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September 17, 2012

Ecommerce: Cloud Computing and the Small eCommerce Business

Shopping online has become a way of life.

Almost daily, it seems, the media publishes new, exciting information about the ever-booming eCommerce industry. Consumers are buying goods from their PCs, their tablets and their Smartphones around the clock.

Boxing Day 2011, for example, broke online shopping records.

To respond to this increasing demand, smaller eCommerce businesses need to adopt a robust system that can cope with peaks and plunges without costing the earth. The solution? Cloud computing.

Cloud computing is Internet-based computing, whereby shared resources, software and information are provided to computers and other devices on demand, much like the electricity grid.

Cloud computing seems to be the technological topic de jour, but can it really bring all of the benefits industry commentators talk about? Does it benefit smaller merchants? Will those who fail to embrace cloud computing suffer?

The truth is, ignoring cloud computing may mean missing out on some great ways to save money.

One of the main attractions of cloud computing is businesses are only charged for the services used. That feature alone should immediately translate into savings.

Additionally, because business owners use the cloud provider’s resources, they won’t need to spend money on equipment, maintenance, new software updates or related manpower.

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 10 months of the year? Plenty, no doubt.

With cloud computing, however, money won’t be wasted on redundant items. It is easy to cope with busy periods such as holidays, by using extra servers provided by the cloud to ensure all transactions are completed. Then, when demand recedes to normal levels, those extra resources can be turned off.

Another benefit of cloud computing is there’s no need to invest in fancy PC equipment – all data can be accessed through the usual well-known browsers: Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. This is great news for those with smaller operations. Separate cloud computing makes access to particular applications easy for other stakeholders, such as suppliers. This would allow for invoicing on the Internet, for instance.

Using the cloud can also contribute toward a firm’s business continuity measures. High winds and extreme weather can cause power cuts, potentially interrupting business. That is bad news for the eCommerce industry which can lose thousands if not millions of dollars in such situations. That is why keeping the online operation hosted via cloud makes so much 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 undisturbed.

The affordability of cloud computing levels the playing field, allowing small merchants to compete alongside their larger peers for customers’ business. The cloud could, in fact, eventually make a dent in marketplace domination held by large, rival organizations.

It’s been said 90 percent of all eCommerce businesses will make use of the cloud by 2017. Given that cloud computing is a flexible, affordable technology that can help smaller businesses evolve, compete and succeed, it’s little wonder.

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