Sheetster Standing Cloud Use Case

Executive Summary
Next Level Turbines*, producers of super high efficiency wind turbines was faced with rising costs and lowered operational efficiency due to their dependence upon client-server business applications built using VBA and Excel.

At one point the business logic contained in the VBA Excel applications provided the company with a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Lately however the inability to effectively share and manage these document-based apps meant the business was faced with a critical need to modernize.

The choice was to either recreate their in-house apps from scratch, implement and customize an off-the-shelf system, or choose and customize best of breed cloud based services in an attempt to retain the competitive advantage which they once derived from the custom legacy apps.

An Extentech Certified Partner consulting firm was hired for advice on how to modernize these custom business applications. The consultants advised Next Level Turbines to convert their Excel-based applications to web applications by uploading the spreadsheet files to a Sheetster Server Pro instance, then having the developers add some JavaScript using the Sheetster JavaScript API to replicate the VB functionality.

To address their architecture it was recommended that they run their app servers in the cloud. The consultants explained how virtualized servers running securely in the cloud would provide for greater privacy and control than using proprietary services like Google Docs which seemed inexpensive upfront, but come with the hidden cost of giving up control over critical data and the risks of unilateral service-level and api changes.

The consultants recommended running Sheetster Server Pro on Standing Clouda virtual appliance management service which provides application portability between cloud hosting providers such as Amazon AWS and Rackspace.

Since Sheetster Server Pro could also be run on their own server hardware, it was recommended that a replicated instance of Sheetster Pro be run in-house for app development and testing -- and to reassure some cloud-wary investors on the company board that there would always be an on-premise copy of the entire businesses web application docs and data should the need for such a thing arise.

Since the decision to host their Spreadsheet web apps on Standing Cloud, spreadsheet collaboration has improved, as employees can now modify and share spreadsheets from any location with internet access. Next Level Turbines experiences no arbitrary shut downs or traffic restrictions and fewer downtime issues and slow running services.

The combination of Standing Cloud's portability between cloud providers, as well as having a redundant premise-based deployment meant that short of apocalypse, there was no conceivable way in which their applications would be made unavailable.

By using Sheetster for Standing Cloud, Next Level Turbines has achieved benefits far beyond a simple modernization of their legacy business apps.

Next Level Turbines installs and maintains turbines across a wide area. To service and report on performance, many of the employees spend time on location. As a way to keep staff current on performance situations, frequent spreadsheet collaboration occurs between employees in and outside of the office. Management is provided with a web based real-time portal dashboard which is build from a data-driven spreadsheet containing live "animated" Ajax charts and calculating formulas.


Next Level Turbines searched for ways to make their spreadsheet operations more efficient, with the goal of becoming a more agile business. 

The organization had a history of using open source software and welcomed the idea of adopting more open source programs, possibly cloud based applications. 

Next Level Turbines had a limited budget; so, only options with relatively inexpensive up-front costs would be considered viable. 


Upon hearing about Sheetster for Standing Cloud, a group of employees tried the free half hour demo and realized the potential. Unlike many competitors, Standing Cloud is simple enough that the entire staff would be able to use it. With a few clicks, even an entry level Systems Administrator can launch an instance with total control of the server console and copies of the spreadsheet data and application files. 

Sheetster for Standing Cloud also satisfies business financial concerns. All of the features and functions provided by an in-house server running Sheetster Server Pro can be accessed, but with lower up-front costs as there is no up-front license fee.

An unexpected benefit has been in scalability. There is a seasonal aspect to the wind turbine business, and Next Level Turbines has occasional peak demand when there is an increased need to scale their web applications. With Standing Cloud, new Sheetster instances can be allocated and deallocated at will for a predictable cost. This allows for a recovery of costs that in the past would be locked up in idle hardware and excess capacity during the off-season.

After a short implementation process, which required no software installation, employees began taking advantage of Sheetser right away by uploading and sharing their commonly used spreadsheets formerly on hard drives and shared drives. Now, staff members can work with spreadsheets from any location with internet access, allowing the entire staff to stay current as new files are generated and altered.

Business partners and customers were provided new web based interfaces to view real-time supply needs, performance and maintenance statistics throughout the organization. Group-based access control to any document or spreadsheet means that access can be granted or revoked with a few clicks. The increased transparency and responsiveness has improved business goodwill, and also provided new product and marketing opportunities. IT has become a profit center as the company finds it is exceedingly easy to provide external access to value added information now that spreadsheets have been converted to web applications by simply being securely uploaded to the server and shared with paying customers.

Next Level Turbines is witnessing improved performance in other areas as well. The company encounters no arbitrary server shut downs or service disruptions, and overall has fewer downtime issues than they did when running proprietary application software on their own servers. Standing Cloud provides enough storage to handle the large and complex spreadsheet files used at Next Level Turbines. The Standing Cloud service also addresses data backup and automates the process so that in case of a server issue there is always access to a recent copy of data and files.

Next Level Turbines has been able to remain within their budget with affordable licenses for unlimited users for a predictable fixed monthly per-server instance fee. Additional cost benefits stem from not having to hire more staff to help run and maintain the servers.

On the rare occasion a support issue is raised, Standing Cloud and Extentech provide affordable, competent, and responsive support directly from the platform developers.

Many follow-on benefits become apparent as experience and comfort with Sheetster grows. Sheetster is designed for developers, Next Level Turbines can modify the software as necessary. As business demands change, Sheetster can adapt to meet those changes. Unlike SaaS-only proprietary docs web sites, Next Level Turbines retains total control over the location and access to vital docs and data, as well as a guarantee that no unilateral changes in APIs or service terms can disrupt application availability.

In that sense, Sheetster for Standing Cloud can be considered a platform for the future.

* NOTE: Next Level Turbines is a fictional company designed to illustrate how Extentech products can be used to improve business practices. Any similarity to actual organizations or events is purely coincidental.