Can You Handle E-commerce Alone?

Constant efficiency and availability are critical factors for any company whose business revolves around e-commerce.  Every element of the organization’s architecture from operating system and web applications to hardware and network connectivity must be designed with fault tolerance and redundancy in mind.  An inaccessible website or damaged OS kernel could put your operation on halt and send customers in the direction of another retailer.  With your competition located just a quick click away, it is crucial to the take the necessary steps to make sure your systems are always available.

The Challenges of Cost and Maintenance

In order to accurately gauge the costs of obtaining greater availability for your systems and infrastructure, you must first determine the degree of reliability your business requires.  For many large online businesses, storing data and applications in multiple locations is an ideal solution.  While relying on a multitude of redundant data centers can help an organization achieve that elusive 100% level of availability, investing in such facilities can be a rather costly and daunting task.  Not only must you consider the expense of building or even leasing a facility, but also hiring a dedicated IT staff and the ongoing maintenance of your systems.  Achieving the fastest response times and the best performance typically demands a world-class service and support on an around the clock basis.

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Considering Third-Party Help

One challenge many organizations are faced with today is the decision to create and maintain their systems in-house, or rely on a third-party company to host their applications and IT operations.  Making a decision on either model is based on various factors.  Experience and infrastructure are two great reasons to choose an outside vendor.  Professional hosting companies have access to data center facilities and infrastructures that the average business would have a difficult time replicating internally.  Traveling this route can give you the ability to do away with expensive upfront investments on servers and applications, while sparing your company the burden of maintaining complex systems.  You also have a better chance of getting a scalable infrastructure that allows for upgrades as your business grows and its demands increase.  In addition, choosing a third-party hosting provider as your partner enables your company to leverage both the good and bad times they have experienced.  This in turn, better assures that the host can effectively handle trouble problems when they arise.

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If you do choose to partner with an outside firm, it is important to go carefully go over the fine print and pay close attention to what is being guaranteed.  You need to make sure the obligations and commitment to reliability are clearly outlined in the contract so that everything is understood by all parties.  If you can, take a physical tour throughout the provider’s facility to ensure that the best practices are being followed and your e-commerce systems are taken care of.  Should your internal IT staff be strong enough to maintain the entire project internally, be sure to devise a sound strategy that will keep your systems online despite the hardships or disasters that might come your way.

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