One particular feature of an e-commerce web site that often sets their hosting requirements apart from those of other brochure sites for example is the fact that they handle, almost by definition, personal and financially sensitive information. Therefore, an e-commerce site’s hosting platform must have measures in place to ensure that this information is kept secure.
E-commerce websites are usually required to process and store customers’ personal details. These details include payment information, names and addresses and even their choice of purchase. The payment details have more obvious financial risks associated with them, but customers’ names and addresses could also be used by criminals for the purposes of identity theft and fraud amongst other things. Even the details of an individual’s purchases may have undesired consequences if they were to get into the public domain (particularly in some product markets).
There are many risks posed to the data that e-commerce sites process; threats from hackers, who are attempting to access the server itself and the data that is stored on it, viruses which may harvest the data or give access to these hackers, and viruses that simply corrupt the data or that cause failures in the platforms where the data is stored. Malicious viruses for example might be written with no intention other than to just wipe a server or computer.
As with many of the challenges faced by e-commerce sites, the most appropriate solution for this requirement is to choose a dedicated server. This type of hosting platform offers the most protection against the spread of viruses and against hackers attempting to access the site’s files. Sites which share servers, however, are more vulnerable to such threats from the presence of other sites on the server which may not be well protected themselves, especially where they also share software such as operating systems and database support.
Platforms which use a virtual partition to create virtual private servers, or virtual dedicated servers as they may be described, will introduce greater barriers to viruses and hackers, than simple shared servers. Their operating systems will be distinct, however, because they will still share the same physical server and they will retain some of the vulnerabilities associated with that.
Many e-commerce businesses who are attracted by the reliability and scalability benefits of cloud hosting mentioned in the previous installment of this article also have concerns over the security of the platform due to its use of a multitude of shared servers across vast networks. However, the growing use of technologies such as MPLS (Multiprotocol Label Switching – a way of transmitting data), Virtual Data Centres (VDC – a network of connected virtualised cloud servers) and carrier clouds (where the cloud is carried on wide area networks, WAN, distinct from the internet) is ensuring that the security of the information stored on the virtualised servers and transmitted between them is reaching higher and higher levels, bringing the benefits of cloud hosting into the reach of these e-commerce businesses.
Data Center Security
Finally, any server within a data center will benefit from the state-of-the-art security that most data center buildings have installed to prevent anyone, who shouldn’t be able to, accessing the servers in situ. Consequently, one option for companies looking to invest into their own servers rather than renting from a hosting provider, but who still need the security of the data center location, is to choose a colocation hosting option. With this choice they simply rent the space in the server racks from the provider, into which they can house their own servers.