The time to move to the cloud was yesterday! Tired of being shackled by the physical infrastructure-defined limitations of dedicated hosting environments (limited scalability, site downtime during peak sale events, sluggish performance, high cost of ownership, etc.), e-commerce business owners globally are migrating their online storefronts to the cloud.
Migrating an e-commerce site to a public cloud-based hosting environment presents many benefits – extreme flexibility, infinite capacity, predictive scalability, round-the-clock accessibility and faster page load times. Moving to the cloud can also significantly lower costs by having a system that is always right-sized, so you only pay for what you use.
That said, the journey to the cloud requires a lot of planning – from taking stock of what you already have, to ensuring continuity of service, and finally, accomplishing the business objectives driving the migration in the first place. You need to consider a number of different factors before and during the migration to ensure success, and each decision entails resources, costs, time, and complexity tradeoffs that must be carefully evaluated before proceeding.
Here’s a simple but (hopefully!) comprehensive checklist you can follow when migrating and managing your e-commerce storefront in the cloud:
1. Make sure you know WHY you’re moving to the cloud.
Choosing whether or not to migrate to the cloud, and subsequently, selecting the right cloud architecture and functionalities for your site, is as much of a business decision, as a technology one (if not more so).
Are you doing it to reduce costs? Or are you driven by the need to eliminate site downtime during massive traffic surges triggered by aggressive marketing promotions?
For your cloud migration to be truly successful, you need to clearly define and prioritize your business objectives and select the right set of features and functionalities that your cloud provider can offer for your site. If you want to accomplish these goals, you should not settle for a “one-size-fits-all” solution.
2. Automate your application migration to the cloud.
Most hosting providers use the “lift-and-shift” method of application migration to the cloud as it is cheaper and less time consuming than completely re-architecting an application to make it cloud-native. With lift-and-shift, one can replicate the application in the cloud without modifying its design, or by making only minor adjustments. The downside of this method is that it fails to leverage all the benefits of the cloud, leading to additional incurred costs to run and maintain the application.
Re-architecting your e-commerce application for the cloud can become almost inevitable if you have a growing online business. Avoiding this may lead to scalability issues, checkout slowness, and poor user experience. However, re-writing the entire application can suck up massive amounts of time and resources.
Adopting an auto-provisioning model instead, where the entire application is migrated into the cloud as a software-defined entity, allows you to avoid the pitfalls associated with both lift-and-shift and re-architecting approaches. In auto-provisioning, you turn infrastructure into code, making it flexible, versionable, human-readable, and testable. This allows future deployments, changes, rebuilds, and integrating new applications become effortless, single-click operations.
3. Integrate CI/CD processes.
Continuous integration (CI) is a set of coding practices that drive development teams to implement small changes and check in code to version control repositories frequently. Since most modern applications require developing code in different tools and platforms, the team needs a mechanism to integrate and validate its changes. The goal of CI is to establish a consistent and automated way to build, package, and test applications.
Continuous delivery (CD) automates the delivery of applications to selected infrastructure environments. Most development teams work with multiple environments other than production, such as development and testing environments, and CD ensures there is an automated way to push code changes to them.
By integrating CI/CD processes, your team can implement continuous deployment of your e-commerce application as they run through the CI/CD pipeline, and validated builds are deployed directly to the cloud-based hosting environment. If your web application shows errors following a code change, you can launch a rolled back system in minutes to get your online storefront back up and running with minimized disruption.
4. Sign up for features to ensure 100% site uptime, and to effectively handle unexpected traffic peaks.
Ensuring 100% site uptime is a tough challenge, particularly during times of peak demand due to aggressive marketing campaigns, promotional offers, influencer marketing, seasonal changes, etc. When site traffic goes up by 10X or 100X, a lot of e-commerce sites crash.
Migrating to the cloud enables you to tap into the (virtually) infinite capacity offered by your cloud service provider. But you need to make sure you’re leveraging the cloud provider’s auto-scaling capabilities (preferably predictive auto-scaling) to ensure 100% uptime.
5. Develop a disaster recovery plan.
If your hosting provider does experience downtime, how quickly can you be back online? How much data can you expect to lose? And what happens if your application goes down due to a bad code deployment?
You need to have answers to these questions figured out as part of your disaster recovery plan. A multi-cloud hosting solution often provides the highest resilience to ensure that the impact of a disaster on your e-commerce storefront is minimal.
6. Implement robust cybersecurity measures.
When you migrate to the public cloud, you considerably increase the attack surface area of your application. Therefore, you need to implement robust cybersecurity measures to protect your online storefront, business, and your customers’ data (such as identity and credit card information).
Given the growing range, sophistication, and magnitude of cyber-attacks, a basic web application firewall (WAF) is not enough. Make sure you have a DDoS mitigation solution in place to safeguard your storefront from brute force attacks, intrusion detection to mitigate zero-day exploits, and sophisticated bot management to protect your site from the onslaught of malicious bots.
7. Adopt measures to enhance site performance.
Blazing fast site performance is critical to delivering a great user experience to your online shoppers.
You should consider implementing page and content optimization techniques to optimize web page asset delivery, decrease page size, and reduce the number of round trips. This will significantly improve site performance.
Integrating a content delivery network (CDN) and load balancer with your online storefront can make it load even faster. Furthermore, image management tools can help achieve faster page loads by compressing images and changing the format where necessary, without degrading quality.
8. Make sure you have access to a team of cloud migration and management experts.
Given the above considerations, migrating to the cloud and managing your infrastructure once you’re there, is not an easy task, and the chances of failure are non-trivial.
Unfortunately, the e-commerce industry today faces an acute cloud skills shortage. As online merchants increasingly migrate or plan to migrate to cloud-hosted environments, there is an exponentially growing demand for experts skilled at cloud technologies and processes. And as demand outpaces supply, hiring these experts in-house is often difficult and prohibitively expensive.
Consider investing in a hosting provider with a team of skilled cloud experts that have demonstrated success in migrating and managing several e-commerce storefronts in the cloud.