ECT 250: Survey of e-commerce technology
E-commerce hardware and software
Web servers
• The components of a web server are:
– Hardware
– Software
• When determining what sort of server hardware
and software to use you have to consider:
– Size of the site
– Purpose of the site
– Traffic on the site
• A small, noncommercial Web site will require
less resources than a large, commercial site.
The role of a web server
• Facilitates business
– Business to business transactions
– Business to customer transactions
• Hosts company applications
• Part of the communications infrastructure
Poor decisions about web server platforms can
have a negative impact on a company. This is
particularly true for purely online (“click and
mortar”) companies.
Hosting considerations
Will the site be hosted in-house or by a provider?
Factors to consider:
• The bandwidth and availability needed for the
expected size, traffic, and sales of the site
• Scalability: If the Web site needs to grow or has
a sudden increase in traffic, can the provider
still handle it?
• Personnel requirements or restraints
• Budget and cost effectiveness of the solution
• Target audience: Business-to-customer (B2C) or
business-to-business (B2B)
Types of Web sites
• Development sites: A test site; low-cost
• Intranets: Available internally only
• B2B and B2C commerce sites
• Content delivery site
Each type of site has a different purpose,
requires different hardware and software,
and incurs varying costs.
Commerce sites
Commerce sites must be available 24 hours a day,
7 days a week. Requirements include:
• Reliable servers
• Backup servers for high availablity
• Efficient and easily upgraded software
• Security software
• Database connectivity
B2B sites also require certificate servers to issue
and analyze electronic authentication information.
Content delivery site
• Examples:
 USA Today
 New York Times
 ZDNet
• Sell and deliver content: news, summaries,
histories, other digital information.
• Hardware requirements are similar to the
commerce sites.
• Database access must be efficient.
What is Web hosting?
Web hosts are Internet service providers who also
allow access to:
• E-commerce software
• Storage space
• E-commerce expertise
You can choose:
• Managed hosting: the service provider manages
the operation and oversight of all servers
• Unmanaged hosting: the customer must maintain
and oversee all servers
• Cost effective for small companies or those without
in-house technical staff.
• May require less investment in hardware/software.
• Can eliminate the need to hire and oversee technical
• Make sure that the site is scalable.
• If you need help in choosing a Web host, contact
the Web Host Guild. Formed in 1998, it is a sort
of Better Business Bureau of the Internet.
Services provided
• Access to hardware, software, personnel
• Domain name, IP address
• Disk storage
• Template pages to use for designing the site
• E-mail service
• Use of FTP to upload and download information
• Shopping cart software
• Multimedia extensions (sound, animation, movies)
• Secure credit card processing
• ISPs have Web hosting expertise that small or
medium-sized companies may not.
• Creating and maintaining a Web site using an
existing network can be difficult.
• With the exception of large companies with large
Web sites and in-house computer experts, it is
almost always cheaper to use outside Web
hosting services.
• EZ Webhost
• Interland
• HostPro
• HostIndex
 Managed hosting
 Other hosting options
B2C e-commerce
• A catalog display
• Shopping cart capabilities
• Transaction processing
• Tools to populate the store catalog and to
facilitate storefront display choices
Any e-commerce software must be integrated
with existing systems:
– Database
– Transaction processing software
Catalog display
• Small storefront (fewer than 35 items)
– Simple listing of products
– No particular organization
– Example: Quebec maple syrup
• Larger catalog
– Store product information in database
– More sophisticated navigation aids
– Better product organization
– Search engine
– Example: LL Bean
Shopping carts
• Early e-commerce shopping used forms-based
check out methods. Required writing down
product codes, unit prices, etc.
• A shopping cart:
– Keeps track of items selected
– Allows you to view the items in a cart
– Allows you to change quantities of items
• Because the Web is stateless, information must
be stored for retrieval. One way to do this is
to use cookies, bits of information stored on
the client’s computer.
Transaction processing
• Usually performed with a secure connection.
• May require the calculation of:
– Sales tax
– Shipping costs
– Volume discounts
– Tax-free sales
– Special promotions
– Time sensitive offers
• Details about transactions must be tracked for
accounting, sales reports.
B2B e-commerce
Business-to-business e-commerce requires tools and
capabilities different from those required for businessto-customer systems.
• Encryption
• Authentication
• Digital signatures
• Signed receipt notices
• The ability to connect to existing legacy systems,
including Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
software. ERP integrates all facets of a business
including planning, sales, and marketing.
Levels of packages
Three levels of e-commerce packages:
• Basic: Requires a few hundred dollars in fees
and less than an hour to set up. Typically
hosted by an ISP.
• Middle-tier: Ranges in price from $1K to $5K+,
and can take from one day to several days to
set up. Can connect with a database server.
Requires hardware purchase and some skills.
• Enterprise-class: For large companies with high
traffic and transaction volumes. Hardware and
in-house specialists needed.
Basic packages
Basic packages are free or low-cost e-commerce
software supplied by a Web host for building sites
to be placed on the Web host’s system.
• Fundamental services
• Banner advertising exchanges
• Full-service mall-style hosting
Fundamental services
Available for businesses selling less than 50 items with
a low rate of transactions.
• These services offer:
– Space for the store
– Forms-based shopping
• The Web host makes money from advertising banners
placed on the site. Each business has some control
over which banners are placed on its site.
• Examples:, HyperMart
• Drawbacks: E-mail transaction processing, banners.
Banner exchange sites
• Banner exchange sites aid online store promotion.
• Banner exchange agreements are made between
sites that sign up for the service.
• The BES organizes the exchanges, enforces banner
exchange rules, collects statistics about customers,
and rotates ads on the sites.
• A click through count is the number of visitors that
a banner produces at a site.
• Examples: Banner Exchange, Exchange-it,
Full-service mall-style hosting
Full-service hosting sites provide:
• High-quality tools
• Storefront templates
• An easy-to-use interface
• Quick Web page creation and maintenance
• No required banner advertising
In exchange these sites may charge:
• One-time set up fees
• Monthly fees
• A percentage of each transaction
• A fixed amount per each transaction
Differences from basic services
• Shopping cart software
• Comprehensive customer transaction processing
– Choice of purchase options (credit card,
electronic cash or other forms)
– Acceptance and authorization of credit cards
• No required (and distracting) Web banner ads
• Higher quality Web store building/maintenance
tools (saving time and energy)
• Examples: Yahoo!Store,
Midrange packages
Distinction from basic e-commerce packages:
• The merchant has explicit control over
– Merchandising choices
– Site layout
– Internal architecture
– Remote and local management options
• Other differences include price, capability,
database connectivity, software portability,
software customization tools, computer
expertise required of the merchant.
• Prices range from $2000 to $9000.
• Hosted on the merchant’s server.
• Typically has connectivity with complex database
systems and stores catalog information.
• Several provide connections (“hooks”) into existing
inventory and ERP systems.
• Highly customizable
• Requires part-time or full-time programming talent.
• Examples: INTERSHOP efinity, WebSphere Commerce
Enterprise solutions
Distinguishing features:
• Price ($25,000 - $1 million)
• Extensive support for B2B e-commerce
• Interacts with a variety of back office systems,
such as database, accounting, and ERP.
• Requires one or more dedicated computers, a
Web front-end, firewall(s), a DNS server, an
SMTP system, an HTTP server, an FTP server,
and a database server.
• Good tools for linking supply and purchasing.
• Can interact with the inventory system to make
the proper adjustments to stock, issue purchase
orders, and generate accounting entries.
• Example: Wal-Mart
– Allows several suppliers to make decisions
about resupplying
– Results in cost savings in inventory
• Examples: WebSphere Commerce Suite, Netscape
Web platform choices
• Hardware, operating system, and application server
software must be considered together since each
affects the other.
• Whatever your choice you must ensure that the
server hardware is scalable, meaning that it can be
upgraded or a new server added as necessary.
• Other needs, such as a database server, should be
handled by separate hardware. Database products
have large processing needs.
Factors in performance
• Hardware and operating system choice
• Speed of connection to the Internet
• User capacity
– Throughput: The number of HTTP requests
that can be processed in a given time period.
– Response time: The amount of time a server
requires to process one request.
• The mix and type of Web pages
– Static pages
– Dynamic pages: Shaped in response to users.
• Benchmarking is testing used to compare the
performance of hardware and software.
• Results measure the performance of aspects such
as the OS, software, network speed, CPU speed.
• There are several Web benchmarking programs.
For examples see Figure 3-4 on page 87.
• Anyone considering buying a server for a heavy
traffic situation or wanting to make changes to
an existing system should consider benchmarks.
Web server features
• Web server features range from basic to extensive
depending on the software package being used.
• Web server features fall into groups based on their
– Core capabilities
– Site management
– Application construction
– Dynamic content
– Electronic commerce
Core capabilities
• Process and respond to Web client requests
Static pages, dynamic pages, domain name
• Security
Name/passwords, processing certificates and
public/private key pairs.
• FTP, Gopher
• Searching, indexing
• Data analysis
Who, what, when, how long? May involve the
use of Web log analysis software.
Site management
Features found in site management tools:
• Link checking
• Script checking
• HTML validation
• Web server log file analysis
• Remote server administration
Application construction
• Uses Web editors and extensions to produce Web
pages, both static and dynamic.
• Like HTML editors, application editors allow the
creation dynamic features without knowledge of
CGI (Common Gateway Interface) or API
(Application Program Interface) programming.
• Also detects HTML code that differs from the
standard or is browser specific.
Dynamic content
• Non-static information constructed in response to
to a Web client’s request.
• Assembled from backend databases and internal
data on the Web site, a successful dynamic page
is tailored to the query that generated it.
• Active Server Pages (ASP) is a server-side scripting
mechanism to build dynamic sites and Web
applications. It uses a variety of languages such
as VBScript, Jscript, and Perl.
More information? Take ECT 353!
Electronic commerce
• An Web server handles Web pages whereas an
e-commerce server deals with the buying and
selling of goods and services.
• A Web server should handle e-commerce software
since this simplifies adding e-commerce features
to existing sites.
• Features: Creation of graphics, product information,
addition of new products, shopping carts, credit
card processing, sales report generation, Web ad
rotation and weighting.
Web server software
• There is no best package for all cases.
• The market is divided into intranet servers and
public Web servers.
• Three of the most popular Web server programs:
– Apache HTTP Server
– Microsoft Internet Information Server
– Netscape Enterprise Server
• See Figure 3-8 for the market share graph.
A more recent market share analysis.
Apache HTTP Server
• Developed by Rob McCool while at UI in the
NCSA in 1994.
• The software is available free of charge and is
quite efficient.
• Can be used for intranets and public Web sites.
• Originally written for Unix, it is now available
for many operating systems.
• For a discussion of its features see the Apache
Software Foundation page.
Microsoft IIS
• Microsoft’s Internet Information Server comes
bundled with Microsoft’s Windows NT/2000.
• Can be used for intranets and public Web sites.
• It is suitable for everything from small sites to
large enterprise-class sites with high volumes.
• Currently only runs on Windows NT/2000.
• See Microsoft’s Web Services page.
Netscape Enterprise Server
• Costs several thousand dollars and has a 60-day
trial period.
• Can be run on the Internet, intranets and extranets.
• Some of the busiest sites on the Internet use NES
including E*Trade, Excite, and Lycos.
• Runs on many different operating systems.
• See Netscape Server Products.
Further information
• What Web software is running on a site?
• Web server side-by-side comparisons
Web server tools
Other Web server tools include:
• Web portals
• Search engines
• Push technologies
• Intelligent agents
Web portals
• Provides a “cyber door” on the Web
• Serves as a customizable home base
• Successful portals include:
– Excite
– Yahoo!
– My Netscape
– Microsoft Passport
Push technologies
• An automated delivery of specific and current
information from a Web server to the user’s
hard drive
• May be used to provide information on:
– Health benefit updates
– Employee awards
– Changes in corporate policies
Intelligent agents
• A program that performs functions such as
information gathering, information filtering,
or mediation on behalf of a person or entity
• Examples:
– AuctionBot
– BargainFinder
– MySimon
– Kasbah
Example uses
Example uses for intelligent agents:
• Search for the best price and characteristics
of various products
• Procurement: Deciding what, when, and how
much to purchase
• Stock alert: Monitors stock and notifies when
certain conditions are met, e.g. purchase 100
shares if the price is below $60 a share.

ECT 250: Survey of e-commerce technology