Developing a portal using a traditional architecture (based on physical HW) always raises a number of technological challenges, both at the start of the project and at the end.
The main critical aspects that should be considered from an IT perspective are:
- HW sizing. At the beginning of a project, we must decide on the size of the physical architecture (number and type of servers and their basic specifications) required to withstand the expected traffic to the portal. This task is not always simple because it must be conducted on the basis of estimates of expected traffic.
In addition, at the start of the project, it is very tempting to make estimates that include generous safety margins regarding HW requirements. However, the cost of this approach often limits this option and, therefore, we need a more accurate estimate. We then run the risk of underestimating the architecture, which may become insufficient after a matter of weeks (or even sooner) from the launch of the new portal
We should not forget that in the cost of this type of architecture must necessarily include aspects such as: server costs, storage, bandwidth, base software (database licenses, application servers, operating systems, etc), database servers, backup systems, DPC space to locate all these elements, associated DPC costs, annual support and maintenance for all these elements, etc…. And if our portal requires high availability levels, all these costs are doubled. For all these reasons, this item in the budget is usually quite large in this type of project.
We must now add the campaigns to this problem. The Marketing and Ecommerce departments will want to launch campaigns to increase traffic to the portal and identify leads. These campaigns will result in a significant increase in portal traffic at given times of the year and the physical infrastructure must be capable of absorbing these peaks.
- Performance. No matter how well you try to establish the size of the physical platform, problems appear when you try to simulate a real situation with high traffic volumes. In some cases, these issues can be detected before the portal is actually launched but, in many cases (and some are well-known), when new portals are launched they soon have to be disconnected because they are incapable of absorbing the traffic they attract, generating poor brand image.
- Safety Every portal becomes a challenge (even more so if it belongs to a well-known company and it is a new release) for a certain type of internet user who can try to steal information or make the platform unavailable by means of systematic attacks. If an attack of this type is not blocked in a timely manner, it will affect, in the best case scenario, the image of the brand that owns the portal.
- Hire a CDN system or not (content delivery network). These systems reduce the costs associated with the HW sizing but their annual cost is significant and a very convincing justification of the ROI is required if the budget for hiring one is to be considered.
- Integration. Ecommerce, vendor management, customer self-service… portals read and record data in businesses’ key systems, such as CRM or ERP. The integration and the replication of data between these systems can result in errors in the day-to-day operation of these portals and, since these portals are a showcase seen by customers or partners, these errors can have a direct impact on sales and on the quality of the service offered.
To minimise this type of issue, Intelligence Partner has specialised in the use of a new cloud-based portal development platform. In recent years, Salesforce has been making (and is still making) a great effort to add a development platform known as Force.com to the current leading CRM. This platform can be used to develop web apps for internal management purposes and to develop public portals.
This platform, in addition to allowing users to develop web portals based on modern frameworks and technology (HTML5, Flex, Bootstrap, Angular, Backbone…), offers a level of flexibility that reduces the severity of the issues mentioned above:
- HW sizing. Although an initial estimate of the traffic expected must be made in order to hire the appropriate level of platform resources, Salesforce’s cloud-based multitenant architecture makes it possible to hire further resources, almost immediately when compared with other traditional architectures, if traffic estimates are exceeded. In the case of traditional systems, you not only need to have the necessary budget to extend the system but you also have to wait for all the physical elements to be available, install them, configure them…
This flexibility reduces the criticality of performing an accurate estimate of the initial traffic used by the project because, if your estimate too small, as has happened to some of our customers, you can re-size it in a matter of hours with no impact on the service offered.
In addition, IT will not have to worry about backups, availability, infrastructure maintenance… These services usually imply additional costs and more so in the case of high-availability, 24×7 portals. The Salesforce platform is a high availability system by default and, therefore, the said aspects are always included.
What happens if you want to conduct campaigns? In the case of public portals, once a system has been hired that is suitable for a given level of stable traffic, the said system includes a safety margin that allows traffic peaks (that can even double standard traffic levels at times) without additional costs.
- Performance. The Force.com platform includes a number of utilities for developers that enable them to measure (at very low level and very accurately) the performance of each page and of each operation with a view to optimising them. In addition, the features of the Salesforce Cloud architecture means that if each of the portal’s pages is optimised for the single access of a user, they can be scaled for thousands of simultaneous accesses without problems. Moreover, due to their cache options, response times for thousands of users tends to be better than for a single user.
- Safety Any development performed within Force.com following the best practices defined by Salesforce for the development of portals is protected against XSS attacks (Cross-site scripting) and SQL injection. One of the platform’s great advantages is that Salesforce provides developers with the same CRM security features. Salesforce is permanently trying to improve, review and update these aspects as they are essential for a CRM platform.
- Hire a CDN system or not (content delivery network). In the case of the Force.com platform this point is not an issue because all the portals made using this platform include one of the leading CDN systems on the market as a default option. In addition to improving the system’s capacity in the event a traffic increase, it provides additional safety against attack.
- Integration. If, in addition to the portals, we include our CRM or PRM on the Salesforce platform, we can have all the information on our customers and collaborators on one system without the need for complicated integration processes and we can take advantage of the security provided by Salesforce when accessing data.
Would you like to learn more about portal development using Force.com? Contact Intelligence Partner and we shall offer you our experience and know-how on this platform to improve you Internet presence.