ECT 250: Survey of e-commerce technology E-commerce hardware and software
Web servers • The components of a web server are: • Hardware • Software • When determining what sort of server hardware • and software to use you have to consider: • Size of the site • Purpose of the site • Traffic on the site • A small, noncommercial Web site will require • less resources than a large, commercial site.
The role of a web server • Facilitates business • Business to business transactions • Business to customer transactions • Hosts company applications • Part of the communications infrastructure • Poor decisions about web server platforms can • have a negative impact on a company. This is • particularly true for purely online (“click and • mortar”) companies.
Hosting considerations • Will the site be hosted in-house or by a provider? • Factors to consider: • The bandwidth and availability needed for the • expected size, traffic, and sales of the site • Scalability: If the Web site needs to grow or has • a sudden increase in traffic, can the provider • still handle it? • Personnel requirements or restraints • Budget and cost effectiveness of the solution • Target audience: Business-to-customer (B2C) or • business-to-business (B2B)
Types of Web sites • Development sites: A test site; low-cost • Intranets: Available internally only • B2B and B2C commerce sites • Content delivery site • Each type of site has a different purpose, • requires different hardware and software, • and incurs varying costs.
Commerce sites • Commerce sites must be available 24 hours a day, • 7 days a week. Requirements include: • Reliable servers • Backup servers for high availablity • Efficient and easily upgraded software • Security software • Database connectivity • B2B sites also require certificate servers to issue • and analyze electronic authentication information.
Content delivery site • Examples: • USA Today • New York Times • ZDNet • Sell and deliver content: news, summaries, • histories, other digital information. • Hardware requirements are similar to the • commerce sites. • Database access must be efficient.
What is Web hosting? • Web hosts are Internet service providers who also • allow access to: • E-commerce software • Storage space • E-commerce expertise • You can choose: • Managed hosting: the service provider manages • the operation and oversight of all servers • Unmanaged hosting: the customer must maintain • and oversee all servers
Benefits • Cost effective for small companies or those without • in-house technical staff. • May require less investment in hardware/software. • Can eliminate the need to hire and oversee technical • personnel. • Make sure that the site is scalable. • If you need help in choosing a Web host, contact • the Web Host Guild. Formed in 1998, it is a sort • of Better Business Bureau of the Internet.
Services provided • Access to hardware, software, personnel • Domain name, IP address • Disk storage • Template pages to use for designing the site • E-mail service • Use of FTP to upload and download information • Shopping cart software • Multimedia extensions (sound, animation, movies) • Secure credit card processing
Summary • ISPs have Web hosting expertise that small or • medium-sized companies may not. • Creating and maintaining a Web site using an • existing network can be difficult. • With the exception of large companies with large • Web sites and in-house computer experts, it is • almost always cheaper to use outside Web • hosting services.
Examples • EZ Webhost • Interland • HostPro • HostIndex • Managed hosting • Other hosting options • TopHosts.com
B2C e-commerce • Requirements: • A catalog display • Shopping cart capabilities • Transaction processing • Tools to populate the store catalog and to • facilitate storefront display choices • Any e-commerce software must be integrated • with existing systems: • Database • Transaction processing software
Catalog display • Small storefront (fewer than 35 items) • Simple listing of products • No particular organization • Example: Quebec maple syrup • Larger catalog • Store product information in database • More sophisticated navigation aids • Better product organization • Search engine • Example: LL Bean
Transaction processing • Usually performed with a secure connection. • May require the calculation of: • Sales tax • Shipping costs • Volume discounts • Tax-free sales • Special promotions • Time sensitive offers • Details about transactions must be tracked for • accounting, sales reports.
B2B e-commerce • Business-to-business e-commerce requires tools and • capabilities different from those required for business- • to-customer systems. • Encryption • Authentication • Digital signatures • Signed receipt notices • The ability to connect to existing legacy systems, • including Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) • software. ERP integrates all facets of a business • including planning, sales, and marketing.
Levels of packages • Three levels of e-commerce packages: • Basic: Requires a few hundred dollars in fees • and less than an hour to set up. Typically • hosted by an ISP. • Middle-tier: Ranges in price from $1K to $5K+, • and can take from one day to several days to • set up. Can connect with a database server. • Requires hardware purchase and some skills. • Enterprise-class: For large companies with high • traffic and transaction volumes. Hardware and • in-house specialists needed.
Basic packages • Basic packages are free or low-cost e-commerce • software supplied by a Web host for building sites • to be placed on the Web host’s system. • Fundamental services • Banner advertising exchanges • Full-service mall-style hosting
Fundamental services • Available for businesses selling less than 50 items with • a low rate of transactions. • These services offer: • Space for the store • Forms-based shopping • The Web host makes money from advertising banners • placed on the site. Each business has some control • over which banners are placed on its site. • Examples: Bizland.com, HyperMart • Drawbacks: E-mail transaction processing, banners.
Banner exchange sites • Banner exchange sites aid online store promotion. • Banner exchange agreements are made between • sites that sign up for the service. • The BES organizes the exchanges, enforces banner • exchange rules, collects statistics about customers, • and rotates ads on the sites. • A click through count is the number of visitors that • a banner produces at a site. • Examples: Banner Exchange, Exchange-it, • SmartClicks
Full-service mall-style hosting • Full-service hosting sites provide: • High-quality tools • Storefront templates • An easy-to-use interface • Quick Web page creation and maintenance • No required banner advertising • In exchange these sites may charge: • One-time set up fees • Monthly fees • A percentage of each transaction • A fixed amount per each transaction
Differences from basic services • Shopping cart software • Comprehensive customer transaction processing • Choice of purchase options (credit card, • electronic cash or other forms) • Acceptance and authorization of credit cards • No required (and distracting) Web banner ads • Higher quality Web store building/maintenance • tools (saving time and energy) • Examples: Yahoo!Store, BigStep.com
Midrange packages • Distinction from basic e-commerce packages: • The merchant has explicit control over • Merchandising choices • Site layout • Internal architecture • Remote and local management options • Other differences include price, capability, • database connectivity, software portability, • software customization tools, computer • expertise required of the merchant.
Features • Prices range from $2000 to $9000. • Hosted on the merchant’s server. • Typically has connectivity with complex database • systems and stores catalog information. • Several provide connections (“hooks”) into existing • inventory and ERP systems. • Highly customizable • Requires part-time or full-time programming talent. • Examples: INTERSHOP efinity, WebSphere Commerce • Suite
Enterprise solutions • Distinguishing features: • Price ($25,000 - $1 million) • Extensive support for B2B e-commerce • Interacts with a variety of back office systems, • such as database, accounting, and ERP. • Requires one or more dedicated computers, a • Web front-end, firewall(s), a DNS server, an • SMTP system, an HTTP server, an FTP server, • and a database server.
Features • Good tools for linking supply and purchasing. • Can interact with the inventory system to make • the proper adjustments to stock, issue purchase • orders, and generate accounting entries. • Example: Wal-Mart • Allows several suppliers to make decisions • about resupplying • Results in cost savings in inventory • Examples: WebSphere Commerce Suite, Netscape • CommerceXpert
Web platform choices • Hardware, operating system, and application server • software must be considered together since each • affects the other. • Whatever your choice you must ensure that the • server hardware is scalable, meaning that it can be • upgraded or a new server added as necessary. • Other needs, such as a database server, should be • handled by separate hardware. Database products • have large processing needs.
Factors in performance • Hardware and operating system choice • Speed of connection to the Internet • User capacity • Throughput: The number of HTTP requests • that can be processed in a given time period. • Response time: The amount of time a server • requires to process one request. • The mix and type of Web pages • Static pages • Dynamic pages: Shaped in response to users.
Benchmarking • Benchmarking is testing used to compare the • performance of hardware and software. • Results measure the performance of aspects such • as the OS, software, network speed, CPU speed. • There are several Web benchmarking programs. • For examples see Figure 3-4 on page 87. • Anyone considering buying a server for a heavy • traffic situation or wanting to make changes to • an existing system should consider benchmarks.
Web server features • Web server features range from basic to extensive • depending on the software package being used. • Web server features fall into groups based on their • purpose: • Core capabilities • Site management • Application construction • Dynamic content • Electronic commerce
Core capabilities • Process and respond to Web client requests • Static pages, dynamic pages, domain name • translation. • Security • Name/passwords, processing certificates and • public/private key pairs. • FTP, Gopher • Searching, indexing • Data analysis • Who, what, when, how long? May involve the • use of Web log analysis software.
Site management • Features found in site management tools: • Link checking • Script checking • HTML validation • Web server log file analysis • Remote server administration
Application construction • Uses Web editors and extensions to produce Web • pages, both static and dynamic. • Like HTML editors, application editors allow the • creation dynamic features without knowledge of • CGI (Common Gateway Interface) or API • (Application Program Interface) programming. • Also detects HTML code that differs from the • standard or is browser specific.
Dynamic content • Non-static information constructed in response to • to a Web client’s request. • Assembled from backend databases and internal • data on the Web site, a successful dynamic page • is tailored to the query that generated it. • Active Server Pages (ASP) is a server-side scripting • mechanism to build dynamic sites and Web • applications. It uses a variety of languages such • as VBScript, Jscript, and Perl. • More information? Take ECT 353!
Electronic commerce • An Web server handles Web pages whereas an • e-commerce server deals with the buying and • selling of goods and services. • A Web server should handle e-commerce software • since this simplifies adding e-commerce features • to existing sites. • Features: Creation of graphics, product information, • addition of new products, shopping carts, credit • card processing, sales report generation, Web ad • rotation and weighting.
Web server software • There is no best package for all cases. • The market is divided into intranet servers and • public Web servers. • Three of the most popular Web server programs: • Apache HTTP Server • Microsoft Internet Information Server • Netscape Enterprise Server • See Figure 3-8 for the market share graph. • A more recent market share analysis.
Apache HTTP Server • Developed by Rob McCool while at UI in the • NCSA in 1994. • The software is available free of charge and is • quite efficient. • Can be used for intranets and public Web sites. • Originally written for Unix, it is now available • for many operating systems. • For a discussion of its features see the Apache • Software Foundation page.
Microsoft IIS • Microsoft’s Internet Information Server comes • bundled with Microsoft’s Windows NT/2000. • Can be used for intranets and public Web sites. • It is suitable for everything from small sites to • large enterprise-class sites with high volumes. • Currently only runs on Windows NT/2000. • See Microsoft’s Web Services page.
Netscape Enterprise Server • Costs several thousand dollars and has a 60-day • trial period. • Can be run on the Internet, intranets and extranets. • Some of the busiest sites on the Internet use NES • including E*Trade, Excite, and Lycos. • Runs on many different operating systems. • See Netscape Server Products.
Further information • What Web software is running on a site? • Web server side-by-side comparisons
Web server tools • Other Web server tools include: • Web portals • Search engines • Push technologies • Intelligent agents
Web portals • Provides a “cyber door” on the Web • Serves as a customizable home base • Successful portals include: • Excite • Yahoo! • My Netscape • Microsoft Passport
Push technologies • An automated delivery of specific and current • information from a Web server to the user’s • hard drive • May be used to provide information on: • Health benefit updates • Employee awards • Changes in corporate policies
Intelligent agents • A program that performs functions such as • information gathering, information filtering, • or mediation on behalf of a person or entity • Examples: • AuctionBot • BargainFinder • MySimon • Kasbah
Example uses • Example uses for intelligent agents: • Search for the best price and characteristics • of various products • Procurement: Deciding what, when, and how • much to purchase • Stock alert: Monitors stock and notifies when • certain conditions are met, e.g. purchase 100 • shares if the price is below $60 a share.