Experiments in Small Business - Hosting Gigapixel Content

You may have seen previous posts about hosting complex flash with Squarespace. I have had a couple of requests for more specifics about how to setup Amazon web services to host gigapixel panoramic content, so here's a guide:

Signing Up for AWS

When I signed up for SquareSpace hosting, I was hopeful, but pessimistic that their "unlimited" option was truly unlimited. After further investigation I found the limits I was expecting, both in file size, and in bulk uploading restrictions. I'm guilty of not looking extensively at static content options, but AWS had more free space than Google at the time, and the price when I reach limits is very reasonable. Amazon S3 services provide cost effective hosting of static content. You can find out more about their free tier at http://aws.amazon.com/free . There are also links to sign up for the service on that page. You will have to provide credit card information, but the offering includes 5GB of storage with monthly limits on "Puts" and "Gets" that you will likely not hit unless you have content go viral. I'm currently looking into how to set up AdSense from Google so that I can be prepared to offset the hosting costs of a viral event, but the only charge I've incurred so far was when uploading initial content. I uploaded over 100,000 files against an allowance of 20,000 "puts" and my charge that month was $1.08. 

Configure a S3 Container

After you sign up for AWS, you will need to log into the AWS Administrative Console using the link in the email confirming your account. Bookmark this url, you'll want to check in regularly. The first thing you will want to do is create a "Bucket" for your content, keep the name short. After creating the bucket, click on the properties button and expand the "Static Website Hosting" section of the properties window. Click on "Enable Website Hosting" and make note of your endpoint url, you'll need it later. It will look something like yourdomain.s3-website-LOCATION.amazonws.com

Uploading Content

You can upload content using the AWS portal by clicking on the "Transfer" button. Their web dialog is easy to use, and I uploaded my first panoramic with it. But it's limited in how well it can leverage your internet connection, and does not offer a "synchronize" option that is critical to keeping a 20,000 file pano-tour up-to-date without having to re-upload all files. To handle these requirements you will need the amazon command line tools. If you're familiar with command line tools like FTP or CP, this one is pretty easy. You'll have to go through a configuration step to provide you account and endpoint information. Once configured, uploading all the files that have changed on my local system is as easy as typing a simple command and my upload speeds were 5 to 10 times faster than the web interface.

Embedding Content

I've discussed this before, but now that your content is hosted you can embed it using iFrames in almost any web site. Here is the iFrame I use to embed a pano-tour on my home page. 

<iframe seamless allowFullScreen src="https://s3.amazonaws.com/immersive.ssgpp.com/Asheville/asheville.html" style="position:fixed; top:0px; left:0px; bottom:0px; right:0px; width:100%; height:100%; border:none; margin:0; padding:0;">
  Your browser doesn't support IFrames

For more information on iFrames and the attributes to control size, borders, etc. you can look here http://www.w3schools.com/tags/tag_iframe.asp

If you found this post helpful and want to say thank you - I'd appreciate a like/follow on my Facebook page


Experiments in Small Business - The Facebook Page

I've been attempting to get a new career in photography off the ground for a couple of years now, and while I have had some success in building an inventory of somewhat marketable products, I've floundered in my attempt to market these products. I will be posting a series of articles about what I've done (right and wrong) and hopefully give some other folks who are trying to get a simple small business up and running some insight. As I've set things up, I've kept an eye on the reach of my efforts and the numbers seem disappointing. I haven't let limited reach and a financially muted response discourage me, I'm working on this part time, and my business (fine-art prints of gigapixel panoramic photography) is a very specialized undertaking, with an proportionately narrow marketplace. This means I will never have large transactional volume, so investments in sales and marketing are critical, and must be highly cost effective. If you have idea's of how I could do anything better (ANYTHING from my work to marketing and sales efforts) please leave a comment below! It can be daunting when first setting up a new business with an On-Line presence, there are lot's of decisions and sometimes it can be hard to figure out where to start. I started with Facebook, because it was easy and free.

Setting up my Business Facebook page

A lot of you will just skip right over this post, because you already have a Facebook page setup, but for those who are just getting started, setting up my Facebook page is very easy, and has been one of the most effective ways to build an audience (however meager) for my work. Here's a link to my page.  There are a couple of things I wish I had done before starting, so let's start you off right. 

Your first cover page. The Facebook image size guidelines as of Sept. 2014 show a cover page that is 851 x 315 pixels. When finding and cropping an image, keep in mind that the lower left will be obscured by your profile picture, and the lower center and right are over-laid with your page name and like buttons, so if you have text make sure it is across the top, or top-right of the image. 

As of this writing, profile pictures should be 160 x 160 pixels. You should test that your image is recognizable as a "thumbnail" of 40 x 40 pixels. This is the picture your fan's will see next to your posts, so it's probably the most viewed piece of art you will have. 

A name - it's easy to do a quick search in Facebook for a name you are thinking of using, spend a few minutes and make sure you can get a name you want, and try not to end up with an extremely long page name (like Surround Sight Gigapixel Panoramic Photography) - it makes it harder for someone to remember the name from a conversation and find your page later.  

Now, go get started by logging in to FB and clicking on the "Create Page" option in the pull down menu from the right side of the top menu bar.

You will then be guided through setting up your page. You will select what type of business you have, and provide additional information specific to that type of business. Be as complete as possible, make it easy for people to find you.

If you don't have a Web Page or Business eMail, that's ok for now. Next time I'll talk about how I set up my Web Page and business eMail.

Ok, your page is up, now Invite a few of your close friends to like your page and get some feedback from them. Give it a few days, and don't expect a lot of initial like's. I'll talk about some things I've done to build audience later.

I uploaded a dozen or more pictures to my page as soon as it was up. I was in a rush to get everything up there, and missed a key opportunity to build audience. You should upload a few pictures (just one or two), and make an introductory post (but don't get carried away). You will want add new content to your page regularly to keep your audience engaged. In my case truly new work is fairly rare (if I get twelve marketable pictures in a year I'm doing pretty good) so I have to pace myself in order to be able to post fresh work every week or so.

Next time.... how I selected a Web Hosting company and setup my own web site.