Key Points for Successful E-Commerce Sites - Infrastructure

Previously I wrote about key points to marketing an E-Commerce site. While I wrote things from the perspective of application to an E-Commerce perspective those points as well as these about infrastructure can apply to just about any web presence.

Infrastructure consist of the server and software structure of the system for the site. It also reflects the scale and flexibility of the site. I often recommend that a small startup, such as a one person entrepreneur or small scale business start with either an EBAY or Yahoo! Store. This will give them the experience they often need to find out what it is like to manage an online store. I have often found that startups like these often do not know the reality of what it takes to run a successful online business. This approach allows them to sort of get their toes wet and weed out the ones that really do not have the passion for a full blown online store of their very own.

So what does it take for a full blown E-Commerce presence? Well from an infrastructural perspective it is the choice of data store (database), web server and application platforms.

There are several choices of databases can be made from several options. Popular choices today are MySQL, SQL Server and Oracle. Oracle is by far the most expensive choice, and does not deliver the bang for the buck the other two offer. MySQL is an Open Source solution, but does cost $600 and up. While I have never worked directly with MySQL, it does seem to suffer from performance and scalability capabilities the other two choices offer.

Microsoft's relational database offering is SQL Server. It has proven to be highly scalable and powerful. The price is very reasonable and can be as inexpensive as free. But realize that free does come with some limitations, such as a 2 GB database size, but is ideal for a small online presence.

The next layer of the application is choice of web server. There are really two common choices, Apache and IIS. Other options include Zeus or WebSphere. Honestly my personal experience is limited to IIS, the other choices are also viable. Apache also runs on Linux and Unix as well as Windows. You have to realize that the choice of server platform may also limit your choice of application platform. Apache is really popular with the LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP) crowd. IIS is obvious the platform of choice for ASP.NET, which I am part of and have many years of experience. I am not going to get into a debate on which is better, just exposing what is available.

Finally you need to determine which application framework you will build the site. There are many potential frameworks available. They range from the a true application framework such as ASP.NET or PHP. But it can also be a pre-defined application, such as OsCommerce or .NetCart. These offer a great base to get things up and running quicker, but limit the opportunity customize the store.

There are many other factors that come into play. But the most important factor in determining what you choose is what you feel most comfortable working with.

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