Thanks to the Internet and eCommerce, just about any company can now be open for business 24×7. Online shopping has been growing steadily, with recent research showing over 65% of consumers looking to shop online during the holiday season. Those people who are shopping online are also increasingly doing so with their smartphones and tablets as well.
Businesses who want to get into eCommerce for their own products are finding it increasingly easier to do so. Shopping carts can be custom built or purchased as an add-on or plugin, and there are countless shopping-based themes for WordPress or Drupal designed sites available. It’s almost becoming common to think about who doesn’t have a shopping cart as part of their site, vs. who does.
Coming up with a quality theme or design to wrap around an eCommerce engine is just part of the equation, however. The larger your company’s online store is, the more space and traffic your website will require. Backend databases that actually contain all of your inventory info can become quite large in a very short period of time if your product lines expand, or become popular quickly. And that’s not even taking into consideration the privacy and security aspects of eCommerce; if your site is taking client payment information, it may quickly become a target.
Lower cost shared hosting packages are often great values for companies who purely view their websites as informational tools. You may often have certain space and bandwidth caps, but the availability of different packages will almost always provide a plan that will work out for you. However, once the aspect of eCommerce comes into play, it’s often a much better choice to consider a dedicated server for a number of reasons.
First and foremost, security on a dedicated server is paramount to your eCommerce concerns. The ability to securely protect and encrypt your customers personally identifiable information (PII) should be at the top of your priority list, given how often we (unfortunately) hear about larger corporations who have been hit with data theft. If it can happen to huge national companies, it can most certainly happen to yours. Often, some security features that you’d have available on your own dedicated server can’t be set up on a lower cost shared hosting plan. Because shared hosting accounts share server space and requirements with anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand other websites, server security can’t be locked down too hard which might disrupt services running on other websites on that server or cluster. Having your site hosted on a dedicated server means your company has full control over the security levels and permissions it sets.
Hosting space is another big component of relying on eCommerce to bring in revenue. As mentioned earlier, inventory databases and saved client information can take up a large amount of server space as your offerings and your client base grow. Having your own dedicated server means your company controls how much space you have available to your site. In some shared hosting platforms, when a site hits it’s bandwidth limit, it’s automatically suspended in order to protect the other sites hosted on that server from having any traffic or space assigned to them compromised. This could result in prolonged downtime for your website and store along with potentially lost revenue. A dedicated server means you control everything involved, and you can monitor the various aspects of the site itself.
Hosting the server itself is also a big part of eCommerce hosting. If your company has enough redundant bandwidth and power to keep the site active, you may be able to host it internally. Many smaller companies don’t have the ability to protect against prolonged outages that might happen if there’s a large storm or ongoing inclement weather, so often hosting that dedicated server with your eCommerce site in a data center might be a better option. Data centers will be able to provide many redundant bandwidth links (usually over fiber and cross connects) along with reliable backup power such as onsite UPSs and generators. While your local office might be shut down due to a blizzard, your customers on the other side of the country are still looking to make purchases – if your site is down for days at a time due to weather-related outages, your accounts may start looking elsewhere.
When your company is ready to take the step into eCommerce, or you’re looking to expand your online offerings, remember that online shopping goes far beyond your site’s graphics and looks. Making sure your site’s backend and infrastructure can support you now and down the road is very important; a dedicated server may just be the way for you to go to ensure that store uptime and happy online customers.