By Jeff Kramer, special to Local Tech Wire

Editor’s note: Jeff Kramer is vice president for technology at Raleigh-based

RALEIGH – How did things go for you on Black Friday and Cyber Monday??

The holiday season is always an interesting time of year for E-Commerce companies. There have been a number of well-publicized issues with major sites as a result of holiday traffic in recent years; this year, Kohl’s, Lowe’s, Staples, ToysRUs, Sears, Home Depot, Victoria’s Secret and Meijer were reported to have had troubles. The website, for example, was down for more than an hour early on the morning of Black Friday., by contrast, was up and running, but observers reported a number of shopping cart snafus, such as customers placing items in their cart at one price and then finding the price had changed when they reached the checkout page.

Overall, though, things seemed to go far more smoothly than in years past, which may reflect that vendors now know what to expect from the online shopping hordes, and when, in fact, the trend seems to be towards extending the season even more – Amazon was running holiday specials on its site before Thanksgiving.

This extension of the holiday season may be good for the bottom line, but it runs the risk of additional issues for E-Commerce firms. It’s one thing to worry about spikes in traffic over a couple of days, but it’s another to deal with it for an extended 4-6 week period. While from a business point of view, these companies want to be nimble enough to take advantage of market opportunities, this also means that they must have a network infrastructure in place capable of handling a variable level of traffic over an extended period of time.

Which is a long way, I guess, of getting to talk about the value of cloud computing. We are beginning to see the maturing of this technology. And with it, we’re also seeing the development of multiple delivery models. Some companies, and many individuals, will be very happy just allowing their documents to reside “in the cloud.” Without the need for security considerations, online backup is a natural (and cost-effective) use for this technology.

Larger firms, though, will want to consider a more robust cloud implementation, such as the “hybrid cloud,” which gives them increased control over their processes and information.

E-Commerce firms may particularly benefit from it; with the hybrid cloud, you have the ability to take advantage of a provider’s resources (like those available through our Stratus Trusted Cloud) to extend your existing IT infrastructure.

For instance, if you are short on computing power, you have the ability to cross-connect into your provider’s cloud computing resources and provision virtual machines in a fraction of the time you’d need if you were doing it yourself. You do not have to worry about acquiring and provisioning hardware/software to meet these needs – you give the provider a call and they take care of it. Which allows you to ramp it up or down as traffic needs dictate, at a fraction of the cost required. Even better, you’re in position to negotiate service level agreements with the provider that can help avoid downtimes like those suffered by the retailers above.

At the end of the day, e-commerce companies need flexibility to deal with a dynamically changing world. Cloud computing in general, and the hybrid cloud model in particular, is another tool that companies can take advantage of to help them get through the holiday season and beyond.

It’s another sign that cloud computing has matured.

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