Web Hosting Alternatives
When companies need to incorporate electronic commerce components, they may opt to run servers in house-self hosting. Many midsize and smaller companies decide that a third-party web hosting service provider is a better choice than self hosting. A number of companies called Internet service providers (ISPs) provide internet access to companies and individuals-some offer web hosting as well-sometimes call themselves commerce service providers (CSPs). These firms often offer web server management and rent application software (such as databases, shopping carts, and content management programs) to businesses, sometimes called managed service providers. Service providers offer clients hosting arrangements that include shared hosting, dedicated hosting, and co-location. Shared hosting means that the client’s web site is on a service that hosts other web sites simultaneously and is operated by the service provider at its location. Dedicated hosting-service provider makes a web server available to the client, but the client doesn’t share the server with other clients of the service provider. The service provider is responsible for maintaining the routers, and other network hardware. In a co-location service, the service provider rents a physical space to the client to install its own service hardware. The client installs its own software and maintains the server-the service provider is responsible only for providing a reliable power supply and a connection to the internet through its routers and other networking hardware. The best hosting services provide web server hardware and software combinations that are scalable, which means they can be adapted to meet changing requirements when their clients grow.
Basic functions of electronic commerce software
Inexpensive end of the spectrum-externally hosted stores that provide software tools to build an online store on a host’s site. At the other end- software suites that can handle high transaction volumes and include a broad assortment of features and tools. The type of e-commerce software an organization needs depends on several factors- the expected size of the enterprise and its projected traffic and sales, budget, etc. All e-commerce solutions must at least provide:
-a catalog display, shopping cart capabilities, transaction processing
Additional software components: middleware that integrates the e-commerce system with existing company info systems that handle inventory control, order processing, and accounting, enterprise application integration, web services, integration with enterprise resource planning software, supply chain management software, CRM, content management software, knowledge management software
A static catalog is a simple list written in HTML that appears on a web page or a series of web page. A dynamic catalog stores the information about items in a database, usually on a separate computer that is accessible to the server that is running the web site itself. It can feature multiple photos of each item, detailed descriptions, and a search tool.
In the early days of e-commerce, shoppers selected items they wanted to purchase by filling out online forms. This system was awkward for ordering more than one or two items at a time. One problem with forms-based shopping was that shoppers had to write down product codes, unit prices, and other info about the product before going to the order form, which was inevitably on another page. Today, shopping carts are a standard of e-commerce. It keeps track of the items the customer has selected and allows customers to view the contents of their cards, add new items, or remove items. To order an item, the customer simply clicks that item.
Transaction processing when the shopper proceeds to the checkout by clicking a checkout button. Then, the e-commerce software performs any necessary calculations such as volume discounts, sales taxes, and shipping costs. Most complex part of the online sale.
Advanced functions of e-commerce software
Establish the connections between their e-commerce software and their existing accounting systems. Most of the cost of middleware isn’t the software itself, but the consulting fees needed. Making a company’s info systems work together is called interoperability.
Enterprise application integration and databases
A program that performs a specific function, such as creating invoices, calculating payroll or processing payments received from customers, is called an application program/application software. An application server is a computer that takes the request messages received by the web server and runs application programs that perform some kind of action based on the contents of the request messages. The actions that the application server software performs are determined by the rules-business logic. Links among these scattered applications so that the organization’s business logic can be interconnected is called application integration/enterprise application integration-accomplished by programs that transfer info from one application to another, programmers are using XML data feeds more. Application servers are usually grouped into two types: page based and component based systems. Page based application systems return pages generated by scripts that include the rules for presenting data on the web page with the business logic. Larger businesses often prefer to use a component based application system that separates the presentation logic from the business logic. Application servers usually obtain the business logic info they use to build web pages from databases. A database manager is software that stores info in a highly structured way. Large information systems that store the same data in many different physical locations are called distributed info systems and the databases within those systems are called distributed database systems. Most web stores selling many products use a database that stores product info, including size, color, type, and price details.
Web services as a combination of software tools that let application software in one organization communicate with other applications over a network by using a specific set of standard protocols known by their acronyms: SOAP, UDDI, and WSDL.
How web services work: a key element of the web services approach is that programmers can write software that accesses these units of business application logic without knowing the details of how each unit is implemented. Web services can be mixed and matched with other web services to execute a complex business transaction. The first web services were info sources. The web services model allowed programmers to incorporate these info sources into software applications.
SOAP, WSDL, and UDDI Specifications: three rule sets (usually called protocols or specifications) let programs work with the formatted (using XML or HTML) data flows to accomplish the communication that makes web services work. The simple object access protocol (SOAP) is a message-passing protocol that defines how to send marked up data from one software application to another across a network. The characteristics of the logic units that make up specific web services are described using the web services description language (WSDL). They can use the info in a WSDL description to modify an application program so it can connect to a web service. Programmers (and, eventually, the programs themselves) need to find the location of web services before they can interpret their characteristics (described in WSDL) or communicate with them (using SOAP). The set of protocols that identify locations of web services and their associated WSDL descriptions is called the Universal Description, Discovery, and Integration (UDDI) specification.
The future of web services: Much of the data in web services applications is stored and transmitted in XML format. Because there are so many variations of XML is in use today, it is critical that data providing and data using partners agree on which XML implementation to use. No web services management standards or history of best practices – this lack of standards means that each web service subscriber needs a detailed agreement (specifying service levels, quality of service standards, and so on) with each web services provider.
Integration with ERP Systems
Many B2B web sites must be able to connect to existing info systems such as enterprise resource planning software. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software packages are business systems that integrate all facets of a business.
E-Commerce Software for small and midsize companies
Basic Commerce Service Providers
Using a service provider’s shared or dedicated hosting services instead of building in-house servers or using a co-location service means that the staffing burden shifts from the company to the web host. CSPs have the same advantages as ISP hosting services, spreading the cost of a large web site over several “renters” hosted by the service.
Mall style commerce service providers
Mall style CSPs provide small businesses with an Internet connection, web site creation tools, and little or no banner advertising clutter. Web hosts in this group charge a monthly fee that is often higher than that of lower end providers, and may also charge one time setup fees. Some of these providers also charge a percentage of or fixed amount for each customer transaction. The CSP processes the acceptance and authorization of credit cards on behalf of the merchant.
E-commerce software for midsize to large businesses
The midrange packages allow the merchant to have explicit control over merchandising choices, site layout, internal architecture, and remote and local management options. The midrange and basic e-commerce packages differ on price, capability, database connectivity, software portability, software customization tools, and computer expertise required of the merchant.
Web site development tools
Although they are more often used for creating small business site, it is possible to construct the elements of a midrange e-commerce web site using the web page creation and site management tools – Macromedia Dreamweaver, Microsoft FrontPage. After creating the web site with these development tools, the designer can add purchased software elements, such as shopping carts and content management software, to the site. The final step is to create the middleware that connects the site to the company’s existing product and transaction processing databases. Buying and using midrange e-commerce software is more expensive than using CSPs. Midrange software traditionally offers connectivity to database systems that store catalog info.
E-commerce software for large businesses
Larger businesses require many of the same advanced capabilities as midsize firms, but the larger firms need to handle higher transaction loads. They need dedicated software applications to handle specific elements of their online business. The distinction between midrange and large scale e-commerce software is much clearer than the one between basic systems and midrange systems. The tell tale sign is price. Commerce software in this class is sometimes called enterprise-class software- a system that serves multiple locations or divisions of one company and encompasses all areas of the business or enterprise.
Enterprise class e-commerce software
Enterprise-class software provides good tools for linking to and supporting supply and purchasing activities. For a selling business, e-business software provides standard e-commerce activities, such as secure transaction processing and fulfillment, but it can also do more. In contrast, both basic and midrange e-commerce packages usually require an administrator to check inventory manually and place orders explicitly for items that need to be replenished. A merchant server houses the e-business system and key back end software. It processes payments, computes shipping and taxes, and sends a message to the fulfillment department when it must ship goods to a purchaser.
Supply Chain Management Software
Supply chain management (SCM) software helps companies to coordinate planning and operations with their partners in the industry supply chains of which they are members-performs two general types of functions: planning and execution. SCM planning software helps companies develop coordinated demand forecasts using info from each participant in the supply chain. SCM execution software helps with tasks such as warehouse and transportation management.
Content Management Software
Most e-commerce software comes with wizards and other automated helpers that create template-driven pages, such as home pages, about pages, and contact pages. But most businesses want to customize web pages. Content management software helps companies control the large amounts of text, graphics, and media files that have become a key part of doing business.
Knowledge management software
An increasing number of large companies have achieved cost savings by using content management software. Software is designed to help companies manage info that, until recently, was stored in paper reports, schedules, analyses, and memos. KM software helps companies do four main things: collect and organize info, share the info among users, enhance the ability of users to collaborate, and preserver the knowledge gained through the use of info so that future users can benefit from the learning of current users-includes tools that read e-documents scanned paper documents, email messages, and web pages.