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05

May 2017

Learn about the infrastructure in eCommerce


eCommerce Infrastructure identifies the functionalities of the Hardware and Software components, specifies the corresponding service level requirements, and describes the management and operations of the whole system. It may comprise briefly of the following components at a very abstract level.

  • Software components used: Content management systems, Web analytics, Text analytics, Application Programming Interface (API), Database server, Middleware’s etc. Object oriented (e.g. CORBA), Transaction processing, communication (https, messaging), data base (e.g. ODBC), application middleware (CGI)
  • Hardware components used: Servers, proxy servers, load balancing systems. Firewalls, encryption devices and interactive voice response units etc.

Infrastructure in Zambia is a major challenge for Start-ups and SMEs involved in e-commerce.

Cost of broadband

Zambia has four (4) cellular network. These include MTN, Airtel, Zamtel and Vodafone. With the cost of broadband only increasing with time, international service providers have moved into the country offering only internet services. Even with Zamtel being the cheapest service provider, the brutal truth is the network in Zambia is not consistent thus giving external service providers opportunity to take over the market.

According to http://www.dospeedtest.com/speedtest-result/country-statistics/Zambia/ the speed of the Zambian internet is as follows

Average Latency: 375 Ms

Average Download: 4.67 Mbps

Average Upload: 2.12 Mbps

Capital: Lusaka

Total Speed Test: 32

Compared to the speed in the USA according to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_in_the_United_States which says,

In 2015, the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defined broadband as any connection with a download speed of at least 25 Mbit/s and an upload speed of at least 3 Mbit/s,

 

The cost domains are also seen as rather costly and slow to obtain.

Payment gateway and satellite.

Zambia does not have its own payment gateway. This means it needs to hire internet hosting services for a company that runs internet servers. We also import satellites and fibre from other countries which means when the Kwacha drops, the prices increase. The servers that we use in Zambia are also not up-to the international level i.e. the types of servers used for instance in the western world are much more modern and advanced.

So do we evaluate the Zambian infrastructure in relation to eCommerce?

This is a structure from https://tech-talk.org/2015/02/10/e-commerce-infrastructure-planning-and-management/ that can help us understand that question:

By using this same structure, finding a resolve to the challenges involved with the infrastructure of eCommerce will be easy, but costly and with our current economic crisis, it’s hard to say when we can hope for such change.

 

This does not prohibit I-Rock into looking for solutions and doing their part to ensure that challenges like this are stories of the past.

Further, as a systems or a business analyst, typical criteria for evaluating infrastructure for e-commerce setup could comprise of the following:

  • Flexibility: The ability to respond quickly to changing requirements, and scale up based on the need of the customer. Resource virtualization can be an important factor in such a scenario.
  • Costs: The CapEx & WorkEx, like acquisition and maintenance costs for servers, licenses and other hardware and software. License cost and its renewal policy would also play a significant part of the evaluation.
  • Scope & performance: Factors include degree of fulfilment of specific requirement, knowledge about service and performance quality. Service uptime could be another sub-criterion.
  • IT security & compliance: Factors like government, industry and firm specific needs in the areas of security, compliance and privacy are covered. How the information assets are protected could be a regulatory issue?
  • Reliability & trustworthiness: Factors like service availability, consistency of delivery and fulfilment of the Service Level Agreements. Whether the consumer can get the same uniformity of service every time, is the evaluation parameter.
  • Service & cloud management: Factors like offered support and functions for controlling, monitoring and individualization of the web interface.

 

Beyond this, another important dimension to deliberate upon, is to focus on the key metrics of an e-commerce infrastructure policy. These could be noted and elaborated as follows:

 

Further, professionals need to understand the Performance Models associated with E-Commerce Infrastructure, which may be useful during audits. A model is a representation of an information system. It could be physical, logical or functional. The model should be as simple as possible. It should be capable of capturing the most relevant characteristics of the system under evaluation or audit.

The performance of e-Commerce site depends on the pattern of services requested by customers, as described by customer model. It also depends on the demands that each service places on the site’s resources and the intensity at which customers arrive at the site.

In view of this, it would be pertinent to focus on the following aspects of E-Commerce Infrastructure:

  • Monitoring and Reporting on Web and other e-Business Applications, and the Response Times for Web transactions
  • TCP/IP Performance focusing on End-to-End network response times and the Effects of operational performance control
  • Network Routes and Equipment focusing on the End-to-End route response times, identify route patterns and defects and Identify and minimize loss of data in the network
  • Other important dimensions include adequate site capacity, Scalability and Fault-tolerance. https://tech-talk.org/2015/02/10/e-commerce-infrastructure-planning-and-management/

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