Design for E-commerce Site

You must consider several design issues and decisions when developing a design for an e-commerce site. Assuming that there is no existing infrastructure, the prime design factors will be based on requirements, budget, and available expertise.
More often than not, requirements tend to fall by the wayside and decisions are based solely on available resources (both budget and personnel). Important decisions in an e-commerce design include the following:
  • Where will the Web site physically reside?
  • What kind of operating system will be used?
  • What Web server will be used?
  • How will active content be implemented?
  • What is the procedure for maintenance and integrity assurance?
Deciding where to physically locate the e-commerce site is a simple trade-off between resources and control. As the dedicated budget and personnel increase for a site, webhosting can progress up the steps from a virtual server, which offers little control over security, to a complete do-it-yourself solution that provides total control.
If budget and expertise are limited, a virtual hosting service may be a good fit. In this circumstance, a single server that is located at the webhosting company is shared across several domains. As the client, you are responsible for supplying your own domain (for example, and the content of the site.
Costs associated with this service range from $5 per month to several hundred depending on disk usage, traffic, and additional services that you require. Several limitations are associated with this arrangement. First, because this is a low-cost solution designed for smaller clients, bandwidth may be limited. One or two spikes of traffic may cause the virtual Web server to become overwhelmed.
When it comes to e-commerce, any delay in service can cost revenue. Second, because you do not own the machine, you are subject to configuration and software provided by the webhosting company. If you need to implement something unique, this may be an obstacle. Also, by sharing the computer with others and not administering it yourself, your control over the security of the Web site is out of your hands.
This can be especially dangerous because your site’s reputation directly influences how willing customers will be to purchase online from you. If you knew that a Web site had a problem with security would you buy from it?
The next step up in the hosting arena is to rent a dedicated server. Like virtual hosting, the provider owns the machine, but your company has the ability to dictate the configuration of it. Security concerns are also decreased because the server is dedicated to your purpose, and only your company has access to it.
However, because you are not responsible for maintaining the server you are reliant on the security expertise of the hosting administrator. Although these administrators are highly trained, the risk of a configuration error jeopardizing your site remains out of your hands. Fees associated with dedicated servers start around $75 per month.
Co-location is a good intermediate solution for companies that want control over the software and administration of their Web servers, but do not have their own dedicated facilities. The provider arranges a network connection and physical storage space, but you own the hardware and software. Additionally, you are responsible for the site’s maintenance and security.
One benefit to using this service is that special measures are generally taken to ensure uninterrupted power and Internet service. Providing this quality of service at your physical business location can become costly.
Other than the resources necessary to maintain the site, the only big drawback is lack of physical control. This also means that administration must be done remotely through secure protocol. Fees associated with co-location range in price from $75 per month to several thousand depending on bandwidth and physical space utilization.
For companies able to dedicate resources to controlling all security aspects of a server, there are many components to consider.
  • Determine how to provide proper physical security.
  • Find an ISP with ample bandwidth.
  • Select hardware.
  • Select an operating system (Windows, Solaris, Linux, and so on).
  • Select a Web server (Apache, Microsoft IIS, Netscape Enterprise, and so on).
  • Select a method of providing active content (Java and so on).