Jeff Ammons is the President of the Gwinnett, Georgia, Microsoft User Group (GGMUG). As the hosting sponsor of the GGMUG since 2010, we wanted to learn more about Jeff and his group and we talked with him recently to get the details about what he has going on and how it all came to be.
Thanks for talking with us Jeff. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your professional background.
I’ve worked for a variety of companies over the past couple of decades ranging from very small to very large. My longest experience was with the Atlanta Journal Constitution where I spent ten years. I love the AJC, but newspapers are having a hard time in the 21st century.
How did you start the GGMUG?
Thanh Le and Anupam Chakravarty were co-workers at the AJC and are two of my closest friends. In 2007, we decided we needed to really step up our game in terms of career advancement since we weren’t sure how things were going to go for newspapers.
At the time, we were working with Microsoft technologies as well as Java and Oracle. We debated whether we wanted to start a .NET or Java user group. A large part of our decision was based on the support Microsoft gave user groups. We just didn’t see that level of support from Sun or Oracle.
Talk to us a bit about what it takes to actually run a group like this.
Starting a group is a huge undertaking. The biggest hurdle before starting is finding a location. We took the leap of faith approach. We publicized the group and starting planning meetings before we had secured a meeting place. It’s kind of like throwing a rock in the water. Ripples spread out.
Sean Gerety, a fellow who is very active in the Atlanta user group community, heard about our group and hooked us up with someone he knew at Gwinnett Technical College in 2008 and we’ve been meeting there ever since. I can’t say how grateful I am to Gwinnett Tech. They have given us a great place to meet and have been awesome to work with.
What were some of the difficulties of running your own group?
The next challenges you face are getting members and speakers. After several years of struggling to gain members, one of our long-time members, Logan Gray, set us up a Meetup account. That pretty much was the last time I had to think about getting new members.
Getting speakers is a big challenge. We’ve been fortunate that there are a bunch of really great speakers in the Atlanta area who have been super generous with their time. I have to specifically mention Jim Wooley and Sergey Barksy. They both worked with the International .NET Association (INETA) as our regional representatives. Sergey was working for the consulting company Magenic at the time. Magenic has sponsored food for every meeting we’ve had. Jim has both attended our meetings and spoken frequently to our group.
Initially, you hosted ggmug.com at our shared hosting company DiscountASP.NET.
In 2010 I was planning a GiveCamp for the Atlanta area, and DiscountASP.NET had volunteered to provide continual hosting for any non-profit served during the weekend. I was surprised they didn’t time limit the offer, but very happy about it. That was when I first talked to Takeshi. He and the folks he had helping us were really great. After the event was over, he offered to do the same for our user group.
At the time I was paying for our hosting with GoDaddy, but they weren’t really keeping up with ASP.NET versions, while DiscountASP.NET was staying up to date, so it was a good fit for us. And then, when Takeshi offered to move our group to Everleap from our standard hosting, I jumped at the chance.
What is it about Everleap that you like?
My favorite features are using Git to version and deploy our site, NOT managing servers, and the fact that we get two load balanced servers without any fuss. Using Git to deploy is super easy – you tell it, you wish it, you push it, boom – and allows me to almost instantly rollback the site if there are bugs.
If I weren’t using a Platform as a Service offering like Everleap or Azure Websites, I’d go for a virtual server. That route is inexpensive and flexible, but I’d have to manage my own server and keep up with OS patches, security, etc. With a PaaS like Everleap, I just have to worry about my app.
You have some experience with Azure, right?
Yes, I have experience working with Azure in my professional career and I also have some other websites currently on Azure as part of their BizSpark program. That is now coming to an end, so I am considering moving them over to you. One thing I do know though is that I can’t stay with Azure. They would charge me $70 – $80 for something similar to what you do. And since you’ve built your hosting on the same technology as Azure it’s an easy migration.
If I compare Everleap with Azure I’d break it down like this: If you need data centers all over the world and the other options that Microsoft brings to the table, then go with Azure. If you need less scalability, but better support, go with Everleap.
What was it like moving from DiscountASP.NET to Everleap?
You offered to migrate the site for me and I would not have had to do anything. As it turns out, I was planning to revise the site anyway and I wanted to deploy the site in Git, so I did it myself. But migration is really simple.
How has the customer service experience been with us?
Any time I’ve had a problem with DiscountASP.NET or Everleap, there has been a person to help me. That is especially impressive to me since I’ve never paid a dime for the user group’s hosting.
Everleap supports the developer community and provides free hosting for user groups. Everleap has been a hosting sponsor of the GGMUG since 2010.