E-Commerce has undergone a number of massive changes since its inception, but no technological advancement has more to offer than the cloud. In fact, the ebb and flow of e-commerce web traffic is almost exactly what the implementation of cloud-based hardware is designed for. The cloud can take many forms: from fully public clouds where all data is stored and managed offsite to fully private clouds that just take advantage of virtual software applications and even the hybrid cloud that sits in between.
Cloud Benefits for e-Commerce:
E-commerce websites are uniquely positioned to take advantage of all types of cloud computing services, since they have rapidly changing computing needs. When the site had a sudden increase in demand for resources, like during the holiday season or a special promotion, if the e-commerce site is using a cloud-based solution, then additional virtual pieces of hardware will spin up to handle the volume. When that volume subsides, those additional resources spin down or get reallocated to other customers. This elasticity means that customers will experience a stable environment, even during a massive traffic spike.
The way that the cloud allocates resources also helps control hosting costs, especially for e-commerce sites that experience large traffic spikes. In a public or hybrid cloud environment, e-commerce businesses will only pay for the resources they use. Without the cloud, these businesses would have to pay for an entire data center to ensure they could handle traffic spikes, racking up unnecessary charges during times when traffic is slow.
The cloud also offers e-commerce businesses the ability to bring new segments of a website to the market much faster than they would otherwise be able to. Instead of going through a long acquisition process getting the required hardware for the new endeavor, the business simply needs to spin up additional resources to cover the new traffic level. Additionally, with Platform-as-a-Service solutions, e-commerce developers can create applications in the cloud, further decreasing the time between inception and reality.
Hybrid Clouds and e-Commerce:
Of course, no solution is right for every e-commerce site, but there are a few signs that signal cloud adoption may be a way to increase performance or lower costs. First, any e-commerce site that generally has excess IT resources sitting unused would see a significant benefit from cloud adoption. Second, any e-commerce site that could benefit from a reduction of capital expenditures may enjoy having their IT costs spread out over the year, and tied more toward actual usage levels.
Of course, the move to the cloud is not without its drawbacks and issues, like data security. A true public cloud solution requires that all data is managed and stored with a third party, which can be a dicey proposition for any business handling sensitive customer information. To get around this problem, many e-commerce sites are turning to a hybrid cloud solution.
In a hybrid cloud, the front end of the website is still managed by a third party with a large data center, allowing for the scalability that the cloud is known for, but keeping some web servers and the database servers on a private network. In these solutions, a load balancer on the front end will determine which traffic needs to use the cloud space, and which uses the private space. The use of a dedicated server in this solution gives e-commerce websites the benefits of the cloud while ensuring that all the important information is stored on a secure, private network.
Regardless of the type of cloud computing an e-commerce business decides to go with, the future of commerce on the Internet is focused on the cloud. Over the next few years, e-commerce companies that shift further into the cloud are sure to gain an advantage over those that delay their cloud implementation.