There are many web developers who argue the supremacy of the open-source LAMP model in the construction of web-centric applications versus traditional Microsoft technologies.
While it’s true that that Linux + Apache + MySQL + PHP are extremely versatile, cheap tools to scale out a website, Microsoft has spent the last several years redefining its adversarial relationship to the open-source model.
This culminated in the development of the WebsiteSpark program, which opens up powerful MS tools to small web development shops at a fraction of the traditional cost of purchasing these proprietary technologies.
The program is billed as a community based initiative for start-up web designers and developers giving them access to a range of tools like SQL Server, Visual Studio and Microsoft Expression for a period three years at massively reduced prices.
And, believe us when we say ‘cheap’. As CNET aptly describes it this way:
“The WebsiteSpark program gives thousands of dollars of technology away for just $100 at the end of three years, and then two options ($999 per year for everything or scaled down $199 per year option) that aren’t much more expensive.”
It does not take a rocket scientist to see that Microsoft’s ultimate objective is to sell you the entire stack of software at the end of three years. But, this would simply be an excuse, not a reason, to try out this powerful program, which is starting to give the LAMP model a serious run for its money.
Nearly all developers who try out the program report that it is a simple package to get up and running offering a clean, simple set of tools, technologies, support, training and networking opportunities.
In fact, one of the big draw cards of the program is the doors it opens up for web developers seeking to harvest new clients since Microsoft helps you promote your business and put you in touch with their customer base.
The program will give your business giant exposure in the press and media that ultimately translates into new customers.
To be eligible for the program your web dev shop needs to have no more than 10 staff members and be involved in website design and/or development. The program term runs for three years.
Once enrolled you get immediate access to the following software:
- Windows Server 2008 Web Edition
- Expression® Studio 3 (1 user license)
- Expression® Web 3 (2 user licenses)
- Visual Studio® 2008 Professional Edition (3 user licenses)
- Microsoft SQL Server 2008 Web Edition
- DotNet Control Panel
According to Microsoft, Web Pros get dedicated support from Microsoft engineers and Network Partners around the world. You will receive free online training, managed newsgroups, and access to the MSDN developer community and resources.
As a Website Pro engaged in the program you would receive 2 free professional support incidents.
The program guide that is downloadable from the UK2 site indicates that the primary responsibilities for individuals participating in WebsiteSpark include the following:
- Enroll on the WebsiteSpark website and maintain an up-to-date profile on the WebsiteSpark website.
- Renew their membership on an annual basis.
- During the term of your participation in Website Spark, it’s recommended you:
- Develop a new public and Internet-accessible Web Pro Website2
- Deploy that website on Windows Server (on a Hosting Server or with a Hosting Partner)
- Report it, and other new websites, through the WebsiteSpark Portal.
Microsoft says that “a Web Pro that successfully performs the above will not only remain active in the Program but will be permitted to retain one of its user licenses to the latest Expression Web (or its equivalent as determined by Microsoft) available under WebsiteSpark even after the 3 year term.”
The WebsiteSpark program is the third and latest phase of its “Spark” series, which began with BizSpark for startups and DreamSpark for students.
It’s a great way to leverage powerful Microsoft technologies without burning through your cash or converting your existing MS skills over to the LAMP model. Further the additional marketing and PR exposure provided by WebsiteSpark should be a powerful stimulant in trying out this innovative Microsoft program.
Guest Blogger: Jason Stevens from jason-stevens.com / Freelance web developer, tech writer and follower of cloud computing trends. Follow him on Twitter @_jason_stevens_
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