As the whole world goes digital, e-commerce is becoming the norm for billions of people, and this means that websites must be equipped to deal with many enquiries simultaneously. Servers provide an essential service, as the website’s data is hosted on this special storage device, and by linking with other devices, it sends the right data to the right user.
What is a server?
In computing terms, a server is a program or device that provides functionality to other programs or devices, and these are called clients. The client-server model is used extensively in computing, and a server might provide services such as,
- Sharing data or resources among multiple clients
- Performing computations for clients
- Backing up critical data
A server can serve multiple clients, just as a single client can use multiple servers, and some of the more common types of servers include,
- Mail servers
- Database servers
- Web servers
- Game servers
- Application servers
The web server is the essential item for any e-commerce site, and they also come in a range of packages.
This is when multiple clients use the same server, which is run by a hosting company. The fact that many users are sharing the one server means that the cost is very reasonable, and this is the preferred solution for single users and small businesses. A shared server might host up to 300 websites, and they are all requesting at the same time, and in heavy traffic periods, this causes queues, which lead to timeouts.
This is not a break during a sports contest, signified by the letter “T”, rather a timeout in computing terms refers to the inability of the server to respond to a request. The word timeout has drastic consequences for the online seller, as when a timeout occurs, the user must refresh the page, and most people will simply move on to another site.
One way that hackers take down a site is to send multiple requests to a server that increases in numbers until the server is no longer able to process the requests and shuts down the site. This illustrates how limited the server’s resources are, and with a few hundred busy clients, all requesting at once, a shared server will not perform well.
Many online entrepreneurs now realise the importance of super-fast response times when running shopping cart websites, and therefore insist on a dedicated server from the outset. Yes, it is more expensive that sharing a server, but with multiple users purchasing at all hours of the day, it is essential that the buying process is fast and efficient. A smart business owner would see a dedicated server as a necessity, therefore the question of whether to have one’s own server doesn’t even get raised.
The benefits of a dedicated server
Firstly, all of the resources are dedicated to processing the data for one client, with a range of server specifications ranging from a small business level to ultra-high performance systems. In short, if your website is run on a dedicated server, you can be assured of the fastest response times, and with the technical 24/7 support that the host company provides, the business owner can concentrate on other aspects, such as marketing and product sourcing.
A dedicated server can be specifically set up for the client, and with no other clients using the server, it is easier to maintain a high level of security. The web host’s technical team can provide the perfect security system, tailored to meet your specific needs, something that could not happen on a shared server.
Enhancing the buying experience
If we look at things from the consumer’s perspective, he or she wants to source and purchase a product. Once they have located that product, and are satisfied with the price and the product specifications, they expect a smooth and easy buying process. Once a consumer enters the buying process, any problems could be disastrous for the seller. As soon as a credit card transaction begins, the security is higher than for regular data transfer, due to the nature of the information being transmitted. If there is a server timeout at any point, the entire process must begin again, as the refresh option does not work. If you want your customers to effortlessly buy your products, you need a dedicated server to ensure this.
The rush-hour traffic
Imagine the digital highway as a multiple lane mega motorway, with many lanes that can accommodate a lot of traffic. In the rush hour, things get congested, and it is normal to wait in line and crawl. Having your own server is akin to having your own lane, which no other traffic can enter, so it doesn’t matter how much traffic there is, you have your own lane, or lanes, depending on your requirements. Here is an informative site with many articles on e-commerce, which make for interesting reading if you are in the business.
We must understand the economics behind shared servers, and yes, it is a cheaper alternative than a dedicated server, and this is fine for some websites. Some businesses are more about offering information, and downloadable files, and in that environment, a shared server is fine. If you are talking about shopping cart websites that generate high volumes of traffic, then a dedicated server is an absolute must. With multiple users all purchasing at the same time, a shared server would have difficulty keeping up. If you are currently running an e-commerce site, and have noticed how customer retention is falling, it could be because your shared server keeps timing out, and your clients are going elsewhere.
From an economical point of view, not having a dedicated server is not really an option for serious online shopping organisations, who require super-fast response times, around the clock.
Technical support around the clock
Having your own server doesn’t mean you need a PhD in computer science, as there are technicians who are dedicated to seeing that your dedicated server is working as it should.
A dedicated server will cost you more at the outset, but the extra revenue that comes from having a smooth website will more than cover that.