More and more people are shopping online. Almost daily it seems, the media publishes new, exciting information regarding the ever-booming ecommerce industry. People are buying goods from their PCs, their tablets and their smart phones, around the clock. Boxing Day 2011, for example, broke records for the amount of online shopping that took place.
To respond to this increasing demand, smaller ecommerce businesses need to adopt a robust system that can cope with peaks and troughs without costing the earth. The solution? Cloud computing.
Cloud computing seems to be the technological topic de jour, but can it really bring all of the benefits that industry commentators expound? Especially to smaller merchants? Will those who fail to embrace cloud computing really suffer the consequences?
Certainly they might miss out on some great cost savings. One of the main attractions of cloud computing is that clients are only charged for the services that they use, akin to ‘pay-as-you-go’ schemes. Therefore it should immediately save money. Additionally, because the client uses the cloud provider’s resources, they won’t need to spend money on equipment, maintenance, new software updates nor related manpower. After all, how many small ecommerce businesses have had to buy more equipment to cope with heavy demand at peak times? How much of that equipment lays unused for ten months of the year? Plenty, no doubt. With cloud computing, however, money won’t be wasted on redundant items. It is easy to scale up resources to cope with busy periods, i.e. the holidays, using extra servers to ensure all transactions are completed. Then, when demand reaches usual levels, the extra resources can be ‘turned off’.
Another benefit of cloud hosting is that there’s no need to invest in fancy PC equipment to use cloud computing, all data can be accessed through the usual well-known browsers – Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. – which is great news for those with smaller operations. With separate cloud hosting, access to particular applications can be given and easily made for other stakeholders – such as suppliers – who could facilitate their invoicing on the internet; no longer needing to send paper invoices. The whole process can be completed far more quickly and far more accurately.
Not only that, but using the cloud can contribute towards a firm’s business continuity measures. Recent high winds and extreme weather have demonstrated the effects of nature on companies, shutting down offices, causing power cuts – potentially interrupting business. That’s all very bad news for the ecommerce industry, which could lose thousands/millions of pounds in lost business. That’s why keeping the online operation hosted via cloud makes such good sense: networks won’t be affected and business can continue as normal.
It’s good for consumers too, whose shopping experience will be smoother and not disturbed by power outages, etc. Plus they will be able to choose between many more online retailers, as due to economies of scale, cloud computing is affordable by all sizes of businesses. Therefore, it allows smaller ecommerce merchants to compete alongside their bigger counterparts. It is a concept which can be used by all and could well make a dent in any marketplace domination held by large, rival organisations.
It’s been said that 90 per cent of all ecommerce businesses will make use of the cloud by 2017. Given that cloud computing is a flexible, affordable technology which can help smaller ecommerce businesses evolve, compete and succeed, it’s little wonder.