Hosting Considerations for An E-commerce Business – Hardware
More and more businesses are moving their propositions online so that they can interact with their customers wherever they are the world. Shops that were previously restricted to trading in local markets can now sell their products nationally and in many cases globally. Others have reaped the benefits of reducing their overheads such as rent and boosting their profit margins as a result. As the .com bubble of the early 2000s demonstrated however it isn’t simply a gold rush. To have an effective and competitive online proposition, an e-commerce site needs to perform well, have high uptime, process requests quickly and smoothly and be secure whenever a user interacts with it.
The following article aims, therefore, to provide a quick guide to the elements that businesses should consider when choosing a hosting platform for their e-commerce site. By addressing these considerations it should maximise the likelihood of the site performing well when required, under whatever is asked of it, without it going offline. For an e-commerce site these performance criteria are even more important as poor performance/user experiences can deter customers, down time can lead to lost transactions and in worst case scenarios site errors can even have financial repercussions for the customer.
One of the key considerations for a site where performance – the responsiveness of user interactions, seamless user experience, page load times – is paramount is to ensure that the site benefits from high bandwidth connections. In other words, that the site is able to send and receive large amounts of data at any given time. For e-commerce sites this is a particular consideration because the site may be required to process high volumes of user generated transactions at given points in time, and, whilst a sluggish site may put users off using the site again, actual failures to process the transactions can have financial consequences for both the business and the customer.
The use of a data center location to host the web server will allow a business to access higher bandwidth connections than they may be able to implement in their own location, particularly as data centers are often positioned on the internet backbone. Plumping for a dedicated server package also ensures that the network connections for the web server are not shared with any other sites and that the e-commerce business therefore has access to the entire bandwidth capacity of that connection. Where websites share servers and consequently network connections, they will compete for that bandwidth and if one site has a spike in traffic it may take away bandwidth resource from the other(s).
Disk Space & CPU
The provisioning of server space and processing power is a defining feature of many of the various hosting packages that are available on the market. Often platforms will be described as dedicated hosting/server or shared hosting/server for example depending on whether they give the website access to the whole server – entire disk space and processing power – or share that resource amongst multiple sites in some form.
Sites that are likely to place high demands on the processing capabilities of their server because they request a lot of data, and/or sites that need to store a large amount of content (information in databases, page files etc), both of which e-commerce sites are a prime example, benefit from being hosted on a dedicated server. E-commerce sites usually need to send, receive and store a lot of information, not just transaction data but (e.g. product) page content as well. With a dedicated package they won’t be in competition with any other sites for the use of processing power and will, by definition, have access to a greater amount of disk space, the entirety of their server’s disk space.
As an alternative, hosting a website in the cloud, accessing pooled server space and computing power on demand, can also be a suitable option for achieving the capacity that e-commerce sites may need to handle the data they generate. This storage capacity can be accessed as and when the site needs it and theoretically without a practical ceiling as far as most businesses are concerned.