hether you're doing it in-house or planning to use a consultant, there are certain key ingredients required to launch a transaction-based Web site. David S. Linthicum, chief technology officer of SAGA, an enterprise application integration company in Reston, Virginia, and author of several books and more than 250 technology articles for major computer publications, explains them:
- Web server: All Web-storefront programs or commerce servers sit on existing Web servers. Entry-level products are designed to build sites hosted by a vendor or an ISP, eliminating the need to install or administer a Web server locally.
- Catalog builder/store administrator: Web-storefront-creation software packages allow you to generate HTML-based product catalogs using information from a database. The more powerful packages can import data from Excel spreadsheets or database files; entry-level packages typically require you to enter this information manually. Good programs also offer administrative features, so you'll be able to do such things as create promotions and promote sales items.
- Database server: Most Web stores have at least two types of databases: a product database and a customer database.
- Virtual shopping carts: These allow customers to select items for purchase and continue browsing through the store before placing an order.
- Order processing/security: Processing orders involves tasks such as calculating taxes and shipping costs, and processing payments. Some products integrate these functions; others rely on third-party components. Many products include SSL (secure socket layer) for securing transactions.
- Site analysis/reporting: All Web-storefront packages should offer the same basic site analysis tools found in Web-server software for reporting the number of page hits. More sophisticated packages allow you to generate detailed reports on sales and customers.
- Links to legacy systems: One of the toughest challenges of Web commerce is linking your site to legacy applications, such as inventory and accounting systems. Some midrange packages offer this capacity; e-commerce or Web consultants can help you set it up.
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