E-commerce Server Hardware Design & Implementation
In order to host a website from scratch independently, an SME needs a wide range of hardware and software packages and they will all need to communicate with each other. This includes multiple web and database servers with licensed software such as Microsoft’s ISS and SQL database, a load balancer or load balancing software, a firewall, router, domain name, external IP address and failover protocols.
An Example Design Specification Could Be
- Web server – HP ProLiant DL380p Server – £2017.98
- Router – TP-LINK Wireless Cable Router – £89.99
- Switches – TP-LINK 24-Port Switch – £68.39
- VM Ware vSphere – £792.50
- Windows Server 2012 – £550 Per 2 CPUs
- Domain Name – £3.40
- ISP – BT Infinity Up To 76Mb/s £40 per month
- Security/Firewall – AVG Internet Security Business Edition £105.53 For Two Years
- SSL Encryption – 123 Reg – £29.99 Per Year
- Payment Gateway – Braintree – No Fees on first £30,000
- Design, Build & Maintenance – Employee a small team of Developers and Designers
- Legislation – Legal Advice From Pinsent Masons
For an SME typical scenario would include two replicating web servers that would allow for load balancing and failover if one were to fail at any point. A suitable server to fulfil a small company’s needs would be this HP ProLiant DL380p costing £2017.98, however, two of these would be required to perform load balancing and failover system amounting to over £4000 in total. This may be expensive but is essential to provide the high bandwidth expected from customers accessing and download content from the web site. The server is configured with a high-end 8-core Intel Xenon processor and 8GB’s of super fast memory for fast file caches and downloads.
A database server will be required alongside the web server in order to store the websites data and product listings. This database server will again require a failover feature just like the web servers, however, there is a common practice to which this can be achieved for half the cost. It’s called server virtualization and usually runs on the popular platform vSphere by VM Ware at a one of cost of £792.50. This software would enable multiple virtual servers operating systems to be installed on one physical server each sharing the resources of the host machine. This means that two physical servers could act as four servers with each host machine sharing the same resource to allow instant failover of virtual machines, drives and VLANs ensuring network stability. The graphic illustrates the vSphere configuration with three servers (as shown in the above image).
Router & Switches
To connect both server, switches and host computers to the internet you will need a router, however a basic off the shelf router will suffice as the network isn’t going to be any bigger than 255 devices for the time being. This TP-Link Archer C7 router is adequate for the role as it has a speed rating of 1750Mb per second. A small switch will also be required to connect all of the devices on the network, this 24 port TP-LINK 100Mb/s switch will fulfil an SME’s needs rapidly switching connection to the network for up to 24 devices.
The servers will require an operating system to run the websites on, Windows Server 2012 is now considered industry standard with its popular Internet Information Services (IIS) program which stores and hosts the website. A license will be required for every 2 CPUs installed within the servers so this would amount to 6 in total at £550 each. Even though this is a costly platform to choose it’s essential for security and reliability to use a Windows server as opposed to a Macintosh or Linux operating system, which is considered insecure and unreliable.
An Anti-Virus system is needed on most Windows-based computers and servers to protect the user’s personal files and information from corruption or theft. It’s even more important to install a full security package on a web server, as it’s immediately accessible to the public via the Internet. Along with Anti-Virus, a firewall is also essential, most operating systems include a built-in system but it’s usually best to install a firewall with more features. This firewall will only open the essential ports for required protocols such as 80 for HTTP and 20/21 for FTP and any non-essential ports will be locked so forth reducing the threat of attack.
The SME will need to register their domain name, which may be www.companyname.co.uk . They cannot do this themselves so forth they will be required to pay a domain name registrar to link the domain name to their external IP address. These domain names can easily be registered and range in price from £3.49 for the .co.uk TLD to £10.99 for the .com TLD. Once set up fee’s will be required yearly to maintain ownership of the domain name.
Internet Service Provider
An ISP will be required to connect the company’ network to the world wide web of networks in order for customers all around the world to access their website. This connection needs to include unlimited downloads/uploads and have a very high bandwidth as hundreds to thousands of customers all be accessing the site simultaneously. BT’s Infinity Business broadband package includes, up to 76Mb/s download and up to 19Mb/s upload speed with unlimited data usage. This would be sufficient to allow customer access to the web server.
To be able to send payment details and personal information over the Internet sites need SSL encryption installed, which encrypts the keystrokes before they are sent to the Internet via the browser. This is now industry standard and is required by law when accepting payments online. The Data Protection Act 1998 states that companies are responsible for the personal information they collect so it must be secured and not easily accessed or tampered with. 123 Reg offers a simple SSL certificate to encrypt the checkout webpage for just £29.99 per year. However more expensive packages with additional coverage and features can be purchased to encrypt the full site, this would also improve brand trust.
In order to take a payment from a bank card, a company will need a payment gateway, which acts as an independent middleman between the seller and the banks in question. The payment gateway validates the card details, checks for available funds and processes the transaction between bank accounts within a secure connection. This functionality isn’t something that businesses can set up on their own; an independent approved body has to be used. Braintree is a sister company of PayPal and allows the first £30,000 of revenue to be completely free of transaction charges and anything over is charged at 2.4% plus 20p of each payment.
Design, Build & Maintenance
When the infrastructure to host the website is in place then the site is going to need a small team of developers and designers to build the site from scratch. It is proposed that a team of three would be suitable for the task, a graphic designer, a web designer and a database expert. With this formation, a company should have all of the skillsets required to build an active e-commerce website with the ability to purchase digital downloads. However the salary of the employees would be the biggest expense to the company, the average salary for a graphic designer is £21,203, for a web designer it’s £22,228 and for a SQL Developer, it’s £29,354. This is going to be by far the company’s largest yearly expense.
To ensure the company operates within the law and regulations set out by the government and the industry it may need to seek professional legal advice to assist the company’s plan to break into e-commerce. Companies such as Pinsent Masons specialize in law within the IT industry and so forth they would be able to point out legal requirements for hosting an e-commerce site such as the Data Protection Act forcing companies to keep customers data safe and also the Distance Selling Regulations which allows customers to cancel orders within 7 days of the point of sale. The expense of legal advice may be extremely costly but is required to stay within the law, if the company operates outside the law they could find themselves fined large sums or even prosecuted to serve time in prison.