Written by Adrian Taylor, VP of EMEA at A10 Networks
Ecommerce continues to be one of the most fast-paced and competitive global industries, with industry-watchers estimating that online sales will constitute a fifth of all retail sales worldwide by the end of 2022. As vendors strive to capture their share of market growth, they need to offer exceptional customer experiences that build loyalty and repeat revenue. However, delivering omnichannel excellence puts considerable pressure on infrastructure as site traffic increases and consumer expectations rise.
At the same time, the sector is heavily targeted by cybercriminals seeking to disrupt, extort and damage online retail businesses. Consequently, striking a balance between operational efficiency, cost-control, security and customer satisfaction is a complex challenge.
To resolve the tension between availability, performance, efficiency and security, most ecommerce providers are accelerating their cloud transition programmes with many opting for a multi-cloud strategy. As they do so they are having to make complex technical decisions about application hosting, cloud resources and form factors for the multi-cloud environment. These decisions are driven by the changing landscape in which they are operating and the nature and intensity of the cyber threats they face.
A10 Networks polled ecommerce providers to uncover their key security and management concerns and challenges when adapting to multi-cloud and the findings were illuminating.
Security concerns: Brand and reputation are crown jewels for ecommerce companies
Ecommerce providers are acutely aware that trust is intrinsic to building customer loyalty. Anything that damages reputations and threatens customer confidence has a long-term impact on revenues. It’s not surprising, therefore, that cyber defacement and brand damage are top concerns for 62% and 49% of the businesses surveyed respectively. Linked to this is concern over user data theft and credit card theft, identified as a top concern by 52% and 36% of respondents.
Away from direct public-facing threats, more than one third of companies cited DDoS attacks as a key concern. This is not surprising, given the increase in DDoS attacks and the potential loss of revenue. The report indicated that some ecommerce providers are struggling to resolve this issue, with one in ten reporting that they had lost availability due to a DDoS attack. Given that this directly affects revenue generation, and creates a poor customer experience, organisations should focus on ensuring that their DDoS mitigation strategy and tools are effective.
Performance pitfalls: high traffic and security trade-offs are impacting uptime
On the performance side of the equation, 86% of the ecommerce businesses we surveyed reported a significant increase in traffic. This is undoubtedly a result of the pivot to online purchasing made by millions during the pandemic, but in an industry well-used to handling seasonal spikes it was surprising that businesses reported downtime caused by traffic spikes as a top issue in the past year. This is potentially related to the heavier performance demands from new technology standards, such as the encryption required by Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS).
Another sign of the tension between performance and security is evident in the 12% of surveyed companies that had recorded slower traffic caused by security threat prevention or remediation. There clearly remains a trade-off between delivering a seamless, lightning-fast customer experience and ensuring that those customers are protected over the longer term.
Priorities have changed in a multi-cloud environment
Managing performance and mitigating security threats have a different complexion in a multi-cloud environment compared to traditional on-premises systems. Our research found that the complexity of multi-cloud IT has reshaped the priorities of IT leaders.
While traditional ecommerce priorities such as disaster recovery and the ability to scale to meet seasonal demand remain important, they have dropped down the list as the resource-intensive nature of multi-cloud management becomes apparent.
More than half of the ecommerce leaders we surveyed said management complexity and cross-cloud security were top challenges, while achieving visibility across cloud data centres was a problem for 44%. A similar proportion struggled to manage compliance and governance, and controlling costs was also an issue for 41%.
Consequently, ecommerce IT leaders are seeking solutions that provide control and visibility. 60% cited centralised management and analytics as a key requirement for successful multi-cloud adoption. Consistent application delivery and security came a close second, while 46% sought efficient automation.
Alongside these practical considerations, ecommerce IT leaders are keeping a close eye on cost control; 81% said cost savings were the primary motivation for investing in new technology. This underlines that the move to multi-cloud must not incur additional management costs.
Adopting a polynimbus approach
As ecommerce companies continue their journey to the cloud, there’s no doubt that focus is needed to resolve the identified challenges and ensure that they gain all the benefits of multi-cloud flexibility, without losing control and visibility over critical elements of the environment.
Here, a polynimbus approach to application delivery helps simplify management and automate operations in multi-cloud deployments. It also centralises security policy enforcement, helping organisations answer governance and compliance demands.
Implementing an application delivery controller (ADC) into a multi-cloud environment ensures that features, services and security are consistent across multiple cloud environments and means organisations can choose the cloud providers that deliver the specific tools and benefits they need, without adding to the management burden.
In turn, this means they can better protect against security threats and increase performance and availability to protect customers and brand reputation. This should be a priority as ecommerce companies prepare to capture their share of the retail market opportunity that lies ahead.