Optimized Ecommerce Platforms = Happy Online Shoppers

The bar for online ecommerce sites continues to rise, a result of growing demand amongst consumers for better, faster, more intuitive websites. As many e-retailers have learned – perhaps the hard way – they may face declining revenues and lower customer loyalty if those demands aren’t met.

To protect their revenue streams and bolster the online customer experience, many merchants are now investigating new ways to improve the speed and performance of their websites. With the proliferation of technology solutions and tailored cloud platforms, e-retailers are finding countless variations of back-end solutions to help meet these goals, namely with hosted ecommerce platforms. Of course, that’s a great position to be in for e-retailers because it gives them the ability to customize their websites even further and tune backend support systems as needed. But, the crowded hosting market can also get very confusing if retailers don’t quite know what they’re looking for.

Optimizing for Better Performance

The first, and most important, lesson for e-retailers when it comes to choosing the right hosting solution is the importance of servers that are optimized and tuned to the specific needs of their ecommerce platform. Most ecommerce platforms, will deliver the best site performance on infrastructure that is optimized to their exact requirements. Unnecessary applications are removed from these honed infrastructure solutions, optimizing the reliability, efficiency and overall performance of the system to ensure a fast shopping experience for end users. Without this customization, e-retailers are likely to face slow-loading pages, abandoned shopping carts and lost revenue.

Hosting environments optimized for ecommerce will also come pre-installed with all the necessary software and tuned configurations to optimize server software and extract the maximum performance from the hardware. These solutions also offer a predefined scalability path to maximize resources and ensure market growth is not compromised. That can mean a huge time and cost savings for e-retailers that are quickly growing or expanding into new markets and geographies, while still meeting shoppers’ high performance mandate.

To Cloud, Or Not to Cloud

Once e-retailers have identified the appropriate hosting solution for their ecommerce platform, the next step is to decide whether to host it in the cloud or on a managed server. It’s a common misconception that these options will not impact the customer shopping experience. In fact, the decision between cloud and managed hosting can actually have far-reaching effects on an e-retailer’s website performance.

First, let’s take a look at cloud environments. The primary benefit of a cloud-based ecommerce platform is the flexibility it offers e-retailers. Cloud environments make it easy to scale up or down, vertically as well as horizontally, ensuring the site is never overloaded while also reducing infrastructure costs. Most ecommerce cloud platforms only charge for what is used, so infrastructure that would have otherwise sat gathering dust for 11 months out of the year is now no longer necessary.

Having that level of flexibility can also support new services or global expansion, allowing e-retailers to spin up a new server in about 15 minutes whenever and wherever they need it – that’s hours, or maybe even days, faster than would be possible with managed hosting. Retailers can also spin a cloud server back down later in the week if it’s no longer needed. With the capability to support shorter bursts of activity, cloud hosting is the best solution for e-retailers that see constantly shifting demand.

Managed hosting, on the other hand, cannot accommodate unpredictable usage patterns. But, such “inflexibility” can actually be a positive attribute in many cases in that it means managed environments are incredibly stable. E-retailers that use managed hosting know what their bill will be each month, and they know exactly how much CPU they have at their disposal. Plus, because the usage demands of retailers on a managed server are generally predictable, there are very rarely any negative impacts on performance as a result of “noisy neighbors” – that is, when high traffic from one of numerous hosting tenants overloads the server’s compute power, resulting in poor performance for the other tenants.

What Do YOU Want?

Of course, many e-retailers find that a combination of cloud and managed hosting is best for their organization, using a managed or dedicated server to host the database and a cloud environment to host the website back-end. What’s important, though, is that e-retailers ensure that the hosting platform they use for their website is tailored to their needs. Out of the box isn’t a strength when it comes to ecommerce sites – it’s all about optimization.

Toby Owen, is VP of Product for Peer 1 Hosting