Picking a cloud

Cloud security for e-commerce IT teams

Coman Hamilton
Cloud image via Shutterstock

Security is still the biggest concern for e-commerce enterprises pondering cloud expansion. There are three things an e-commerce IT team should consider when deciding on their cloud solution, says Rackspace’s cloud computing pro Marco Schmid.

JAXenter: A recent survey showed that 9 in 10 organisations are worried about public cloud security. How do you see the problem here?

Marco Schmid: We definitely see this concern still being a reality when we are in first contact with possible customers. However there was a change especially in 2014 in perception of this topic in the conversations we have in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Driven by the need to innovate and ever increasing need to deliver services and products quicker, companies are no longer satisfied with not embracing cloud technology based on doubts.

This is not always just business driven but also we see that DevOps initiatives, the operational approach to integrate developers and operations teams in order to improve collaboration and productivity by automating infrastructure, automating workflows and continuously measuring application performance, especially in bigger companies lead the discussion.

Can you give us a sense of how e-commerce companies have been implementing cloud technologies so far?

E-commerce companies are implementing cloud technologies to satisfy different requirements based on where they are in their stage of development. What most of them have in common is the need to be able to react to changes very quickly. This is where cloud technology is naturally well positioned with its ability to deliver resources on demand and the ability to automate via APIs.

An example if where this is implemented is the quite common use case of satisfying need to accommodate changing resources requirements due to seasonal, weekly or daily peaks. What often stays a bit more in the background is that the flexibility also is welcomed in the development process. As projects are carried out with agile methodologies dev-departments need the flexibility to change quickly and the infrastructure can’t be the bottleneck.

Where do you see the cloud developing for e-commerce firms in the near future?

The continuous rise of data driven innovation is also in e-commerce one of the top topics. If it comes to the trends that kept the businesses in the Industry busy in the last months or years, they are predominantly data driven. If it is to understand conversion rates, how the platforms usability and interaction with the customers is or to better understand the customers’ needs and purchasing behaviour in the world of omni-channel commerce – it is all data driven.

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Cloud technology hence has to support this direction. More than often we see the requirement to mix multi-tenant public cloud with private cloud or dedicated infrastructure to accommodate these needs. In this context we often talk about data gravity which describes that wherever data accumulates, the need to build other services close by is more likely and important. The difference for these services is of course that when more and more data is collected it does not move around compared to for example data processing resources where you spin up and down compute resources very quickly. Requirements around resiliency and performance are more dominant and  leading to Hybrid Cloud designs.

What risks are involved for e-commerce IT teams planning to expand in the Cloud?

Due to the fact that cloud computing allows an on demand model the risks involved are much smaller compared to planning and buying an own infrastructure in an ever changing landscape.

However when it comes to integrating cloud technology into the applications via programming interfaces there are choices involved regarding the APIs or automation frameworks the cloud provider uses. This can become quite significant based on the level of integration. An in depth analysis before making such commitments in order to keeping options open for future change is therefore advised.

What should e-commerce companies watch out for when deciding for a Cloud platform?

There are definitely hundreds of things one could check before deciding what Cloud Platform to choose. However we think three key areas should be paid special attention.

1) Openness and Technology

The development cycles of e-commerce companies are increasing in order to better reach customers and position products. New trends emerge quickly and need to be put to action. In this changing environment you want to choose a Cloud platform that provides you with modern technology to support this lifecycle.

Whoever you choose as your cloud provider should offer a wide variety of standard technology to satisfy your requirements rather than just offering “their” technology that can be outdated 6months from now. Looking for broad standard technology support and the consulting around it to make the right choice for your use case should be preferred.

2) Global

As an e-commerce company you have a global customer base. Even if you start local you might want to keep your options open to go global. With that your need to get closer to your customers by having infrastructures in different continents or using Content Delivery Networks will arise quickly.

Above all working together with a provider of a true global platform will give you valuable insights on how to scale globally both from a technology and scaling perspective and using the experience that have been made with other of their customers.

3) Partnership

Last but not least we suggest to evaluate an reliable partner. This is more Business than technology driven. As your e-commerce Platform will be the most important source of the revenue you want to make sure whoever you work with is reliable, understands your business and most importantly cares about your success. What level of support does the provider offer? Do they have the right mix of experts in the technology you run? How can you benefit from their experience to embrace technologies like big data and analytics to get to the next level?

Technology is actually an aspect of successful e-commerce businesses, but not as important as expertise, ability to innovate or business-culture. Choosing a platform that give you the right technology but also matches your company in these aspects will deliver much more than just getting compute and storage resources on demand.

Coman Hamilton
Coman was Editor of at S&S Media Group. He has a master's degree in cultural studies and has written and edited content for numerous news, tech and culture websites and magazines, as well as several ad agencies.

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