The business of cloud computing

As one of just a handful of certified partners for the vast web services division of Amazon, you’d be right in thinking Edinburgh-based Escrivo Consulting is part of a select few of tech firms.

In fact, after signing a deal with the US-based giant three years ago, the company was among the first, if not the first in Scotland, to put pen to paper on an arrangement that allows them to implement some of the gold standard Amazon products for its client base.

Managing director Cameron Leask, who set up the company 12 years ago, explains: “The benefit we get is working now with the biggest and the most mature and the longest established of all the cloud computing players.

“Their services are typically aimed at what often gets referred to as ‘web-scale opportunities’ so really big websites but what we’ve been slowly and quietly trying to do is bring them to SME organisations so the SME itself wouldn’t necessarily have the time or the inclination to go away and investigate this massive thing called AWS.

“But we’re able to say we know about, for example, one of their content distribution technologies – we can apply that to this and that’ll help speed your website up or we can apply a storage technology to help simplify the process of uploading lots of content to their site.”

Cameron Leask

Cameron Leask

One real-life example that Escrivo – a company of five based on Queen Street – works on is a solution for award-winning educational publisher Bright Red, also based in the city.

They were tasked – in partnership with Napier University – with creating a ‘digital zone’ for students to access online learning resources for the new National Five exams, which replace the old Highers.

“What we’ve done is we’ve helped – in essence I suppose – to operationalise what Napier developed, so that took two sides,” Leask explains.

“One was making it friendly for mobile devices in terms of appearance and responsive for phones and tablets and the second was that we’re delivering some of the content for that out of one of these Amazon services, which releases the content delivery.

“It helps to improve the speed and responsiveness of the site overall. And it’s a relatively simple thing to enable but it improves the site overall.”

It was deemed to be such a success that Bright Red only just missed out on the top award for best user interface at the Interface Excellence Awards in 2013.

At its core Escrivo is an internet consulting business and as such offers a variety of solutions for clients.

These include e-commerce, cloud computing, the emerging mobile commerce – a sector predicted to account for 25 per cent of online sales in the US by 2017 – as well as web development, e-marketing, hosting and domain registrations

It has also found a niche for itself helping companies to make their websites compliant with legislation that came fully into force in 2012 around the use of ‘cookies’.

These are the tiny pieces of data stored in the user’s web browser, enabling their activity to be tracked, and of much use to advertisers who place their third party code on websites, constantly seeking to re-target them.

Now, because of an EU directive, companies must ensure their websites provide ‘informed consent’ to users, asking for permission to store such information.

However, Leask explains the task can be complex with some multinationals – such as some of Escrivo’s client base – having up to 80 websites, all with different ways of working.

That is why Escrivo’s services look set to be very much in demand after its developers came up with a piece of technology to streamline the audit process.

“You need to get informed consent and to provide informed consent you need to know what cookies you are using in the first instance,” Leask adds.

“And that can be quite a boring job and error-prone, so we developed some technology to help do the process of auditing the use of cookies, to find them and simplify that process for any website operator, but it seems to have struck a chord with the enterprise level businesses”

“So we’ve developed a bit of a specialism, a niche which takes us into a completely different market from what we operate in.”

And the new tools Escrivo is developing – as a result of its aim to keep a “step ahead” of a fast-changing marketplace – seem to be having a positive overall effect.

Although massive expansion is unlikely given the still tentative economic recovery, the company is looking to take advantage of a gradual pick-up in business confidence.

“Since the general downturn we’ve been happy just to be stable as a team of five but we’re now looking to grow again as the economy picks up.”