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Pal Narayanan
Business Unit CIO-OHL
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Over the last decade, e-commerce has exploded from being 2.8 percent of total retail sales in 2006 to 6.8 percent of total retail sales in 2015. The growth of this channel has challenged logistics departments and providers to develop technology to support the demanding needs of consumers. Online retailers are in a unique position, as a "web store" is always open. On top of that, the competitive landscape has changed drastically to where consumers have more online shopping options and are driving expectations of the online shopping experience. Internet retailers constantly strive to satisfy their customers by delivering on these expectations or risk losing the sale to a competitor.

Can your systems support a 24/7 environment?

The demanding e-commerce environment puts even more pressure on a company's logistics and the associated systems that support them. Logistics providers have enough challenges managing labor, space, and resources. There is no room for system uptime to be another one of those challenges. The reliability of systems is paramount in today's environment, as they are expected to perform 24/7 in a high demand market. Without a reliable technology platform, there is a significant risk that operational systems, such as the Warehouse Management System (WMS), will be unavailable during critical times in an e-commerce business.

Systems that were reliable in 2006 may be outdated when it comes to supporting today's e-commerce environment. Today, system reliability is dependent on speed, quick recovery time, and minimized downtime as to not affect the performance of an e-commerce company.

How can you bring outdated systems to the year 2016?

While consumers are driving e-commerce logistics to invest in added functionality and enhanced capabilities, this should not distract from ensuring systems meet today's disaster recovery standards. High availability technology and support, while no easy feat, is an investment that a business may not realize is needed until it is too late. Partnering with a 3PL that is committed to investing in technology is a great way to achieve the necessary system reliability.

A high availability environment eliminates a single point of failure, creates additional redundancy, and builds a reliable crossover or failover process to ensure a system is performing at the very moment that it is needed. Focusing on high availability in e-commerce and logistics, the system should be structured to serve two purposes.

1. Disaster Recovery - as previously highlighted, system downtime is a major issue when it comes to e-fulfillment. When a provider is not operating on high availability, downtime during a system failure or weather related issue can equal eight hours or longer. These eight hours can be the difference between a successful or failed peak season! In a highly available environment, data centers and support systems are maintained to the same level of performance so that in the event of a system related issue, downtime can be drastically minimized and customer impact can be eliminated.

2. Alternate Production - In a 100 percent high availability environment, all data centers would be operating 100 percent of the time to ensure both are processing and updating data within seconds. In an alternate production environment, each data center is run for a portion of the year, alternating the production load. The technology is similar to an active/ passive configuration, but different in the scale and method that the technology is normally used. This allows for system maintenance during the off cycle time and ensures that both systems are kept up to date and fully operational.

Over the last decade, e-commerce has drastically changed the technology landscape. Businesses whose systems were highly reliable in 2006 have become outdated. While investments in functionality and enhancements are key focuses for the industry, the success of those are fully dependent on reliable systems. In today's dynamic e-commerce marketplace, a high availability environment is an ideal way to ensure system dependability to support an e-commerce operation.
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