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Hot Tips For A Smooth Website Replatform

At some point, even the most perfect website is going to need a new platform.

As Robert Gilbreath and Bill Zujewski said in a recent article at Retail Online Integration, pointing out reasons to consider a new platform: “Early e-commerce sites were relatively static and shallow, without today’s interactive features designed to satisfy site visitors by presenting personalized content. Today’s best-in-class sites are extremely dynamic and content-rich, with guided navigation, faceted search capabilities, rich media, segmented and targeted merchandising, product recommendations, and live-help solutions.”

However, companies put off the developing the new platform because the process can be tedious – or at least, it used to be tedious. Using the cloud can make the entire replatforming process happen more smoothly than ever.

“Retailers are attracted to the idea because they do not need to purchase hardware, manage servers or deal with a hosting company. So it does make the transition easier,” said Darren Hill, co-founder and CEO of WebLinc, a pioneering eCommerce provider, who has onboarded countless clients over the 19 years they’ve been in business. “The big deal with cloud computing is in scalability. For instance, if a WebLinc client is going to be on Good Morning America tomorrow we can quickly add additional virtual servers to handle the traffic. In the traditional model, this would be very expensive and take a lot of time to procure the hardware.”

Elixir Interactive, a SEO company, recently replatformed its website, using the cloud. According to CIO Dylan Downhill, the process was relatively painless. Once you have a cloud provider, ensure you provision enough disk space for your software, database and backups. “For a MySQL server you will probably want around 20GB of space to give yourself room for database files and backup files, whereas if you don’t need a database 8GB will be plenty,” Downhill said.

A few tips to make the transition to the new platform a lot smoother:

Think big but be realistic. Sara Etter referred to a Forrester report, “Getting The Most from Your Replatforming Project,” in an article for Monetate, arguing that re-platforming projects tends to bundle a site design and a new metrics solution.

She went on to say, “Most companies reported their replatforming project included new site features, new metrics solutions, and new order management solutions, as well as tablet and mobile optimization. Sound like a lot? That’s because it is.” The better option is to come up with big ideas but to be realistic about how you implement them.

Estimate the manual effort in advance. David Hobbs, author of the Website Migration Handbook, said in an interview with The CMS Myth website, “By estimating manual effort you can make more judgment calls, including just acceptance of lower quality. If you blindly go forward when the launch is imminent, then you can have even bigger train wrecks when more manual effort is required.”

When switching over to production, if you don’t care that both servers are up at the same time then change the DNS record for your production server to point to the Elastic IP. It will take 24 to 48 hours for everyone to move to the new server. If you do care then you’ll want to lower your DNS’s TTL (time to live) value to 5 minutes (300) about a week before cutover.

Then, when you want to switch turn off your old server, change the IP address of your production server to the new Elastic IP address, and within 5 minutes everyone will be using the new server. Remember to change the TTL back once you’re satisfied with your new server setup. In either case plan on keeping both servers live for a few weeks after cut-over, and once you’re sure nothing is missing you can decommission the old server.

Finally, using the cloud allows for fine tuning and for the spike in traffic that the new platform is sure to generate. And for that, your clients will appreciate the changes.

Written By

Jennifer Marsh is a software developer, programmer and technology writer and occasionally blogs for Rackspace Hosting.

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