Common E-Commerce Infrastructure Challenges and How to Address Them
This article was originally published in TotalRetail on March 21, 2019.
According to Webscale’s recent State of E-Commerce Infrastructure report, 6.4 percent of online merchants cited downtime as their biggest challenge during the e-commerce industry’s lucrative fourth quarter in 2018. Furthermore, 11.9 percent of merchants reported serious site slowdown issues, and 21 percent admitted to experiencing cyber attacks. Lastly, 18.35 percent of merchants grappled with all three challenges.
Webscale’s research, which included data points from more than 350 e-commerce professionals, was primarily aimed at finding out how their storefronts coped with the high demands placed on them during the holiday season. Questions covered topics such as performance (e.g., page load times), availability (website uptime), and security. The survey also sought to identify the major site infrastructure challenges e-commerce businesses face today.
Findings revealed that despite the arrival of the cloud more than a decade ago, e-commerce infrastructure continues to struggle with physical hardware limitations and its inherent challenges: downtime, site slowdowns, and lack of adequate security to defend against hackers and cyber criminals.
Stuck with dedicated hosting environments and constrained by hardware-limited capacities, many online merchants are still unable to scale their resources fast enough in response to dynamically changing demand (especially massive, unexpected traffic spikes). This leads to website crashes and, ultimately, frustrated shoppers. The same limitations also cause significant slowdowns in page load times when site traffic approaches its peak. Cyber security, too, remains a concern, be it in terms of identity and credit card theft or brute force attacks.
How Online Merchants Can Address These Challenges in 2019
The first step online merchants can take to solve these issues is getting out of their legacy managed hosting environments and migrating to the cloud. Once that’s done, here are some technologies and best practices you can implement to address specific challenges:
- Downtime: Auto-scaling — preferably predictive auto-scaling — can be deployed, so cloud-based resources (servers) can be added to or removed from your online storefront based on site traffic in real time. Predictive auto-scaling technology enables you to get ahead of those rapid changes in demand so that your capacity is always right-sized, ensuring consistent, reliable site availability (100 percent uptime) as well as improved management of costs.
- Slow Page Loads: Several best practices such as the use of content delivery networks (CDNs), advanced page and content optimization techniques, dynamic site caching (caching of HTML pages and content for anonymous sessions), and configuring third-party assets to be deferred or downloaded in parallel help improve page load speeds significantly.
- Cyber Attacks: With cyber threats becoming increasingly malicious and frequent, there’s a serious need for 360-degree security. It’s wise to invest in a solution stack that comprises a next-generation web application firewall as well as advanced protection such as bot management (powered by machine learning) and file integrity monitoring. Security patches must be installed regularly and as soon as they’re available, without exception, so hackers can’t exploit known vulnerabilities to gain admin access to the site.
Site uptime, performance and security are critical to delivering a great user experience to online shoppers. Webscale’s research seems to indicate that online merchants are headed in the right direction. Consider that 36.1 percent of online merchants are actively looking for solutions to enhance site performance, 24.1 percent are evaluating solutions to eliminate downtime, and 29.6 percent are looking to upgrade their security infrastructure.