Why You Need Specialized
Hosting for Ecommerce Platforms!

Tenzing Specialized HostingEcommerce software has some distinct characteristics when it comes to hosting. As a result, most organizations choose to outsource the infrastructure and its management to a Managed Services Provider (MSP) rather than doing it in-house. Availability, performance, security and support are table-stakes when you trust any large-scale application to a third-party. However, if you’re in the ecommerce business, the demands are even higher and without specialized hosting, they will be difficult to meet.

Ecommerce Defines Mission-Critical

Ecommerce epitomizes the expression “time is money.” Outages for online retailers translate into missed sales and lost customers.  A general principle in ecommerce is that you only get eight seconds to capture the attention of a new online shopper. Systems simply can’t go down, so you need failover plans, redundancy, and IT people who can deal with the pressures and nuances of ecommerce hosting.

Performance is another key factor. If your ecommerce site pages load slowly, the number of abandoned shopping carts and unfinished transactions will quickly add up. According to a recent article by blogbranz, “for a normal website, a delay of just one second can result in a 7% drop in conversion rates.” The impact increases dramatically during busy holiday shopping seasons and promotional periods when site traffic skyrockets.

Also, security needs to be on constant high-alert since ecommerce is now the prime target for hackers and thieves. Breaches that lead to stolen Personally Identifiable Information (PII), including credit card numbers can damage your company’s reputation and your bottom line. Customers won’t shop online if they don’t trust your security and there can be legal issues as well.

In-House Challenges

Whether it’s Oracle Commerce, SAP Hybris, Magento Enterprise or another licensed platform, it’s tough to deploy and manage such complex technologies in-house. The challenge is even more so for mid-sized companies where the IT teams are smaller with more generalized skill-sets. Some of the key challenges of the DIY approach include:

  • Heavy infrastructure costs for servers, storage, network build-outs and facility upgrades.
  • Investments for advanced monitoring tools and other specialized software.
  • Finding the right talent – once they’ve been trained and are up to speed, they are often difficult to retain with their new highly-valued skills.
  • We’ve talked to a number of companies whose buying practices limit their ability to meet the demands of ecommerce growth, taking as long as 3 or 4 months to procure a new server.
  • In some cases, there is a 24×7 support requirement. To do this for a single application is a very expensive proposition.

Why Specialized Hosting?

There are plenty of general-purpose providers in the market. But, if they have little or no experience with your platform, you are taking a risk. The MSP needs to know how your application will interact with the infrastructure, and therefore must have a thorough understanding of your system. Without this expertise, problems are bound to arise.

Vendors must know how to align the environment with the application, integrations to back-office systems, and payment processing services. Increased shopping on mobile devices adds another layer of complexity. There are also regulatory requirements such as the PCI-DSS to contend with.

Buying a premium ecommerce platform is a major investment. Therefore, doing the homework before selecting who will run and manage this key asset is critical. The decision is so important that some spend good money for ecommerce consultants to help them decide.

Essential Selection Criteria

When it comes to making the right choice, here are the more important items you should have at the top of your checklist:

  • Beyond Hosting:
    One of the hottest topics in business and especially ecommerce these days is Digital Transformation (DX). It’s increasingly important for technology vendors to help customers in their DX journeys. In the context of this discussion – this means working with a partner that understands the broader spectrum. Helping you assess new technologies, cloud/hybrid infrastructure options, enabling SaaS applications are just a few examples. The more value the specialized hosting partner can offer beyond their own solutions, the better!
  • Experience and Expertise
    You need to determine how deep the potential MSP truly is with the application. Find out how long they have focused on ecommerce, how many customers they have, and what they do for them. Ask to speak with some of their clients and be thorough during the interview process.
  • Delivery Capabilities:
    It’s a given that a specialized hosting provider should intimately know your ecommerce platform, but what about other services to help with PCI compliance, advanced application monitoring, and content delivery? Ideally, it should be able to offload some, or all, of the application maintenance and support so you have a single resource you can rely on at all times. If your MSP can operationally run your application from end-to-end, they can pinpoint issues faster and optimize more effectively.
  • Flexibility and Scaling:
    Given the dynamic nature of ecommerce, proactive capacity planning and cost-effective scaling (up and down) are always important criteria when evaluating a specialized hosting provider. This includes options from the purely technical point of view, plus the contractual flexibility needed to make it feasible.
  • Security and Compliance:
    It’s crucial that the company you work with adheres to and maintains major industry certifications such as PCI-DSS, AT-101, ISO, and ITIL. These third-party accreditations demonstrate a commitment to providing the highest levels of service, security, and compliance possible.
  • Proactive Optimization
    Your MSP should continually monitor and refine capacity, performance, and security. You need a partner that understands your current situation and future goals. One that will proactively optimize the infrastructure and management processes to help you succeed. Having a dedicated technical resource assigned to your account is a must for larger environments.
  • Operational Support:
    Keeping ecommerce sites running is an on-going and intensive activity. Therefore, you should take the time to learn how the provider’s support mechanisms will work. What are their contingencies and escalation procedures? Can they help with system upgrades and change management? Will you get help when it matters most?

The Bottom Line

As your online channel grows, outsourcing infrastructure and managed services can provide many advantages. But, it can be risky if you choose a vendor that’s not highly focused on ecommerce, and more specifically, your application. Ultimately, your ecommerce platform isn’t just mission-critical IT infrastructure; it’s a revenue generation engine and an integral part of your overall business strategy.

Aisling McCaffrey

Demand Marketing Specialist at Thinkwrap
Aisling is our Demand Marketing Specialist at Thinkwrap, and loves working with both technology and humans. She studied International Business (concentrating in Marketing) and has spent several years living and working in China, mostly in Shanghai, where she became passionate about global innovation and how the use of social media changes in different cultures. Aisling likes to keep up on internet trends - from business to memes - and is always looking for new ways to learn or entertain herself.