Technologies required for eCommerce
There are a number of technologies required for an e-Commerce system. In for a company to have a successful eCommerce business it is important for the technical staff to know the technologies required for an e-commerce system.
Hardware and Software
Web server: A web server is a hardware device that is used to host an eCommerce website. All html files, databases and image files that make up the entire content of the website are stored on the server. Web servers will run on a Windows or Linux operating system and will use web server software to manage access requests to the website. A web server is similar in its make up to a PC but will have faster processors and more memory making it much more powerful. A company that wants to host an eCommerce website can maintain the site on their own web server or pay a hosting company to provide space on a secure web server that hosts the site. As managing a web server is a very specific job most small and medium sized business will pay for hosting instead of maintaining their own server.
Browsers: When designing an eCommerce solution it is important to consider how the site is seen on the web. When customers access an online shop they will need to use a browser to load the website. A browser is a software application that is stored on machine that allows someone to access the internet. When a website is loaded in a browser the html code, css, image and information that is stored in a database connected to the website are rendered together to make the site appear in the browser window. When developing an eCommerce site it is important to test that the site appears correctly in all of the main browsers that people use to access the internet such as Internet Explorer (IE), Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Safari. Developers and testers will work together when developing the site to ensure it renders correctly on a number of different combinations of operating systems and browsers.
Server Software: Web servers need to run software that manages access attempts to a website. When a user (client) tries to access a website such as www.somewebsite.com the web server software the server processes the access request and serves up the correct files that have been requested from the client machine. Examples of two different web server software packages are Windows IIS (internet information services) that runs on Windows based web servers and Apache that runs on Linux based web servers. Server software runs in the background and works over a network to allow a browser stored on a client machine to access the files that make up an eCommerce site.
Web authoring tools: Web authoring tools are used to develop the front end of an eCommerce website. A range of software packages can be used together to create an entire. HTML (hypertext markup language) files can be created in a web authoring package such as Dreamweaver. The html files created by Dreamweaver will include ccs (cascading style sheet) files that are used to enhance the visual appearance of the site. Other web authoring tools would be visual studio .net the can be used to make websites that connect to integrated databases that are stored alongside them. Other web authoring tools are graphic design packages such as Adobe Photoshop that can be used to design the skin for the user interface design. This skin can then be exported into a html and css combination that is used as the basis for developing the site.
Database System: A database system is an integral part of an eCommerce website. The database is used to store information about the products that are for sale on the store. The database will store pricing, description, images and details of the number of each products and services that are available. In addition to this the customer details are stored when they make a purchase such as what they ordered, the payment details, shipping details, phone number and email address etc. Staff who are responsible for the delivery of items will use the database that is connected to the eCommerce site to ensure all the correct products are sent to the correct customer for each purchase on the site. It is important to program the website to connect securely to the database so that all orders are processed correctly and the business runs smoothly. Technologies such as PHP (a programming script) and MySQL are used to communication between the website and the database management system (DBMS).
Networking TCP/IP: TCP/IP is a protocol used to transfer data and information over a network such as the internet. TCP (transfer control protocol) is a wired connection between different machines on the internet. A protocol is a rule of how connections are set up between two devices. Anyone using the internet to access an eCommerce website will use TCP/IP. IP stands for internet protocol and each device on a network has a fully unique IP address. When a shopper tries to access an eCommerce store they do not need to know the IP address of the web server that the store is hosted on but can type a URL such as www.shop.com into a browser window instead. TCP/IP is a complex technology and normally an eCommerce site developer does not have to have in depth knowledge of the protocols but should understand that they exist.
Ports: Ports on different devices allow them to connect to other devices stored on the internet. Ports allow a device with one IP address to access another device with a different unique IP address. A device will normally have more than one port, for example when one user wants to send an email to another they will allow access through port 25 as this is normally reserved for email. When a shopper on a client machine wants to access an eCommerce website they will connect IP addresses from their machine to the web server that stores the eCommerce site over port 80.
Other Protocols: FTP (file transfer protocol) is the set of rules used to communicate information between two devices running on a TCP/IP based network. If the customer shopping online was to request a receipt this would be sent to them using FTP.
Domain Names: When starting an eCommerce site it is important to register a recognisable domain name that links to your company and brand. Successful eCommerce companies on the web have recognisable names such as Amazon, eBay, Nike and Argos that make them stand out from the crowd. These are short one word names that are easy to remember and suit the company brand. For smaller businesses it is important to select a domain name that suits the business. For example if you have a small computer sales business in Manchester then a good domain name to register would be ComputersManchester.com as this would help to rank highly in search engines for the main keywords “computers Manchester”. This would then point customers who were interested in your service directly to the business. If a business becomes successful online it is important to product the brand by doing multiple registration of domain names. This means owning the .com, .co.uk, .it, .es, .net, .org etc. For example if you registered footballshop.com and were starting to become really successful selling footballs online then it would be a big mistake not to protect your brand by registering all of the popular domain name extensions. Doing this ensures that no one else can try to steal business from you by copying your business model. This also allows you to expand the business into a global market so that customers in Spain could visit a Spanish version of your site located at footballshop.es.