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eCommerce Infrastructure 101: Building Your Online Business

By: Blair Felter on July 14, 2020

While online retailers understandably spend a lot of time and energy focusing on creating a good customer experience, they could be wasting their time if they’re not giving equal attention to eCommerce infrastructure. That’s because without the right backbone in place to support their networks, retailers will find themselves dealing with plenty of frustrated customers. By hosting their core network assets in a data center environment, companies can leverage an eCommerce infrastructure that unlocks their potential for true digital transformation.

Why Good eCommerce Infrastructure Matters

Having the right IT infrastructure in place to support an eCommerce marketplace is important because it is one of the biggest factors in ensuring network reliability. While user experience is a critical element of any eCommerce platform’s success, even the most elegantly designed customer portal will fail to catch on if it keeps crashing or is routinely slow and unresponsive. Even if retail services only go down for a short period of time or if the outage only impacts a small percentage of users, the potential fallout of this downtime can be massive.

While many companies have suffered the indignity of an eCommerce outage on high-profile shopping days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the most infamous example was Amazon’s Prime Day outage in 2018 (and, to a lesser extent, the scattered outages for Prime Day 2019). Despite being one of the leading names in reliable cloud computing, Amazon’s infrastructure couldn’t handle the pressure and struggled to keep up with demand, resulting in widespread criticisms and unhappy customers. The embarrassing outage even created an opportunity for competitors, with online retailers like eBay promoting a special “Crash Sale” to capitalize on the media attention.

Infrastructure is also essential to good eCommerce security. When customers use their credit card information to make online purchases, they want to know that information will be kept safe and secure. Building an eCommerce platform on secure infrastructure that keeps data well protected and adheres to the leading compliance frameworks (like DSS PCI) should be an absolute requirement for any company hoping to build and retain trust with their customers. A network system that experiences frequent outages due to unreliable infrastructure will quickly cause customers to doubt whether the appropriate measures are being taken to keep their personal information protected.

5 Things to Look for in Data Center Infrastructure for eCommerce

Colocation data centers provide a much more secure foundation for eCommerce infrastructure than most cloud-based solutions. That’s because data centers offer more reliability and flexibility when it comes to designing and building network services. Here are a few things to watch for when evaluating the suitability of a data center.

1. Uptime SLA

Infrastructure reliability is measured in terms of system uptime, or the percentage of time that a network is available over a certain period (usually yearly or monthly). The infrastructure provider commits to delivering a set level of availability in a service level agreement (SLA). A public cloud provider that offers a 99.99% uptime SLA, for instance, is guaranteeing to its customers that their networks will be available 99.99% of the time. Considering that this amounts to nearly an hour of downtime each year, data centers hold themselves to a much higher standard. A 100% uptime SLA should be considered a “table stakes” feature of any reputable colocation provider.

2. Risk Mitigation Options

While data centers have multiple redundant infrastructure systems in place to ensure high levels of uptime and data availability, many retail companies want to be able to offer their customers an additional layer of protection and take steps to ensure business continuity in the event of an unforeseen incident. The use of cold site and hot site backup locations allow data centers to protect their clients from disaster and help them meet their recovery time objectives (RTO) should their primary systems ever go down. Data centers can also mitigate risk by managing access to essential data and other assets.

3. Transparency

Whether an eCommerce company is relying upon its own infrastructure or a third-party’s, they aren’t going to know whether they’re getting the best possible performance and efficiency without a high level of transparency. Many public cloud providers, for instance, give very little insight into power and bandwidth utilization, which can result in unexpected bills each month. Thanks to intelligent monitoring tools (like vXchnge’s in\site), colocation customers can monitor their infrastructure to verify that they’re delivering the best possible performance for their customers. This is especially important for a growing eCommerce company that requires data to plan for capacity growth that is in keeping with the actual demand for their services.

4. Responsiveness

Having reliable, world-class infrastructure is important, of course, but so is having the experienced support staff that knows how to get the most out of it. When something goes wrong, every second spent trying to sort out and resolve the problem represents lost revenue and brand damage for an eCommerce company. Data centers are staffed by experienced and skilled technicians who can identify and address issues quickly to keep an online retail network running smoothly. Remote hands technicians function as an extension of in-house IT teams, and quality colocation providers make them available 24x7x365 to ensure maximum responsiveness to the needs of their customers.

5. Scalability

Every eCommerce company has plans to grow and to grow fast. They need to have access to scalable infrastructure that can accommodate growth, allowing them to add capacity quickly and easily when demand is increasing. Data center infrastructure makes it possible to add new hardware assets quickly without having to rethink broader power and cooling infrastructure needs. Furthermore, the extensive connectivity options available to data centers make it possible to create hybrid IT environments that are flexible enough to facilitate a true digital transformation for online retailers.

Transform Your eCommerce Infrastructure with vXchnge

With multiple data center locations in key growth markets across the US, vXchnge data centers are ideally positioned to deliver reliable, low-latency colocation services that put eCommerce companies closer to their customers. Engineered for perfection and backed by 100% uptime SLAs, our colocation facilities are designed from the ground up with compliance and security to mind to keep your essential data and assets secure. And thanks to our award-winning in\site intelligent monitoring platform, customers can gain the transparency and control they need to make data-driven decisions about the digital infrastructure that drives their business. To learn more about how our colocation services can transform your relationship with your retail customers, contact one of our data center experts today.

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