June 29, 2009, 12:00 AM

Getting More for Less

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The combination of privacy concerns, high volume of images, and potentially enormous costs associated with local image storage and retrieval dictated the need to choose the cloud and to find some innovative ways to integrate with the new cloud services.

Parse3 chose to create a hybrid solution utilizing Amazon’s S3 data storage site. Frequently viewed images would be stored locally on the Our365 server. The vast remainder of images would be archived on the Amazon S3 storage site, taking advantage of its immediate response time, nearly limitless capacity and its affordable pay-as-you-go option.

Gaining market share

With the new system in place, and by properly utilizing cloud computing for its unique needs, Our365 quickly gained market share. Our365 takes the first portrait of over 2 million newborns every year, partnering with more than 2,500 hospitals, and it is still growing. It now allows each family to have its own secure photo gallery web site to which the whole family can contribute. Now positioned as an industry leader, Our365’s reputation relies on that immediate and secure accessibility of all its customers’ images.

As cloud services continue to become simpler to use, planning for online success through their use becomes even more compelling. Market strategy, profitability analysis and the future goals of the company should all factor into making the right choices for each individual online seller.

A strategy-minded technology partner will help you choose the right service, provide the foundation, and then provide the proper integration with one or more of the cloud-computing services. Any remaining security concerns may be easily addressed by this kind of reliable technology partner as well.

Dealing with lock-in

As with any business contract, a retailer seeking to use cloud computing should discuss an exit strategy in case the agreement fails to work out to the satisfaction of either party. Specifically, they should determine how the transfer of data and services will be handled.

Avoiding the proprietary aspects of the vendor’s system entirely is difficult, but the right software development partner can create an abstraction layer on top of these services to effectively minimize reliance on proprietary elements used by the cloud provider. In reality, the concern about lock-in, which seems to be the buzz lately, doesn’t need to be a greater risk with cloud computing than it is with any other kind of computing.

The opportunities that cloud computing brings to every online venture, in effect, level the playing field for those with high hopes for success. Although shifting to cloud computing may not be the proper move for every growing online retailer at this moment in time, it has earned a place for consideration in every retailer’s business plan. l

The security issues

When it comes to the level of security that a cloud-computing vendor provides, retailers should address the following questions in detail:

  1. Is there a team in place that actually performs penetration testing and threat modeling?
  2. Is there a complete firewall solution in place?
  3. Is security provided within the host operating system and recommendations given for best practices for the guest operating system?
  4. Is there a secure API call?

Peter Ladka is president of Parse3, a custom software development company building end-to-end e-commerce solutions, located in Warwick, N.Y. He can be reached at pladka@parse3.com.

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