Our founding company was totally engaged in servicing and maintaining all makes of gas and oil burning boilers and to enable that work to be carried out as efficiently as possible an up to date and as complete as possible set of Installation & Servicing Manuals is required. Both in respect of modern boilers (and ancillary equipment) but also the older models.
To carry these around in a van in paper form is both cumbersome and space consuming so a decision was taken and a laptop computer purchased and a start was made to convert the paper copies into PDF format. We also noticed on various professional forums requests for specific manuals, which we were able to email. So started the thoughts of an online manuals library.
The online version was planned and thought about but the necessary facilities from a 'standard' Internet hosting package just didn't seem available. A few requirements from one and some from another company but not all, at a reasonable price, from a single company.
Arrangements were therefore made with Liquid Web, an American company, to rent a Virtual Private Server that would give all the facilities required - any missing we can add ourselves. It gave us plenty of storage space to host an unlimited number of manuals, and other data sheets, with plenty of bandwidth for downloading them.
A start was made scanning manuals and uploading them, the indexes were built and the site tested.
The Manuals Library was born!
Time has passed and we have truly gone from strength to strength. Gone is the old index structure to be replaced by a fully searchable database which has grown to the extent that it now holds details of well over 6,000 boilers. We are still hosted with Liquid Web but now on a fully dedicated server to ensure the service we offer is both quick and reliable.
For the technically minded the server runs Linux as its operating system while the site itself uses PHP as the main programming language.
Virtually all the programs that run the site were designed and written by ourselves. The main exception is the membership software that, although customised by us to meet our needs, is written by aMember. We went with them because they supplied what we wanted and end of the day why reinvent the wheel?
The site now runs on a Dedicated server which has helped us achieve an availability we are proud of. We have the backup of LiquidWeb if problems do occur and the site is monitored every 5 minutes 24 hours a day alerting us by text if the site does miss a beat!
The site is currently, September 2013, being overhauled and revamped and work starting on a version better optimised for mobile devices.
Part of this optimising relates to making the actual manuals more compact, so enabling quicker downloading for mobile devices.
We are also gradually extracting certain data, such as essential service data, from the manuals that will be a major benefit to those accessing information in customers properties.