A well-defined and well-planned web hosting strategy provides a clear path for the enterprise to achieve its e-business goals in a timely manner and with little or no disruption to existing services. Frank Johnson looks into the need for web based solutions and different strategies for 'web enabling' a business enterprise.
In the Internet driven economy, businesses need to maximize their value through a viable web presence and must deploy an Internet technology that helps them to achieve and maintain a winning market position.
- The primary forces that drive businesses to adopt new web based solutions include:
- The emergence of global marketplace – The new universal playing field for business success, global competition and global opportunities.
- The emergence of new competition from dot.com companies – Unrestricted access to and low cost of Internet services have resulted in the emergence of many businesses at local national and international levels Cost barriers for entry in a market have become nearly non –existent.
- The change from static to new dynamic business model – In order to stay competitive, the enterprises today need to make split second decision and respond to changing market conditions on an 'as-needed' basis. Businesses that cannot respond quickly and as an integrated whole, to meet changing market demands, cannot succeed in the new economy.
- The emergence of a new, Internet savvy consumer – Thanks to the easy availability of information via the web, consumers have become more aware of the multiple choices that they have in the market. They have also become used to the availability of faster response times along with 24*7*365 and customer self-service.
Enterprises need to have an Internet presence to attain or enhance a competitive business advantage and web sites can accomplish this for enterprises in a number of ways. The World Wide Web is a highly cost effective medium with truly global reach and typically it is less expensive to advertise via the web than it is to advertise in comparable print or broadcasting media. Also, the Internet is always ‘live’ and enables businesses to collaborate without the barriers of time and space. It may be theoretically possible for business enterprises to host their own web servers on the company premises but in reality this is possible only for a few of the largest enterprises.
Unless web hosting is a core function for the enterprise, outsourcing web hosting services to a professional hosting organization is the most practical way to achieve the security, reliability and connectivity necessary to support business-critical web sites and related IP services. Web hosting services allow individuals and organizations to make their own websites accessible via the World Wide Web. Simply stated, web hosting is the process of maintaining and operating one or more web servers. This appears simple but in reality web hosting is a complex process that involves:
- Providing high speed Internet access and managing network connectivity
- Monitoring traffic on website
- Pro-actively allocating additional bandwidth wherever necessary
- Re routing web traffic when necessary
- Providing network and website logging, reporting and analysis
- Managing multiple servers in multiple data centers and for load balancing
Web hosting strategy is a plan to utilize web hosting and related IP services for generating business benefit. It should be considered as an important subset of enterprise business strategy. While considering web hosting solutions, enterprise managers have different options and these include:
Shared Web Hosting: In this web hosting arrangement, more than one business share space on the same web server. This is the most cost effective way for an organization to create web presence. Although such arrangements do provide adequate reliability and security assurance for basic websites, they may not be able to meet the requirements of business critical websites with high traffic. Businesses that run mission-critical information over their web sites generally desire the added layers of security that can be integrated into dedicated servers. Such websites call for high bandwidth availability of a dedicated server. If this is not provided, the site is likely to load at very slow speed on the browser. In some cases, it may be completely unable to accommodate large numbers of user requests.
Co location: This is a hosting arrangement in which an enterprise provides the servers but leases data center space, essential connectivity and other services through Managed e Business Service Provider or MeSP (– the professional services organization that provides web hosting services including essential network connectivity and bandwidth, secure data center environment, network management, servers and/or server space and other services necessary to create an optimum operating environment for web servers). This allows businesses to retain control of their servers and web operations while enjoying greater security, high speed access, environmental control and economies of scale offered by host data centers and network infrastructure. This option can be selected by business organizations that have large, in-house IT departments capable of handling their own network management. It can also be used by mission critical enterprises that seek greater control of website security.
Dedicated Web Hosting: In a dedicated web hosting arrangement, one or more web servers are dedicated to the needs of a single business organization. Such web servers provide additional security and reliability assurances that are rather necessary to accommodate the high traffic and the high traffic bandwidth of business critical websites. For extra high traffic sites, load balancing servers can be configured. While considering an appropriate web hosting strategy, managers need to consider the phases of their website development, migration and the actual significance of website for their business –
- Is it a simple website for mere Internet presence?
- Is it a basic E commerce website with online catalog, integrated online call centers and self service customer support (such as FAQs, fact sheets and product specifications)?
- Is it an advanced E commerce website with advanced capabilities such as web based software to integrate and update enterprise legacy systems and core apps to dynamic IP based systems and apps?
- Is it a fully integrated E business site integrated with intranets, extranets and discrete enterprise systems working together as a seamless whole?
Once the purpose of website becomes clear, it is easy to adopt a suitable web hosting strategy. Also, with the progress of business and sophistication of website (to more advanced stages), web hosting strategy would also call for a corresponding change.
About the Author: Frank Johnson is a regular editorial contributor on technology products and services that help small to mid size businesses. To know more about web hosting and a suitable web hosting strategy for your business you may interact with him