Roger Ebert and two friends posing for the camera.

In January, legendary film critic Roger Ebert returned to the airwaves with his new PBS show, Ebert Presents At The Movies, along with co-hosts Christy Lemire of the Associated Press and's Ignatiy Vishnevetsky. Table XI was proud to partner with Roger and Chaz Ebert to produce the program’s accompanying website,

The new site aims to be a rich and interactive extension of the television show, providing content about the program and its contributors, access to its social media conversation, and, most importantly, a video archive of all televised reviews and segments. The need for the site to be fast, flexible, and finished in a relatively short amount of time led our developers to jump into the wonderful world of cloud hosting.

Cloud hosting is part of a web-based computing strategy whereby sites and applications exist on shared Internet networks run by a remote host, rather than on single, highly customized and pricey servers managed by you. (Google apps like Gmail are examples of this model.) In our case, this approach gave our team the ability to get up and running quickly and inexpensively. We didn’t need to purchase costly servers, wait for them to arrive, or spend time configuring them. Rather, the normal resources we’d have in our rack, like a database, application server, and load balancer, are all virtualized and managed by someone else, in this case, Amazon Web Services.

Drawing of cloud computing.“There was an incredible breadth of ready-to-go features,” says project manager John Gore. “Storage solutions, content delivery solutions, load balancing solutions--normally we’d have to create those ourselves, but with a click here and a click there, you can roll out with these distinct services. You can add or remove servers easily—it’s very customizable.”

The flexibility, speed, and economy of cloud hosting make it particularly good for smaller ventures. Without the expense and maintenance of hardware, you could spend as little as dollars a month to keep your site running.

John found that the biggest issues with hosting in the cloud were more institutional than technological. With the shift from local management to remote hosts, we had to integrate new administrative processes to ensure that all data is backed up and monitored appropriately.

“It’s a new way of thinking about hosting,” John says. “Instead of a hammer, now you have a hammer and a wrench. You just have to make sure you’re using the wrench properly.”

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