IronFist Plugs Into a Virtual Approach to Business
By Samuel Greengard
Over the last few years, the business world has watched traditional barriers to entry vanish. The ability to plug in powerful and inexpensive IT systems on the fly—particularly through cloud computing—has made it ridiculously easy to start a business and scale up operations dynamically.
No one is more aware of this fact than Andrew Slattery, CEO and lead developer of IronFist Design. The Tucson, Ariz., firm has turned to a variety of systems and tools—including cloud servers, a content delivery network (CDN) and analytics—to build a highly agile and modular approach to business.
"We have adopted a business model that allows us to do things that would typically be associated with a large company," Slattery explains.
IronFist operates a near-virtual business. It currently serves about two dozen clients, including law firms, medical offices, retailers and government. When Slattery started the firm in 2006 after a stint in the military, "I was looking for a better alternative to shared hosting," he explains. "It was apparent that the cloud represented the future of Web development."
The firm uses hosting firm 1&1 to manage its virtual infrastructure, including domains, email and analytics. "The cloud servers allow us to keep everything in one place, and they provide instant scalability," Slattery says. "Monitoring tools allow us to adapt to unpredictable traffic and maintain the best quality."
IronFist provides CDN functions via CloudFlare, a Web optimization and caching service that taps into 23 global data centers. "It provides a global footprint without having to operate servers in other countries," Slattery says. Moreover, the platform offers several security and content optimization features, including Denial of Service (DOS) attack prevention, dynamic Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates and content delivery acceleration.
Google Analytics allows IronFist to obtain real-time metrics for traffic and search engine data. "We can see which pages people are visiting, how fast pages are loading for the user and how people navigate our sites," Slattery says.
In addition, IronFist has turned to keyword-based campaigns that track a visitor's movement from landing page to account registration. "We are able to identify keywords that generate the best conversion rates and focus only on those terms. This leads to a far more profitable campaign."
Geolocation data has also emerged as a central focus. Once IronFist identifies traffic patterns, it can use surveys or other analysis tools to adapt content and spur sales. For example, a few years ago, after IronFist introduced an online game, it noticed a spike in traffic and game purchases in the Netherlands. A targeted survey found that users wanted a more accessible site. As a result, IronFist began translating images and game elements into Dutch, and the return rate increased by 53 percent.
Finally, the firm offers a tool that scrapes data from a client's social media sites, photo sites, marketing services and elsewhere. "We have developed a library of tools, scripts, and features that allow us to create a highly customized solution for every client," Slattery says. "Today's technology has made it possible to offer features that would have been next to impossible a few years ago."