site!

To do this, you only have to logon to Azure and  Setup deployment from Source Control:

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Then authorize the connection

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Then it will ask what project you want to deploy, click the check button and you can now publish from TFS Online! By the way, it will automatically configure your Contentious Integration so that any change (Check-In) in Visual Studio will be built and shipped to Azure.

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What’s next?

I posted a poll on reviving the consolidated blog site of all of the members, so that’s one. Then we are now focusing on events this year, TechNet sessions will be back so stay tuned. We will be publishing a public link so that everyone can attend even without going to the venue 🙂

I think I will just use this weekend to run Floppy the dog and you know breathe the fresh air outside. Till next time!

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johndelizo

John is currently creating digital assets that protects people and their future, a technical trainer and a full time geek specializing on development and deployment of innovations created with .NET framework on Windows platform as well as Windows infrastructure projects. He is the primary contact of the Philippine Windows Users Group, a contributor at the Microsoft Philippines Community forums and regularly conducts community sessions as well as other Microsoft technology events. John owns the Busy Saving The World Techblog.

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