Frank DiRocco, Product Manager, Cogeco Peer 1 explains the key points e-retailers need to consider when choosing a hosting provider. These are important to ensure the successful negotiation of common technical constraints faced by many e-retailers today.
In a relatively short time, eCommerce websites have come a long way. They are no longer mere offshoots of retailers' physical stores but valid operations in their own right and their influence is extending beyond digital.
Offline sales are also influenced and enabled by eCommerce platforms and the data they capture means brick and mortar stores are also increasingly powered by digital data. This shifting landscape means e-retailers have to adapt quickly whether they are pure-play digital operations or physical retailers.
To drive sustained growth and platform credibility, one of the most important issues for an e-retailer is to find a hosting partner and developer they can work extremely well with. This clearly needs to include performance availability, which is absolutely essential, but the partnership should extend well beyond this.
As many e-retailers fail to have in-house system administration experience, often they find it difficult to implement, run and manage IT platforms. Ensuring that a partner has a track record in system administration will enable an e-retailer to focus on marketing and demand generation goals, rather than getting bogged down in the complexity of business process management.
Factor in scaling
Another consideration for e-retailers is scaling. As eCommerce sales rise year-on-year, it's predicted that UK online retail sales will reach just over £60 billion in 2016. The ability to scale quickly to meet this growth, as well as seasonal peaks and troughs, can be a deciding factor in the race for sustainable e-retailing success.
Most retailers' hosting needs aren't static; they change by season and even by days of the week. It's already an established fact that the inability to scale and deliver consistently high performance can be a kiss of death, as customers rapidly abandon poor performing web sites, and many don't return.
It's therefore essential to ensure a plan for scaling is in place because levels of customer engagement and traffic certainly won't remain the same. This is why it's crucial to have a hosting partner that can act as part of your in-house team. This will ensure you get informed advice about platform architecture needs and how best to scale when the need arises. This will also be useful in helping plan for targeted demand generation.
Dealing with noisy neighbours
Hosting environments are populated with many 'tenants,' which means that a single architecture hosts multiple customers' applications and data.
When an application or hosted website uses the majority of available resources, it can cause network performance issues for other businesses on the shared infrastructure. This means your platform could suffer from slow speeds or latency.
This usually happens when a provider's network is stretching beyond its capacity. Not all hosting providers are built equally and their infrastructure capacities can vary considerably. You need to know that that your hosting provider has taken 'noisy neighbours' into account and that they can protect your IT infrastructure investment by protecting you from resource-hungry 'tenants.'
Finally, an equally pressing point when selecting a hosting provider is security. A serious security breach can be tremendously damaging, destroying credibility and customer trust; and most certainly leading to a loss of business and revenue.
No one is exempt from cyber thieves and customer databases are highly valued. Many successful hacks are the result of poor software management, with the attackers simply exploiting known vulnerabilities in out-of-date software.
This is why it's important to ensure that a hosting partner is up-to-speed with security requirements and can practically ensure that you receive the correct protective services to keep your systems up-to-date and secure.
If you follow the points listed above you can be sure to find a partner who will not only support your e-retailing operations with insightful and informed expertise but will also act as an extension of your operations rather than as a mere service provider.