Getting Started in E-Commerce

Posted on in Information Systems

When building an e-commerce presence for an existing bricks and mortar retail business, two issues come to mind as needing immediate attention. The first issue isn't related to the technology of the website, but instead focuses on how the company is run. A typical company makes decisions using the strategic management process. This process includes evaluating the internal and external environment, formulating a strategy based on those results, and then evaluating the outcome of the new strategy before beginning the process again. Although the strategic management process is still a useful tool for e-commerce companies, the rapid change of the online environment must be taken into account while working the process. Many e-commerce companies have found that the somewhat slow strategic management process must be modified to adapt quickly to the changing online landscape. These companies have found success by replacing the long strategic management process with simple strategy rules that guide decision-making. These rules help senior managers recognize situations and make expected decisions quickly (Rayport & Jaworksi, 2004).


The first technological hurdle that must be overcome is e-commerce security. There are three layers to e-commerce security. The first is security at the web server. First, system administrators must ensure security holes of the operating system the web server runs on have been closed. Next, the web server software itself must be secured and running in a non-privileged mode. Finally, all software components must be secured to prevent would-be attackers from gaining access to the system in an unexpected way (Garfinkel, 2001).

Next, the data transmission between the web server and customers must be secured. Since data transmissions sent across the Internet can be intercepted, it is important to protect customers from potential theft. The best way to do this is to encrypt the transmissions between the customer and server. Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is currently the preferred protocol for exchanging secure data between web servers and web clients. Most web servers include the ability to operate over SSL and obtaining the necessary certificates is relatively inexpensive (Garfinkel, 2001).

Finally, the customer computer is a potential security threat. Unfortunately, no e-commerce company can hope to keep customer computers secure. Originally, it was hoped that educating users would improve their ability to defend themselves against viruses, spyware, and other malicious exploits. Unfortunately, education has failed. Another idea employed by many sites is to offer free software to customers that help protect their systems. If users implement and maintain these freeware anti-virus programs, the likelihood of getting struck by common exploits is severely decreased (Garfinkel, 2001).


Garfinkel, S. (2001). Web security, privacy & commerce (2nd. ed.). Sebastopol, CA: O'Reilly.

Rayport, J. F., & Jaworski, B. J. (2004). Introduction to e-commerce (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.

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