managed data protection for your IT systems

Posted by & filed under List Posts.

A 2017 report from IDC found that the data protection and recovery software market was not growing as fast as it had in previous years – dropping to a 2.1% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from a 6.8% CAGR in 2016. There was much more impressive growth among some players though: smaller providers grew at 14.5%, while one vendor outdid that rate with 26.6% growth. That vendor? Veeam.

With Veeam, you would be utilizing a solution that has now been adopted by nearly three-quarters (74%) of Fortune 500 companies. This article looks at basics related to data protection itself and then lays out specific strengths of Veeam.

Data protection – the basics

To ensure that you do not have your data lost or stolen, and so that you maintain its integrity, data protection is critical. It is particularly important to concern yourself with safeguarding information since maintaining uptime allows people to get to their records without any hitches. The volume of information is also increasing, as is the understanding of its value – factors that further expand the need for data protection.

Business continuity/disaster recovery (BC/DR) and operational data backup both fall under the heading of data protection. Building these defenses into your business is not just important but necessary. Maintaining privacy of information and preventing data breaches are critical to safeguarding information. Also, setting up stringent safeguards for data serves an important function since maintaining availability is so important to organizations. Notably, hyper-availability is the centerpiece of the Veeam approach.

Two directions for data protection

The two key ways in which data protection is developing are data management and data availability. A complete plan that is used to protect information from hardware failure, disruptions or outages, malicious incidents, or user and software errors, called information lifecycle management, is a primary practice within data management. A simpler concern is data lifecycle management, through which the transmission of information to storage is automated. Data management is also used to get as much value as possible out of data via analytics, reporting, and testing or development.

Data availability is key because, regardless if you lose data or it becomes damaged, you will still be able to get users the correct data seamlessly. Along with robust data management, Veeam managed data protection offers hyper-availability so that your information is always at your fingertips – ready to propel insights and innovations.

Reasons data protection is so important

For various reasons, you need to protect your data:

  • Compliance – You need to comply with regulations in order to avoid fines, lawsuits, and other expenses that arise from breaches. One of the key ones for any organizations that handle user information online is the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) from the European Union (EU), which just went into effect in May. Violations of the GDPR can lead to fines up to 4% of the previous-year global revenue of an organization. That is just one example of regulatory compliance – and costs extend far beyond the fines to forensics, lawsuits, and other expenses.
  • Security – You want to be certain that all your data is accurate. When customers or staff enter information, you must verify that there are no mistakes or otherwise incorrect data. In order to make sure that fraud is not occurring, your systems and services should confirm that contact details, banking account numbers, and other information is accurate and not being used illicitly. Bank accounts can be compromised, for instance.
  • Best practices – Beyond concerns with compliance and security, you want to know that your information is only used in the manner that you expect it to be used – only in ways that are relevant and defined. Data should not be kept on-hand any longer than is needed, and during that time it should be kept safe. These best practices apply especially when you are marketing, changing staff records, or onboarding new staff members.

Of course some of your information is higher priority than other information is. You want to protect especially sensitive information so that it is not taken in identity theft, phishing, or other fraudulent efforts. Key pieces of data include full names, health data, credit card or bank information, phone numbers, emails, and addresses.

Cloud data protection

In order to safeguard your information that is at-rest or in-motion within cloud environments, you can leverage cloud data protection to utilize the best security and storage methods. You can meet a few core needs through this approach:

  • infrastructure security – To keep your storage and cloud servers secure, you need these policies and techniques.
  • storage management – Edit, copy, and access to data are logged through this feature. Data access is also enabled via an interface that is highly available and secure.
  • integrity – In order to keep information from being corrupted or altered by unauthorized parties, encryption is in place. Data maintains the same form it has in storage.

If you need managed data protection for your cloud ecosystem, you can achieve that through data protection as a service (DPaaS) – which is offered through a Veeam-powered Total Server Solutions plan.

Features of data protection

For secure storage, you can use tape or disk backup in order to copy data to a tape cartridge or disk-based storage. When alterations are made to data, you can leverage continuous data protection (CDP) to maintain safety. For speedier data recovery, you can more easily get to data that is on a disk or tape via creation of links within automatically created storage snapshots. You can also get an identical copy of files or a website via mirroring.

For strong data protection, backup has always been fundamental. Traditionally that involved backing up every night – or in some other defined regular interval – to a tape library or drive. These backups could then be tapped if data became damaged or lost. Today data backup has become much more sophisticated, seamless, and user-friendly.

Why Veeam?

Managed data protection with Veeam is centered on delivering hyper-availability. This hyper-availability is tricky because data environments have become so complex in recent years, with security safeguards a mandatory best practice as it flows through multi-cloud ecosystems. Defending your data is absolutely critical because of how important data has become to broadening the insights of organizations and allowing prediction of fluctuations in demand. With the data properly protected and uncorrupted, you are also able to glean from it all you can, innovating more rapidly and reducing time-to-market.

Beyond hyper-availability and the prominence within the Fortune 500 (see introduction), other reasons that Veeam managed data protection is a strong choice include the following:

  • Savings – The strength of Veeam is key because downtime is incredibly expensive: $5600 per minute, according to Gartner! Avoid those expenses, along with the reduction in staff confidence and brand value resulting from downtime, with a high-availability solution.
  • Simplicity – It is simple to deploy and use, particularly with a managed services provider such as Total Server Solutions.
  • Speed – If recovery is needed, you can leverage the industry’s fastest recovery time to get your apps, servers, and files back up and running.

Launching your Veeam managed data protection solution

Do you want to see how protecting your data through a managed Veeam solution can improve your business? At Total Server Solutions, Veeam fits with our general focus on information security, which includes an SSAE 16 Type II audit – proving our adherence to a standard designed by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. To learn more about Veeam managed data protection and our other security offerings, contact us today.

How Blockchain will impact ecommerce -- Bitcoin

Posted by & filed under List Posts.

A blockchain is a public electronic distributed ledger that contains data, originally designed for cryptocurrency transactions but increasingly used for other purposes. You do not need to perform any central bookkeeping with blockchain because the system expands as additional data blocks are logged and incorporated within the system, lined up in order of entry.

Stemming originally from the development of Bitcoin, the distributed ledger technology (DLT) of a blockchain is now used in numerous ways within business and other organizational settings. You can put just about any file or type of data within a blockchain, and doing so produces an immutable record. As an additional check, there is no central administrator of a blockchain system; rather, the whole community of users verifies the authenticity of the data.

Blockchain is set to have a profound impact on online sales. This article looks at a dozen key ways in which the technology will disrupt ecommerce:

Impact #1 – Information security

Data storage is a problematic issue for current ecommerce platforms. Retail companies and customers that have user accounts on ecommerce sites generate vast volumes of data for these ecosystems, and it is tricky to figure out how to safeguard it effectively.

The data security advantage can be understood in terms of centralization vs. decentralization. Large swaths of data have been taken from ecommerce firms when attackers have accessed centralized servers. Blockchain is a distributed ledger, so all your information is decentralized – making it is extremely challenging for someone to succeed with an attack.

The security of information within blockchain is high in large part because of the distribution, which requires a nefarious party to infiltrate every one of the system’s nodes. The strengthening of security is an obvious plus.

Impact #2 – Regulations

May 25, 2018, was a major day for data privacy regulations that effect any organization that sells products to or allows user account creation by European citizens. On that day, the European Union (EU) began enforcing the General Data Protection Regulation. GDPR compliance is critical for all organizations that do business (even if it’s entirely virtual) in Europe. Failure to meet its guidelines could result in fines as high as 4% of the firm’s prior-year annual global revenue. Since the protections of the GDPR are mandatory and are hence the subject of audits and potential investigations, it will have a major influence on ecommerce. The optimal security of blockchain could increasingly be seen as a go-to best practice.

Impact #3 – Simpler receipt and warranty access

One other advantage of the transition to blockchain has to do with access to and storage of receipts and product warranties, as indicated by managing consulting company Accenture. As a consumer, you may not be able to find warranty paperwork for a repair or a receipt for a return. We would no longer have to worry about this paper trail (except as a hard-copy backup) once all of these files are within the blockchain. It would be simple to verify proof-of-purchase, because everyone would be able to see these files with the right login and permissions, and it would be a location for central information access usable by everyone involved, from customers to retail stores to manufacturers.

Impact #4 – Future-proofing

Blockchain is becoming prevalent in part because it is seen as the wave of the future – as a necessity really – given the increase, over time, in threats to the industry. Quite literally millions of people worldwide could be affected if the world were to fail to adopt a stricter security paradigm; needless to say, retailers would be hurt by lack of security foresight as well.

When we talk about blockchain, we are not just discussing something for the era ahead, of course. It is essential for organizations to understand that business-as-usual with data security will not cut it moving forward. DLT companies will continue to come up with new innovations that will likely boost the number of blockchain implementations – allowing ecommerce to maintain safety for the years ahead.

Impact #5 – Lower expenses

According to retail content firm Total Retail, an ecommerce firm can benefit from efficiencies produced through introducing blockchain to their provider network. Partnerships with vendors today take place within disparate environments. Many of the expenses of conducting retail online will drop as secure and private engagement becomes possible via the deployment of a unified blockchain platform. 

Impact #6 – Multi-retailer loyalty programs and personalized promotions

If you currently belong to any loyalty programs as a consumer, you can probably appreciate the better freedom that would be allowed by connecting the programs of different shops, allowing you to decide any of them where you would rather collect a reward, noted Accenture. With blockchain, you could garner both those benefits. Your loyalty points and purchase record would all be stored within the blockchain. You would control your loyalty data and determine which ecommerce companies you wanted to see it. 

Impact #7 – Transparency

Ecommerce companies have increasingly criticized their competitors for being too opaque with their customers. Some new platforms are using blockchain as their centerpiece. Transparent transactions are inherent to distributed ledgers. Unilever, Walmart, eBay, Alibaba, and Amazon are all investing in blockchain research – recognizing its manifold benefits.

Impact #8 – Payments

The improvement of payments is also a central focus of the distributed ledger model. There is approximately $9 trillion in coins, paper, checking accounts, and other traditional currencies worldwide, per Accenture. The use of cryptocurrencies is currently at 6% of that total and increasing.

You could make payments straight to machines, as with a car rental service. If a digital wallet were in use for the vehicle, you would not need any human help and could simply pay and get into it. You could minimize fees by intermediaries. It would not be necessary to pay beforehand, and you would not have to wait.

Impact #9 – Reducing fraud and improving quality

Consumers can get hurt when they use unsafe counterfeit products. These products also take profit away from legitimate businesses. Early adopters of blockchain within the food industry are using it to thwart the health issues of eating illegal renditions of products; other retailers simply want to maintain the integrity of their products. With DLT, people throughout the supply chain will be able to validate the integrity of goods prior to sending them out to customers and stores – enabled by the transparent community sharing of quality and authenticity data.

Impact #10 – Content payment

You can now directly receive compensation for payment through sharing of ad revenue on some platforms. In these scenarios, the users of the social media site can give each other upvote rewards that are equivalent to cash. Steemit is a system that currently is designed in this manner (although there are other options in this category as well, as recommended by steemit user sature and offering somewhat different models – including AKASHA, e-Chat, Minds, Nexus, Qbao, Sapien, Scryptio.io, Sphere, Synereo, Yours, and YOYOW). Proceed with due diligence: research these companies carefully since some may rise to the top while others go belly-up.

The way Steemit works is that users help to curate the site and bring more valuable posts to the top. The service in turn hands electronic tokens to the users. As the process continues, e-wallets are used to create a blockchain transaction. You can take payment in whatever currency you want. Also, there are no delays or extra processes with intermediaries (as noted above), so everything moves more quickly and seamlessly. The alternative platforms to Steemit are also integrated with the blockchain and have the same basic benefits for users.

Impact #11 – Review credibility

It is very important to consumers that they be able to know the quality of review platforms when they are trying to assess functionality, support, and other aspects. The basic problem with the way that review platforms have operated thus far is that user legitimacy is validated but not to any rigorous degree (referring to checks and balances for the true identity of any user, not the access controls for any established user account).

Since that is such an issue, the objective of these innovative platforms is to do away with fraudulently created reviews, whether poor ones written by rivals, gushing ones written by the business itself, or of other types. Zapit is an example of a blockchain platform that works to better validate reviews by leveraging the DLT. In order to make the setup as mutually beneficial as possible, these systems incentivize credibility by paying moderators and review authors alike. Some purists believe that the Bitcoin blockchain is the only truly relevant one through which the blockchain is expressing its full benefits; after all, its community is huge at 22 million Bitcoin wallets established worldwide as of July (per Bitcoin Market Journal), which makes it extremely difficult to conduct fraudulent mining.

Impact #12 – Greater respect and directness with ads

The gap that exists in between consumers and online stores should be minimized as possible to allow for stronger efficiency, better speed, and easier management. Again, many people appreciate this type of system because of lack of intermediaries when sending advertising to browsers. One way that blockchain is used in this way is the Basic Attention Token – which confirms the views of ads that are engaged and monetizes them.

Your blockchain system

Securing and validating ecommerce transactions is challenging. However, with the advent of blockchain, identity and data safety and integrity are getting a huge boost.  By integrating the blockchain into your online sales approach, you are able to store your data in immutable form and in a manner that is validated by all users within the community. Beyond concerns with the blockchain, you need servers to run your ecommerce systems; and that infrastructure must also be highly secure. At Total Server Solutions, our data centers are certified to meet the parameters of the gold standard in ecommerce, SSAE 16. See our ecommerce solutions.

Cloud improves scalability, which has numerous benefits.

Posted by & filed under List Posts.

One of the first things you hear about the cloud is that it helps businesses grow because it improves their scalability. What is scalability really though? Why is it critical, and so critical, to business success? How does cloud technology fit into the picture of scalability?

Certification training firm Linux Academy defines scalability within computing as a characteristic of a “system in which every application or piece of infrastructure can be expanded to handle increased load.” It’s easier to understand the key reason scalability is important when you look at performance, via an example. Your web application might start to get attention on ProductHunt or a similar service (or for any other reason sees a sudden spike in use). Your servers then suddenly are inundated with an extreme load of requests – legitimate requests that you want to answer. In a scenario that is not highly scalable, such as a dedicated server handling all the traffic, your app or site may crash under the stress. You will lose credibility if your app experiences downtime. You also deliver poor UX during that time.

We will explore the many ways in which scalability is key to your general success and the operation of your IT systems – first briefly addressing the two key scaling approaches, horizontal and vertical.

Horizontal vs. vertical scalability

The two core approaches that are used to improve scalability and build up your infrastructure are the horizontal and vertical approaches:

  • Horizontal scalability: In this form, you simply give more resources – in the form of central processing units (CPUs), upgrading to solid state drives (SSDs), or addition of random-access memory (RAM) – to an instance that already is implemented. This path is simple because your cloud host will already have the servers virtualized and configured.
  • Vertical scalability: In this form, you increase the number of servers you have running so that you can distribute the load across more equipment. Horizontal scaling is necessarily more complicated than vertical because you need to sync all data, apps, and backups; plus, you must monitor, update, protect, and otherwise perform administration on additional machines.

How scalability delivers value to business

There are numerous ways that you can describe the real-world value of scalability; and since it is a core value of cloud (providing some of its flexibility and contributing to other key benefits), we can realize why this aspect of the technology has been so central to its popularity.

Benefit #1 – Speed

There is an untrue urban legend that it takes a year to paint the Golden Gate Bridge, the massive structure that spans a mile-wide strait connecting the Pacific Ocean to San Francisco Bay, in an indefinitely repeating process. While the year-long bridge painting may be a myth, the notion that it is time to reassess your work and improve upon it after a year is accepted in many areas of business (as seen in the many organizations that perform annual IT risk assessments). Meanwhile, designing and building an on-premise data center could take you more than a year. If it takes you that long, it should be unsurprising that some components of it will be outdated by the time you launch it.

Being able to scale allows your company to move more quickly. Think about the notion of building a data center and waiting twelve months to capture and leverage the treasure troves of data being produced every day by your IoT devices. That would lose you sales, but it would also mean you are not creating as much opportunity as you could in terms of user behavior and what your customers want. You are able to get everything going with no delay at all when you have access to cloud servers. You can put yourself well ahead of the competition, or certainly abreast of them, if you are able to generate more insightful data faster than others in the industry can.

Benefit #2 – Mitigating bottlenecks and inefficiencies

Efficiency is a major challenge for business because it impacts your ability to expand now and in the future. You can make your business more efficient through scalability because the business is able to expand as demand allows, potentially into different locations on the planet – while remaining affordable. The efficiency of scalability, a capability that impacts all parts of your business, is seen in how it allows you to keep your production strong while limiting your costs.

Benefit #3 – Management consistency 

As with efficiency, you are able to become more consistent holistically, throughout your management ecosystem, when you have optimized your scalability. The value of becoming more consistent almost cannot be overstated. It allows you to become more compliant with your own guidelines and governmental regulations (think the all-new General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR, from the European Union), while also bolstering the amount of revenue you generate. 

Benefit #4 – Future-proofing

Scalability matters because it readies you for the data challenges of the future. In fact, it is so central of a concern that CX consultant Benjamin Payne calls it “the most critical factor to consider when selecting a knowledge base solution.” The reason you are future-proofing your business is that anything you are doing to make your organization work better now should be able to stay with you as you develop without you having to switch horses midstream.

It becomes obvious that scalability is helpful for the future when you recognize the sheer pace at which data is expanding. Since data is now at a point that businesses are increasingly being overwhelmed by it (unable to use it to its full advantage), effective management of the data is a top priority. You need to properly maintain and safeguard the systems in which your data resides. Optimizing your scalability will allow you to stay relevant and on the path to your objectives at all times.

Benefit #5 – Meeting current needs

Scalability may sound like a flat yes-or-no prospect, but you are actually able to scale in the manner that best makes sense as you expand. Whatever your demand is at the moment, you can scale up or down as needed when you are using cloud infrastructure. Since you are building as you go rather than in single swipes, you can deviate from a single standard path, creating a hybrid cloud through private and public components and/or a multi-cloud environment that utilizes various vendors. By building the system you need as you go, you can get what you need for each segment of information – the right safeguards and space – in a seamlessly integrated yet sophisticated (and sufficiently diverse) infrastructure.

While scaling does not mean you are stuck to one approach or provider, it does mean your approach is generally more straightforward. In-house infrastructure, on the other hand, introduces so many complexities that you are not able to spend as much time on innovation because your focus is more squarely on maintaining your current systems.

Benefit #6 – Avenues for automation

Cloud’s scalability allows you, through a different service delivery model, to respond to demand on the fly – and through the work of a third party. By offloading that aspect of your systems, you are able to better automate your infrastructure, transferring workloads to underutilized parts of your infrastructure from ones that are overwhelmed.

Benefit #7 – Relevance of data

If you scale, you are able to maintain the efficiency that allows your application or website to remain relevant. In order to stay relevant, you must be able to assess what is there over time and update it as needed. Everything must grow holistically if you want your organization to be balanced – and that comprehensive approach is advanced through scalable cloud solutions.

Benefit #8 – Downturns or macro changes

If the economy were to slide into a recession or if other macrocosmic changes were to occur, you could hit a wall and go bankrupt. You can transition as you go if you have constructed a scalable business. Scalability is key here no matter whether you need contraction or expansion. If the market slows down suddenly and you have the ability to scale down quickly, you may find you collect more of the market since rivals will be sinking. However, you may simply need to scale back and stay smaller to weather an economic storm.

Benefit #9 – Flexibility

When you are relying on cloud systems rather than legacy ones to back your systems, you are able to benefit from flexibility that becomes possible when you innovate with cloud providers. The infrastructure is highly flexible, along with delivering a vast sea of memory capacity and impeccable performance. The scalability that becomes possible through third-party partnerships allows you to leverage your core strengths and tap into the expertise of technology vendors. The flexibility that is inherent in scalable solutions allows for better business agility to handle any turbulence or changes of the winds.

Part of the flexibility of scaling is in its reduction potential. Beyond the economic downturn notion discussed above, scaling will have its own benefits for you in allowing you to reduce scale as needed.

Benefit #10 – Business enablement

By making it possible for organizations to grow and shrink in the way that is best for current conditions, scalability is a business enabler. Consider the services that are entirely based on putting people together using IT services. Ride-sharing organizations do not have fleets of cars, only supply-and-demand infrastructure that allows drivers and passengers to connect. Provided the IT infrastructure is scalable enough to grow rapidly and in tune with demand, you can leverage that scalable computing structure to expand your business – using the cloud itself to propel your growth.

Moving forward with improved scalability

Are you in need of a highly scalable solution for your organization, to experience the many benefits described above? At Total Server Solutions, our cloud platform is built for optimal scalability, as well as incredible speed and reliability. Get the only cloud with guaranteed IOPS.

content distribution network

Posted by & filed under List Posts.

A content delivery network is designed to send video, images, JavaScript, HTML files, and other content to users through a distributed server network. Generally the two protocols used for CDN delivery are HTTP and HTTPS; however, sometimes other protocols can be useful, as with video.

The primary reason CDNs are used is to improve content delivery performance. Before the rise of the CDN, you would have webpages with text and images on them. In order for all those elements to populate properly, you would have to send through dozens or hundreds of HTTP requests. Every time a request is sent, that means your browser is establishing a connection with a server, letting it know what it needs, downloading the information, and presenting it. You could have everyone connect to the same server. However, you can achieve better performance if you are able to get content as physically close to each user as you can.

CDNs are on the rise because of the considerable increase in the use of video and cloud services over the last few years. Reasons why CDNs are becoming so popular go beyond these trends, though. Once we look at why use of these systems is generally expanding and the benefits derived from them, we will take a closer look at how they work.

Video and cloud fueling CDN growth

CDNs have increased in recent years with the proliferation of video as a standard business tool. Video is resource intensive in terms of how much bandwidth it uses, as well as how much disk storage it needs.

The increase in cloud service and app use is sparking additional CDN expansion. Today it is considered commonplace to store essential company information in a third-party facility. CDN services are often offered in conjunction with cloud data and video storage since the two services bolster performance beyond your walls.

You will lower the amount of stress you are placing on your own data center by using the servers of the CDN to process and transmit data. Hence, you do not need as much hardware yourself, explained Kevin Tolly. Because you do not need as much equipment, that also means you do not need the facility space, cooling, and power that support it. Your capital and operating expenses decline.

Reasons for using CDNs go beyond lightening your load and cutting costs though. Here are 10 other key benefits:

Benefit #1: Distributed denial of service

DDoS attacks are terrible for websites, leaving you unable to respond to legitimate requests for hours as you are inundated with massive amounts of fraudulent traffic. As noted by technology author Simon Jones in TechFruit, a DDoS event means you cannot help prospects and customers during that time. You will be unable to usher leads and sales through your system. By taking advantage of the third-party infrastructure of a CDN and its DDoS protections, you can deliver high security and consistent service.

Benefit #2: SSL termination 

Content delivery networks do not always deliver static content but instead are simply a go-between from the application to the user. In this manner, CDNs are used both as a way to prevent breaches and to change the manner of the connection, freeing up the application’s servers. For application programming interfaces (APIs) and other highly active applications, organizations often decide to use CDNs for secure sockets layer (SSL) termination, which is a type of SSL offloading.

The way an SSL connection works is that you authenticate via software called a certificate prior to transmitting encrypted information from the client to the server. If you use a CDN for SSL termination, you are pushing work that must be conducted by the server (the authentication) to different hardware outside your own.

Benefit #3: Speed

The CDN will deliver the experience that consumers expect from the Internet. The reason that people like to shop online is due to its convenience, speed, and immediate support. E-commerce is no longer an enticing proposition when your servers are going down or there are unexpected delays. When your servers are not delivering speed, people will go to a site that better respects their time and delivers a more solid user experience.

Keep in mind that CDNs are increasingly needed as sites get more popular. Traffic is a good thing until it overloads your site and leads to widespread performance issues. You will ensure that you give the best possible UX to your visitors and are unlikely to see latency issues when you send traffic through a CDN.

Benefit #4: Worldwide reach

Related to the issue of speed, a content delivery network can be especially helpful when you have users spread out across the globe – because a well-designed CDN will be distributed internationally. Although there are advantages to using a CDN for any organization, those that will get the biggest benefits from them are those that have customers in the US, Asia, Europe, and other locations worldwide. In those cases, the UX for users across the planet will be bolstered. On the other hand, a website that has its infrastructure housed in New York and whose primary customer base is in New York will not see as strong of performance gains since geographical distribution is not a problem.

Benefit #5: Simpler operation

The use of a CDN offloads the amount of work that is performed on-premises. The operation of your organization’s IT should become simpler. Having less hardware under your own roof means you do not have as much equipment to store and maintain.

Benefit #6: Enhanced security

Along with optimized content delivery performance, security is also core to these systems – and it goes beyond the advantages of SSL termination and DDoS mitigation. Managed web application firewalls (WAFs) and bot defenses can be added. You get better longevity out of your in-house equipment by using the security features of CDNs to limit the load that goes through your internal security equipment.

Benefit #7: Image optimization 

You can also often combine CDNs with image optimization services. Whether someone is accessing you from a cellphone, desktop computer, or anything else, your images can be dynamically optimized for them. 

Benefit #8: Surge-ready / slashdot-friendly

Perhaps the worst thing that can happen to your site is to get a huge amount of real (non-DDoS) traffic – a massive opportunity – and then not be able to handle the influx.

This issue often arises when a large site links to a small site, pushing through a large number of referred visitors. This process, called the slashdot effect or simply slashdotting, results in a traffic surge that could render your site unavailable or at least very slow. Slashdots are not the only way you might become overwhelmed by traffic, of course. You might generate the traffic more directly too, noted Jones. For example, you might run a contest that creates excitement or have an ad campaign that goes viral.

If you ever have a situation in which big traffic comes through unexpectedly, you may not be able to handle the load, resulting in crashed systems. Using a CDN service will enable seamless and reliable operation in these cases. It will be able to take care of those large bursts and keep up with the demand – typically much more successfully than the origin servers can.

Benefit #9: Reduce your data center footprint

Reducing the carbon footprint of data centers is a critical concern for many organizations. The extent to which IT infrastructure is a sustainability issue is clear in the findings of a 2014 report from the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC). The NRDC determined that data centers at that point produced 200 million metric tons of carbon dioxide and used 3 percent of energy generated worldwide. Plus, the problem is growing more severe, with consumption expected to grow from 91 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) in 2013 to 139 billion kWh in 2020. While using a CDN service does not do away with the issue of sustainability, tapping into the greater efficiency of a CDN will mean you are more environmentally friendly.

Benefit #10: Branch-office services

Content delivery networks are attractive to branch offices of companies – because branch locations must have content that uses the main location as the origination server and the CDN to deliver and store it. The branch can get DDoS mitigation protection and WAF service through this same process – allowing them to push work that is conducted by hardware at the branch to the CDN edge.

How the CDN works

Now that we better understand why the CDN is so popular, let’s take a closer look at what it does. It operates as a proxy for your resources and services. When your customers enter your web address, they will be redirected automatically through the domain name system to the correct CDN. Since that’s the case, your customers will usually not know a CDN is being used.

Leveraging dedicated points of presence (POP) itself and via outside internet service providers, the content delivery network is able to locate the content servers. Instead of using internet links, a CDN will often utilized private, dedicated lines to interconnect its edges.

Requests from your users are monitored and processed at the CDN edge. If the network is being used for its likeliest use case, static web content is inspected to see how updated it is prior to delivery. CDNs also make it possible to stream video stored within a CDN, in which case you do not need to burden your WAN or your own servers. Software updates, product catalogs, and other customer-facing files can be stored with your CDN as well – in which case they are also accessed and delivered straight from the CDN.

A high-performance CDN

Other reasons to use a CDN include geoblocking, better SEO, and higher resilience. While there are many different reasons to use one, the top benefit is speed – which relies heavily on proximity. At Total Server Solutions, our CDN nodes are close to your customers, wherever they are, leading to happier viewers, fewer abandoned carts, and more completed transactions! Get the reach you need.

sheep bleating as communication -- importance of communication to ecommerce -- common problems and solutions

Posted by & filed under List Posts.

Understanding how to communicate effectively to online shoppers is a question that every ecommerce company must ask constantly and from many different perspectives. One way to look at ecommerce communication is in terms of problem-solving. Here are seven common mistakes, along with solutions: 

Mistake #1: Not communicating enough 

Solution: Understandably, the work of running an ecommerce business never ends, with marketing campaigns to run and orders to ship. Communicating with customers can end up low on the priority list. Taster’s Club founder Mack McConnell told Arianna O’Dell that he learned to communicate with customers soon after they placed an order – that human interaction was particularly critical at that point. 

Mistake #2: Limited channels 

Solution: Expand your toolset. Part of communication is about giving people different avenues through which to talk. Key ways that you can communicate in ecommerce that you probably already have adopted or have considered incorporating, as suggested by Ajeet Khurana in June in The Balance Small Business, are:

  • Email – For electronic commerce, electronic mail is essential. You want an email address as a point of contact for customers, along with a ticketing system that makes it possible to respond to numerous similar emails simultaneously.
  • Phone – When you think about having support people available by phone, many think it does not justify its resource consumption. However, phone personnel are valuable in answering questions through a channel that is most comfortable for some buyers.
  • Live chat – Many shoppers look for live chat so they can get questions answered immediately through your site. A wait time for live chat is generally acceptable to customers because they can keep using the computer as they wait. Like phone, live chat is resource-intensive, but it is still popular since customers often prefer it.
  • Blog – Blogging gives you a way to communicate with customers and potential customers through content that is put up periodically over time, refreshing the site’s language. Your blog will keep your site integrated with the present day (because even if you are writing evergreen content, you are inevitably using sources and topics that are more recent with each piece), and it also helps you share your thought leadership and search authority.
  • User-generated content (UGC) – While it is important for you to share knowledge and ideas with customers through your blog, it is also an excellent idea to build community by tapping their thoughts. People will be likelier to feel loyal toward your site if it allows them to submit their own comments, reviews, and other thoughts through forums and other channels, via text, image, and video.
  • Ads – Advertising is inevitably costlier than you want it to be. Think of your ads straightforwardly in terms of “staying on message” (with an eye consistently toward communication), even as you adjust and tweak to get the best possible response.
  • Product descriptions – Last but certainly not least, you want to think about how you are communicating through the ways you are describing your products. It is very important to your search-engine rankings that you change the default, stock text from the manufacturer to your own. Otherwise, it is not original content; Google, Bing, and other search engines gives significant weight to content originality. As an indication of why, the mission statement of Google states that the company intends “to organize the world’s information.” Google is in the business of information. If your site is not feeding it new information, in the form of new content, it will not appreciate your site as it does others.

Mistake #3: Failing to leverage social media 

Solution: Social media is another key form of communication that deserves its own attention. It can be confusing to determine the extent to which you want to invest time and resources in various platforms, but social media generally can give you a stronger community and greater brand awareness. It also gives you an environment in which to tell your story. To be clear, though, you aren’t just opining on social media but leveraging the opportunity to spark discussion. 

Four of the most common social media sites to connect with people today are Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. While Facebook is broader in its focus, Instagram in known for images, Snapchat for short video, and Twitter for shortform versions of posts. You don’t have to stick to strict use of a platform only for a certain type of content, but you can build the same messages into various formats for use on each platform. Much of the choice of focus in social platforms will have to do with the users of it. Study your audience to determine where they are, how old they are, and other demographics. Using that data, find the social platform popular with those groups. 

Mistake #4: Neglecting to encourage feedback 

Solution: Collecting and analyzing customer feedback is key. The data and comments they provide give you valuable insight into how people perceive your brand and how customers are discovering you. McConnell also noted that gathering information from customers allows you to know what you need to fix. 

Mistake #5: Not considering storytelling 

Solution: There has been great discussion of storytelling as a marketing tactic, as a way to get the engagement you need to keep people on your site and returning for more. When you tell a story about your brand, you are able to get across information about your product within an image you are controlling.

There are many ways for storytelling to become part of your communication. You can use TV or radio ads if you have the money for that. Storytelling can also be used within your blog. Whether you are centered on storytelling or more specifically on information sharing, your blog is a good place to express knowledge and create intimacy.

To integrate storytelling, use these tips from Thibult Herpin in E-Commerce Nation:

  • Convey a positive image. Inspire people and get them excited by showing them testimonials or otherwise showing your products in a pleasant light.
  • Be accessible. Use a story and protagonist to which your prospects can relate.
  • Be emotionally charged. Help build interest in your story by using language that will stimulate emotional response from your customers.
  • Get granular. You can help people see the world of your story with details. Be careful as you get granular, because you want your information to be helpful and not overwhelming.

Storytelling as it is often explained, with the creation of character and setting, is not necessary for or appealing to all companies but is certainly interesting to explore related to content.

Mistake #6: Boring standardized emails 

Solution: Order confirmations, delivery information, shipping status, and other transactional messages do not have to use the same sleep-inducing text that is built in as default by the ecommerce platform, advised Richard Stubbings in PracticalEcommerce. You can customize the language to better engage with your customers. Point out your return policy details and steps they can take to solve problems. Give them tracking information, the way that delivery occurs, and consider tying in loyalty promotions or other discounts. 

Mistake #7: Uninspired 404 error pages 

Solution: Typically when you get to a 404 error page (also called a 404 Not Found), it simply tells you that you have reached the server but it could not find what was requested. A/B testing company Crazy Egg noted that optimized 404 pages should explain what went wrong, speak plainly or humorously, give them paths to stay on the site (such as a link to the homepage and a search bar), and should maintain the same design theme as the rest of your site. There is another way to go after the 404 issue, and that is by fixing broken links. Check for missing media and articles once monthly.

Mistake #8: Empty search pages

Solution: When you offer a way to search your site, you are also opening yourself up the possibility of sending your customers to dead ends – search results with “no results found.” Instead of accepting those dead ones, change that page so that you link to the categories to which the product belongs and/or recommend similar products as alternatives so that they can keep browsing.

Mistake #9: Standard abandoned cart emails

Solution: It is a good idea to seriously consider your abandoned cart messages and whether you believe in sending them, as indicated by Stubbings, who argued against them. If you keep sending them, measure the conversion rate from them so you know if they’re working. Also, be certain that the site did not turn down the order and the customer did, in fact, leave behind their cart. The worst-case scenario is if a shopper tries to buy from you and gets denied because their payment doesn’t work or you don’t mail to their location. If that person gets an email that says they can get a discount to purchase the same item, they would be frustrated if they again were blocked from purchasing.

Mistake #10: Complex unsubscribe process

Solution: Whenever you sent out a marketing email, make sure there is a clear unsubscribe link. If someone is thinking about leaving and finds the process easy, they may sign up again for the list. Difficult unsubscribe processes might have the following characteristics:

  • When you click the Unsubscribe link, you hit a 404 error message.
  • When you get to the Unsubscribe page, you have to enter your email address – in some cases a second time for verification.
  • When you get to the confirmation page, it tells you that you will get an email to finish the process or that it will take effect in 7-10 days.

You do not need to slow people down when they want to exit, and it is not in your best interests. “Be as graceful as possible,” said Stubbings.

Mistake #11: Failing to focus on infrastructure

Solution: Are you wanting to communicate effectively for the strongest possible ecommerce growth? One way that you communicate is through the performance of your site. By using a powerful infrastructure to back it, you save your customers and prospects valuable time by more quickly serving them everything they request.

At Total Server Solutions, our infrastructure is so comprehensive and robust that many other top-tier providers rely on our network to keep them up and running. See our high-performance web hosting for e-commerce.

cloud computing spending 2018, along with types and beneifts

Posted by & filed under List Posts.

An analysis that was released in January found that public cloud spending would exceed $160 billion in 2018, and by 2021, would almost double. The United States was allotting more money to cloud than any other nation, with China expected to shift into the number-two slot – moving past the United Kingdom, Germany, and Japan – by 2021.

The report, which was released by the International Data Corporation (IDC), found that the amount spent on cloud was rising at 23.2% in 2018 vs. 2017, achieving $160 billion. It then was expected to continue to grow at a slightly less breakneck pace of 21.9% through 2021 – hitting $277 billion at that point.

Discrete manufacturing was projected to spend more on cloud that any other economic segment, spending $19.7 billion on it. Directly below discrete manufacturing were professional services at $18 billion and banking at $16.7 billion. Below that were process manufacturing and retail, which will both spend over $10 billion.

To better understand growth of the cloud, we can look at it through a series of questions:

  • What is cloud computing, and why is it used?
  • What are the three primary types of cloud?
  • What is the history of cloud?
  • What other research suggests fast cloud growth?
  • What are the primary benefits of cloud?

What is cloud computing, and why is it used?

Cloud computing is a technology described by Merriam-Webster as meeting two chief specifications – it allows data to be accessed over the internet, and it stores the data on multiple servers. Through cloud service providers (CSPs), firms can lease access to storage and applications instead of having to run their own data centers or infrastructure.

One reason many organizations say that they use cloud is because they do not have to spend as much initially. Companies also like that they do not have to worry about the challenge of purchasing and upkeep for their own IT equipment and facilities. They can instead pay for whatever they need through third parties. Meanwhile, CSPs are able to achieve substantial economies of scales by providing many different customers with the same services.

What are the three primary types of cloud?

The basic types of cloud are infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), platform-as-a-service (PaaS), and software-as-a-service (SaaS).

IaaS, also called cloud hosting, is an arrangement in which the vendor creates and supports hardware that they configure and virtualize, allowing for their customers to deploy computing resources or virtual servers but not having to invest in physical machines or handle all the challenges of managing servers. IaaS generally includes the servers, storage, networking, and virtualization. Aspects of cloud servers that customers may have to handle include applications, databases, security features (although cloud may be housed in an SSAE 16 audited facility), and the operating system.

Platform-as-a-service allows developers to move away from operating system updates, applying security patches, and other hardware-related tasks to focusing on coding, testing, and releasing apps. Tools for version control systems, monitoring, and traffic splitting are often tied into platforms, along with application programming interfaces (APIs).

Software-as-a-service allows users to access an application that is provided by a host via the internet. Dropbox and Salesforce are examples of prominent SaaS applications. SaaS allows users not to have to worry about backing up the systems, updating them, supporting them, or development of the code.

What is the history of cloud?

Not everyone sees the origination of cloud computing the same. Some say that cloud computing goes back to the 1960s and JCR Licklider, who suggested the idea of an “intergalactic computer network.” In 1969, Licklider enabled development of the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET). He wanted people throughout the world to be able to access whatever data and applications were running at any location from any other place.

Other people say that the person responsible for cloud is John McCarthy, who suggested that you could have a public utility model for computation.

Cloud had developed via several lines, most recently via Web 2.0. Cloud has not been a mass-delivered product until recently, because significant bandwidth only started to become possible through the internet in the 1990s.

What other research suggests fast cloud growth?

The finding in the introduction is just one indicator that cloud is on the rise, in various ways. For example, another finding from IDC is that more than one-third of IT spending was currently going toward cloud. With increasing amounts of money going toward public cloud and to private clouds built on-premises, the amount spent on traditional on-premise computing is dropping.

Per Gartner, half of the worldwide companies that have adopted cloud will be shifting 100% of their systems to cloud by 2021. This growth is fueled by an expanding need for management, security, application, and infrastructure services through outside parties. In 2018, worldwide spending on cloud will hit $260 billion, rising from $219.6 billion in 2017. This rate of growth is higher than previous analyst forecasts.

What are the primary benefits of cloud?

There are numerous ways in which companies benefit from cloud adoption:

The cloud enhances collaboration. There are frequent requests for additional cloud systems at 79% of organizations, per the Cloud Security Alliance, with file sharing environments being one of the top solutions of interest. Collaboration is a central characteristic of cloud, since you can access from any location and edit so that updates are applied centrally.

The cloud has strong security. While organizations used to shy away from the cloud for its security, today it is seen as an asset. Facility access is highly controlled, and hardware monitoring is continual. In fact, cloud has been promoted as more secure than on-site infrastructure due to the strong focus on security best practices at these firms. “Very experienced staff maintain these infrastructures, processes are tight and there are many eyes on these systems at all times,” noted Zach Lanich.

Cloud improves agility. You are able to better predict time-to-market with cloud, with less full-time equivalent (FTE) because IT projects are shortened by being able to get your resources on-demand. You will have greater agility, leading to a stronger competitive stance since you are able to product results more quickly and inexpensively. One industry observer noted that he saw the use of cloud for a data analytics project allow a steep drop in cost and significantly better time-to-market, with a drop in delivery time from 4 months to 3 weeks.

Cloud does not need as much capital. One of the main struggles that startups have from the beginning is being able to pay their staff and succeed with their business model. It can be very expensive to fund servers if you are buying them. Cloud is a way to avoid those big costs of a server that you purchase. You just pay for your storage and processing needs each month. Plus, the systems are updated automatically since the cloud provider is in charge of all updates. There is no need to pay for equipment upgrades. You get the service you need without the hassle.

A strong cloud partnership

Cloud spending is increasing for all the reasons described above. Do you want to take advantage of cloud for your organization? At Total Server Solutions, with our SolidFire-SSD-based SAN storage, we are able to provide IOPS levels that are unmatched by virtually any other cloud hosting provider. We do it right.

DDoS history -- distributed denial of service attacks

Posted by & filed under List Posts.

With the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT), experts have warned that it is incredibly vulnerable from a security perspective – and it has been exploited by DDoS attackers. In September-October 2016, nearly 50,000 connected devices, spread out across 164 nations, were used to achieve traffic as high as 280 Gbps. The attack sent traffic into networks of targets primarily sent from digital video cameras. Following that attack, security journalist Brian Krebs was hit with a massive assault – followed by one that achieved a whopping 620 Gbps on DynDNS. The DNS firm had to protect its infrastructure against a packet rate that got up to 100 Mbps – a real-time issue that caused was a bigger problem for them than was the peak bandwidth.

How did we get here?

Three markers of the rise of DDoS

In three key ways, DDoS has expanded over time:

  1. Increasing degree of sophistication – While SYN floods used to be leveraged for DDoS attacks, today is about intricate attacks that go after services, infrastructure (VPS, firewall, etc.), software, and bandwidth (called multi-vector attacks). Multi-vector attacks required skill initially; however, as cybercrime advanced, it became possible for anyone to launch these attacks.
  2. Increasing frequency – Today, anyone can perform a huge DDoS attack as DDoS has been weaponized. The rate of occurrence of attacks has grown, as has the occurrence of huge attacks. Reports from the first quarter of 2018 showed that DDoS attacks were growing in frequency (as well as in length and size).
  3. Increasing volume – The size of DDoS attacks became larger with the incorporation of IoT botnets and use of new innovations such as reflection and amplification. Because of these factors, the attacks of recent years are much larger than the ones that were sustained by ISPs in the late 90s.

Timeline of DDoS development

We can get a better sense of DDoS evolution by looking at a timeline of major events related to these attacks – which takes us back to the early 1970s:

1973 – It is difficult to determine the exact date of the first denial of service (DoS) attack, but Robert Lemos suggested in eWeek that the initial one may have occurred in 1973 (according to an unverified story told by David Dennis, adjusted to account for a probably mistake that he made in the year). The attack was said to have occurred on the Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations (PLATO) system at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), which was used for instruction and as an online community (a precursor to the Internet). Dennis claims to have caused it as a 13-year-old high school student, when he wrote a program and deployed it to users of PLATO, causing many of them to have to restart simultaneously. He claimed to subsequently use this same technique on several networks locally and nationally, and that he was successful until the ext command was changed.

1995 – Manual DoS protest attacks were conducted by activists in the late 1990s. These activists started to think of the Internet as a place that could be used as a form of protest, through access prevention. The Strano Network was one of the first groups to engage in this activity.

1998 – This year was when the distributed denial of service (DDoS) emerged (although it would not become widely notorious until 2000). Floodnet was a tool that could be downloaded and run on the computers of users. It was created by another group of activists called the Electronic Disturbance Theater (EDT). The tool would then start going after various sites, following a list supplied by the EDT. This same year, cybercriminals started using simple but effective Smurf attacks, which leveraged the Internet Control Message Protocol (ICMP) to prompt other servers to ping a target. These attacks were the first prominent instance of reflection/amplification attacks.

1999 – The Trinoo bot, made up of 227 infected Solaris servers, was used to attack the University of Minnesota.

2000 – The first DDoS attack to get significant press occurred when Mafiaboy, a 15-year-old Canadian boy, brought down various major corporations, including Amazon, eBay, Yahoo!, and Dell. The Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) Coordination Center also noted that there would be more DDoS attacks that amplified bandwidth by using the domain name system (DNS).

2003 – Worms had become ever more problematic for system administrators in the beginning of the century. The 376-byte MS SQL Slammer worm, the first flash worm, was let loose in 2003. This worm’s speed was unprecedented: it doubled the number of infected systems every 8.5 seconds, and overloading network bandwidth in just 3 minutes.

2005 – 8 Gbps was the largest amount of DDoS traffic that was reported by any respondent in the annual Worldwide Infrastructure Security Report (WISR) from Arbor Networks. (Compare to today’s figures below.)

2007 – A statue was moved in Estonia that honored World War II Soviet soldiers who fought against Nazi Germany. Diplomatic issues arose between the two states because of this decision, and Estonia suffered repeated DDoS attacks.

2008 – Anonymous started a series of actions, including against the Church of Scientology, in which they defaced sites or hit them with DDoS attacks.

2011 – Sony fell victim to a massive DDoS attack. This attack seemed to have been used as a distraction as the thieves stole PlayStation Network customer records.

2013 – At 300 Gbps, the most massive DDoS of all time was measured. This attack hit Spamhaus because the organization had named the hosts of botnets, spam networks, and cybercrime outfits, as well as blacklisting them.

2014 – On Christmas Day, Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network were hit with a DDoS attack, with Lizard Squad taking credit for it.

2016 – Politically motivated DDoS attacks were central to this year. The US Department of Defense was pummeled with a barrage of spam in late January. The Russian military was similarly hit with a DDoS attack in March. The Reaper (IoTroop or IoT_reaper), a botnet built by North Korea, continued to become more powerful. Qihoo 360, a Chinese web security company, reported that The Reaper had enslaved 10,000 devices, all of which were interacting with the cybercriminals’ servers regularly. The botnet had millions of IoT devices that it could potentially add via an automatic loader. There was an attack of 500 Gbps that lasted throughout the Olympics in August. As DDoS took center stage with Mirai, an attack that peaked at 620 Gbps was carried out by an IoT botnet against Brian Krebs.

2018 – Memcached was used to attack Github. In this event, there was a disruption of approximately 10 minutes. Per the engineering department at Github, 1.35 Tbps of traffic was targeted at the collaborative-software service. The Memcached protocol was subsequently shown to enable amplification through web-connected servers by a factor of as much as 51,000. Through this protocol, it was able to wage a simple attack and then amplify it, slamming a network with much more sizable packets.  There was a major blow to criminal DDoS efforts when Webstresser was shut down by authorities of the Netherlands, the UK, and the US. The organization’s leadership was arrested. Webstresser is credited with causing 4-6 million DDoS attacks between 2015 and 2018. It caused that much havoc by offering DDoS-for-hire services.

DDoS

Denial-of-service attacks have certainly come a long way since they were first deployed in the early 1970s, morphing into ever-more-sophisticated distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) events. As DDoS attacks have become larger and more expensive, the importance of working with experts on your defense has skyrocketed. Safeguard your site against the hassle and expense of a DDoS attack.

Best practices for ecommerce success -- gear representing putting best practices to work for your business

Posted by & filed under List Posts.

More than half of Americas (51%) now prefer online to in-person shopping. Since people are buying increasingly online, the competition in the market is also tightening. Implementing best practices is increasingly important if you want your business to perform well and continue to grow at a steady rate in the years ahead.

Best practices for ecommerce include the following:

#1. Establish your key performance indicators (KPI).

Strategizing through a formal plan helps guide your forward motion and embed decisions in larger purpose. All that you perform should be in pursuit of tangible goals. While that is the case, noted an Econsultancy report, ecommerce outfits do not always clearly define their objectives. If your ecommerce company does not have an up-to-date ecommerce plan, then optimizing the way you conduct online business could require you to first “work with rest of the business to come up with the framework into which ecommerce activity can fit,” said the report.

KPI, quantifiable performance metrics, must be determined during this process. As you conduct an overview of what your goals might be and how your KPI assessment might proceed, you want to consider potential for updating the way you operate. Assessing KPI data is about checking how simple it is to complete tasks effectively. In order to improve your ecommerce capabilities, you may need to modify your site and the systems that back it in diverse ways.

As you think about changes, noted the report, consider control in who can actually take the necessary steps. It is necessary to assess which of your personnel – product managers, merchandise managers, etc. – have access to the site and can make edits. Similarly, you want your user experience (UX) staff to be able to test quickly and effectively, without running into access issues.

To be clear, access controls are key to security and compliance. PCI compliance requires the formal adoption of access and data control policies and procedures, as indicated by the Stanford University PCI Policy. However, ensuring the removal of obstructions to your ability to improve the site should be carefully considered.

#2. Get rid of clutter.

You will convert more visitors to your site if you make your design as simple as possible. When you look at the homepage, it should be clear where people’s attention is being directed. A person’s eyes should be moving toward either a product you sell or a call-to-action (CTA) button. When the page is cluttered, there is a less straightforward movement through a CTA.

Clutter is an incredibly common issue with ecommerce sites, according to Neil Patel of QuickSprout. Patel cited statistics that it took users more than 3 seconds to locate the CTAs on more than half of ecommerce sites (53%).

Removing clutter is a reminder that you want people who come to your site to buy from you. Cleaning up the sight eases their task of making a purchase. It also could minimize support requests.

#3. Polish your about page.

Many people will look at your about page. Often shoppers will decide if they want to order from you based on how they feel about that page. Statistics cited by web developer Thomas G. Bennett suggest more than half of visitors will see the page (52%). The visibility of the page is also clear in the success story from WordStream Blog: when the publication upgraded its about page, it saw a 13% rise in conversions.

Bennett suggested the following ways to improve this critical page:

  • Rather than thinking about this page describing you, think about it describing you solving customer problems.
  • Give the visitor a sense of your organization’s personality, but do not get so loose with the page that it becomes unprofessional.
  • Write a short snippet about your complete company. Discuss how you were prompted to start the store, if applicable. Talk about why you wanted to be your own boss. Talk about why the business is important.
  • Consider including reviews and testimonials. Reviews and testimonials will help visitors vicariously understand the experience of a satisfied customer. These statements are great because they establish your products working without you having to promote them.
  • Differentiate yourself. If your organization provides free consulting or monthly informational PDFs to your customers, let people know. Differentiate yourself and describe that difference.
  • Show imagery. You can feature a photograph of your staff together – or individual shots of employees to pair with quick bios.
  • End with a CTA. The way you describe yourself on the about page and position yourself as your customer’s problem-solver will make them likelier to want to make a purchase. Leverage that opportunity with a call-to-action.

#4. Get fast web hosting.

In many contexts, the desire for speed is reduced naturally by the desire for quality; for instance, we don’t expect fine dining to be delivered in 5 seconds, whereas we may be frustrated if a vending machine does not dispense in that window because the product is low-quality. In the context of the internet, on the other hand, speed is simply a bottom-line factor that will impact your success. A fast site leads to more sales.

In fact, the impact of speed has been clear for 10 years. Even back then, an Aberdeen Group report (no longer online but available via email here) found, “A 1-second delay in page load time equals 11% fewer page views, a 16% decrease in customer satisfaction, and 7% loss in conversions.”

It is noteworthy that Patel, a marketer, lists web hosting performance – quality of infrastructure – as a core ecommerce best practice. However, speed is a broad issue. While web hosting will solve many performance issues, ecommerce firms should be aware that downtime and slowness of a site are often not caused by the host. Almost all situations in which there is a performance issue on a site arises out of a member of your staff “blindly troubleshooting,” per Aberdeen’s Ryan Arsenault. A 2015 Aberdeen analysis looking at challenges for business web performance determined that nearly half of companies (46%) did not have web app performance monitoring tools implemented, while 1 in 5 (21%) did not have web performance monitors in place.

#5. Optimize for mobile.

In today’s environment, you need to specifically assess mcommerce – with a specific plan related to building that part of your business. Strengthening mobile seems obvious when you consider that close to two-thirds (62%) of traffic through ecommerce sites is via mobile.

Notably, mobile might be used for research, while the order is placed by the user through desktop. This jumping from one device to another by users is part of the basis of cross-device targeting. Nonetheless, a large portion of online shopping is now through mcommerce: overall in 2017, mobile device purchases accounted for $18 billion of the $78.6 billion that went toward online retail. Furthermore, more than half of people (57%) said that they do not recommend an ecommerce store if its mobile site is poorly designed.

#6. Have high-quality support that is easy to reach.

Support is absolutely key to online differentiation. Some shoppers will inevitably run into challenges when they try to order from you. When someone is trying to solve a straightforward issue, whether it’s prior to sale (such as finding an item) or after (such as troubleshooting a product you sent them), fast resolution will create greater immediate and long-term sales.

Your high-performance ecommerce solution

While more people are shifting to making their purchases online, ecommerce is no less challenging – particularly as competition continues to build. Fundamental to ecommerce success is building best practices into the way you do business. One best practice is to improve your performance through infrastructure. At Total Server Solutions, our hosting plans can accommodate everything from small, static sites all the way up to large enterprises. See our high-performance web hosting for ecommerce.

Posted by & filed under List Posts.

Inc. Magazine Unveils Its 37th Annual List of
America’s Fastest-Growing Private Companies—the Inc. 5000

For the 2nd Time, Total Server Solutions Appears on the Inc. 5000,

Ranking No. 2919 With Three-Year Revenue Growth of 140 Percent

 

NEW YORK, August 15, 2018Inc. magazine today revealed that Total Server Solutions is No. 2919 on its 37th annual Inc. 5000, the most prestigious ranking of the nation’s fastest-growing private companies. The list represents a unique look at the most successful companies within the American economy’s most dynamic segment—its independent small businesses. Microsoft, Dell, Domino’s Pizza, Pandora, Timberland, LinkedIn, Yelp, Zillow, and many other well-known names gained their first national exposure as honorees on the Inc. 5000.

TSS’ has a true team of talented individuals who are dedicated to customer success. Our second year in a row being named on the Inc. 5000 list is a testament to just that.” said Gary Simat, Chief Executive Officer of Total Server Solutions. “As we are just on the heels of our recent acquisition of Zerolag Communications, TSS has solidified itself as a leader in managed infrastructure as a service, servicing workloads across any platform, on any provider.  We have been realizing amazing and consistent year over year growth in revenue, client count, and talent on staff; it truly is an exciting time at TSS.”

Not only have the companies on the 2018 Inc. 5000 (which are listed online at Inc.com, with the top 500 companies featured in the September issue of Inc., available on newsstands August 15) been very competitive within their markets, but the list as a whole shows staggering growth compared with prior lists. The 2018 Inc. 5000 achieved an astounding three-year average growth of 538.2 percent, and a median rate of 171.8 percent. The Inc. 5000’s aggregate revenue was $206.1 billion in 2017, accounting for 664,095 jobs over the past three years.

Complete results of the Inc. 5000, including company profiles and an interactive database that can be sorted by industry, region, and other criteria, can be found at www.inc.com/inc5000.

“If your company is on the Inc. 5000, it’s unparalleled recognition of your years of hard work and sacrifice,” says Inc. editor in chief James Ledbetter. “The lines of business may come and go, or come and stay. What doesn’t change is the way entrepreneurs create and accelerate the forces that shape our lives.”

The annual Inc. 5000 event honoring the companies on the list will be held October 17 to 19, 2018, at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort, in San Antonio, Texas. As always, speakers include some of the greatest innovators and business leaders of our generation.

Total Server Solutions provides managed services, high performance infrastructure and custom solutions to individuals and businesses in a range of industries. Their customers range from financial institutions, to advertising platform operators, to hosting providers, to telecom companies. Total Server Solutions is also trusted by educational institutions and government agencies to keep their data on-line and available.

 

CONTACT:
Gary Simat
Total Server Solutions
+1(855)227-1939 Ext 649
Gary.Simat@TotalServerSolutions.com
www.TotalServerSolutions.com

Tucker Kroll
Total Server Solutions
Tucker.Kroll@TotalServerSolutions.com
www.TotalServerSolutions.com

 

More about Inc. and the Inc. 5000

Methodology
The 2018 Inc. 5000 is ranked according to percentage revenue growth when comparing 2014 and 2018. To qualify, companies must have been founded and generating revenue by March 31, 2014. They had to be U.S.-based, privately held, for profit, and independent—not subsidiaries or divisions of other companies—as of December 31, 2017. (Since then, a number of companies on the list have gone public or been acquired.) The minimum revenue required for 2014 is $100,000; the minimum for 2017 is $2 million. As always, Inc. reserves the right to decline applicants for subjective reasons. Companies on the Inc. 500 are featured in Inc.’s September issue. They represent the top tier of the Inc. 5000, which can be found at http://www.inc.com/inc5000.

About Inc. Media
Founded in 1979 and acquired in 2005 by Mansueto Ventures, Inc. is the only major brand dedicated exclusively to owners and managers of growing private companies, with the aim to deliver real solutions for today’s innovative company builders. Inc. took home the National Magazine Award for General Excellence in both 2014 and 2012. The total monthly audience reach for the brand has been growing significantly, from 2,000,000 in 2010 to more than 18,000,000 today.  For more information, visit www.inc.com.

The Inc. 5000 is a list of the fastest-growing private companies in the nation. Started in 1982, this prestigious list has become the hallmark of entrepreneurial success. The Inc. 5000 Conference & Awards Ceremony is an annual event that celebrates the remarkable achievements of these companies. The event also offers informative workshops, celebrated keynote speakers, and evening functions.

For more information on Inc. and the Inc. 5000 Conference, visit http://conference.inc.com/.

For more information contact:
Inc. Media
Drew Kerr
212-849-8250
dkerr@mansueto.com
 

Ecommerce ethics attempt to describe fair and just behavior by online merchants. (Yellow ethics sign)

Posted by & filed under List Posts.

A Tesla investor sued Elon Musk in early August, saying that they believed his claim on Twitter that he had funding solidified to turn the publicly traded company private was fraudulent. This story is still in development and certainly Musk has not (at least at this point) been found guilty of any wrongdoing. The investor, who is not suing related to ethics but purported crime, is hoping to recover financially (asking other short-sellers to join a class-action): Musk’s tweet is potential fraud that hurt their portfolios. However, it also represents an ethical issue since deceiving people would not be considered acceptable ethical behavior within common mainstream understanding.

With the rise of the Internet, business has become truly global. Since people across the planet want the marketplace to be as fair as possible, there is worldwide concern with the specific business area of ecommerce ethics. For instance, it is addressed by ethical design consultant Tina Farber in German magazine Smashing Magazine as a basis with which to conduct design work. Thousands of miles away, Professor Pathik Variya of India’s Dharmsinh Desai University listed ethical obligations of ecommerce firms. You certainly see significant overlap in the discussion of ethics for online business.

This article explores some of the core ethical issues related to ecommerce. First, though, it grounds discussion to talk directly about what ethics and business ethics are.

What exactly are ethics?

The definition for ethics from the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics is perhaps particularly interesting since it comes from a Silicon Valley based institution, Santa Clara University. The center’s definition is twofold. For one, it describes ethics as “well-founded standards of right and wrong that prescribe what humans ought to do, usually in terms of rights, obligations, benefits to society, fairness, or specific virtues.”

Secondly, the center adds that ethics refers to the study and development of ethical principles. To take on both of those meanings of ethics at your organization, you could espouse ethical principles in the way you operate, as well as commit to further improving your ethical framework and practices as you proceed.

Ethics can be followed and applied personally or organizationally, internally and externally. Business ethics may initially sound as if they are solely the concern of industry, but that is not the case, as indicated in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (run by the school’s Metaphysics Research Lab) by business ethics specialist and Bentley University professor Jeffrey Moriarty. As Moriarty noted, business ethics are something with which we should all be concerned since everyone does business at least to the extent that we purchase items on a daily or near-daily basis. Moriarty also commented that many of us additionally spend hours daily and throughout our lives focused on producing within a business context. The actions of businesses help to determine the nature of our culture, both for good and for bad, he concluded.

Core ethical issue #1 – security

To get into specific concerns, security is one issue that is mentioned often in discussion of business ethics. After all, security is not just about meeting Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) compliance but meeting ethical expectations that define fair and forthright business interactions.

An analysis on HonorSociety.org focused its discussion of security ethics on an increasingly key issue: protecting your information systems from insider threats. That point of focus makes sense given the numbers. In healthcare, 58% of breaches are now caused by the insider, according to a 2018 Verizon study. Throughout industry, a 2015 analysis from Intel found that the insider was responsible for 43% of data breaches. Some statistics are even higher than these already high numbers. For example, HonorSociety.org cited statistics finding that human error accounted for 80% of data breaches. Regardless the specific figures, it is certainly true, as Chris Duckett said in ZDNet, that “[y]our biggest threat is inside your organisation [sic] and probably didn’t mean it.”

Since error is so prevalent, it should be addressed through robust and regular training – which is a best practice for infosecurity anyway. Routine risk assessments (both comprehensive ones and ones that target systems you are evaluating for adoption) are also critical for breach prevention.

Core ethical issue #2 – Accuracy in descriptions and marketing

Another key ethical notion is that ecommerce companies should be straightforward in their descriptions of products through all communications – advertising, product pages, the blog, social media, and any other settings. (This aspect of ethics was central to the Musk lawsuit described above.)

Delivering on the promise, that what a person gets in the end is what they thought they were getting from the start, runs contrary to the ethical issues of bait-and-switch sales and deceptive advertising. In ecommerce, in contrast to traditional brick-and-mortar retail, the customer is unable to directly see or touch a product prior to purchasing it. Online, they are able to see products within videos and photos; however, that image undoubtedly presents the items in as near-perfect conditions as possible. This aspect of the images being so close to perfection on an ecommerce site is interesting in that what the shopper sees is not the product that gets purchased. Instead, it is a picture of another copy of the product.

It is easy to make mistakes with product descriptions. However, ethics require care that what the customer is actually getting is aligned with how it is presented online.

Core ethical issue #3 – Surveillance capitalism

A core issue of design ethics will be uncomfortable for many but is worthy of consideration given the amount of data flowing through ecommerce platforms: surveillance capitalism. This issue, brought up by Falber, arises when you consider your reasons for gathering and analyzing your user data. Falber cited ethical designer Aral Balkan, who offered a disturbing analogy. Balkan noted that Facebook using data to improve its platform is similar to a cow getting a massage in order to make Kobe beef – because those massages are “not for the benefit of the cow but to make the cow a better product.” He concludes his point, “In this analogy, you are the cow.”

Falber expanded Balkan’s thought by noting that data collection and analysis is problematic when its real aim is financial gain. People could debate Facebook’s side in this matter, but the issue of surveillance capitalism is certainly discussed in ethical circles related to web design and development.

Core ethical issue #4 – Moral agency

The notion of corporate moral agency is used by some thinkers to describe business ethics. Through this framework, any individual engaged in business is a moral agent – just as the collective of people working for a certain firm make up corporate moral agency. There is disagreement over whether a company should itself be considered a moral agent as well (beyond thinking of morality in terms of the staff as a group).

While it may not be easy to think in terms of moral agency, it can help develop a deeper understanding for ethics as a systemic value and as something to improve both individually and collectively.

Ecommerce based on key standards

Clearly, following ethics is important in how business is conducted. While we expect ethical behavior from those with whom we do business, we do not always get it; to protect ourselves, we seek proof that organizations follow established standards. One of the most credible ways for any service provider to demonstrate how strong its systems are from a security and control perspective is the Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements 16 (SSAE 16) from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). See our SSAE-16 and PCI-compliant ecommerce solutions.