Let me just start by saying that if it hadn't been for the Microsoft Bizspark programme, I wouldn't be writing this today. How that happened is something that will take some explaining.
Me and Kshitij came up with the idea of The Blog Bowl way back in August. Since both of us are programmers, we really didn't need any capital to get started and came up with a working prototype of the product in less than a month (did I mention we had our mid semester exams in between?) Naturally, we needed a host (and that too, at a low price). Having worked with AWS (Amazon Web Services) before and our familiarity with Linux based systems, we went for the free tier program, which gave us a micro instance for a year (Thanks Akshit for clearing it was a year and not just a month).
The day of the launch of the product, the database stopped twice. Agreed our code was a bit sloppy, but part of the blame should also go the micro instance (it is just NOT good enough for production, as Vivek must have told me a thousand times!)
Meanwhile, I got an email from AWS telling me I was eligible to try out Amazon RDS (Relational Database Service). I went ahead and fired up a micro instance to serve my database needs. All seemed well...
... until, I was presented with a bill of $67 for the month of November for RDS. Where did the problem arise? Apparently, there was a spike in my website traffic (which still had <10 visitors per day because we hadn't done anything major there yet, courtesy Google Analytics), and that updated the configuration automatically to a point which was not free anymore. You got to be kidding me, right?
Thankfully, Kshitij had heard about the BizSpark programme on Quora, and I had already enrolled The Blog Bowl there (getting your application accepted is not so tough!) Naturally, I went and created a Windows Azure account. The BizSpark program entitles me to certain benefits, including a good server, for three years (Yes, you read it right- THREE years).
What's good to know is that The Blog Bowl doesn't use any Windows product- it's made in python/django, hosted with Apache2 and mod_wsgi on a Ubuntu 12.04.
Another thing that really encouraged me is a the introduction of a dedicated point of contact. I got a call from Microsoft one day after I joined Azure, welcoming me to the product and offering me assistance to set it up. As a part of BizSpark, we are entitled to $150 of free credits in Windows Azure per month.
I have since fired up a Medium instance which gives me 3.5 GB of memory (compared to 675 MB in AWS) and a processor with two cores! That is just over half of the allocated $150 credits. As my point of contact explained, there are many other things I can do- like getting a cache server and a paid support plan- all under my allocated credits.
What all of this effectively means for a startup like ours, where the core team is full of developers, is there is hardly any cost of running our services for the next three years. Any investment that we get will not be wasted on petty server issues, thanks to BizSpark!
What are you waiting for? Sign up for BizSpark already!
Psst, getting accepted is not rocket science. Just explain your idea nicely. If we could get selected, you would probably do as well. Good luck!