Easy Comps - Web Present

Building a NetSuite Ecommerce Website with Keystone Data

Keystone Data produce high-performance, Ecommerce websites that integrate with a NetSuite system to provide an Ecommerce Platform without compromise. As an extension of Site Builder, Keystone Data can provide a complete, omnichannel experience that promotes directly accounting for online systems in one unified system. We believe Ecommerce should be seamless, and it’s time to support your customer’s interaction with NetSuite’s Order Management, Sales, Accounting and CRM capabilities.

Our design process and development experience allow us to offer clients advanced and bespoke website front-ends that are designed to be fit for purpose from the get go.

While our process is forever evolving, we utilise the following proven formula for supplying beautiful, high-performance websites:

Step 1 – The Creative Brief

The Creative Brief could be defined by either our experienced designer at Keystone Data, or supplied by our client with the consultation of their own designer. This stage is about getting to know your company, its personality and how you’d like to convey that through the website. Added to that, we like to explore elements of other websites that you may wish to incorporate or any must have features.

The Creative Brief may include:

  • The logos and branding concepts for the project.
  • Examples of websites to specify features for the website.
  • Examples of design elements or websites with a look or feel the client wishes to incorporate into the website.
  • Notes relating to the target market/demographic for the website

Step 2 – Website Design and Specification

At Keystone Data we like to make sure we are making the best possible website for our client, and a big part of that is working cohesively with the client to produce extensive designs and detailed specifications. We believe that in drawing up great plans, the customer can start to visualise what can be achieved and explore the functionality to aim for proactively, rather than in hindsight.


The Website Design stage utilises the design parameters established in the Creative Brief to create a rich mock-up of each key page within the website.

The outcome of this phase is the creation of a Photoshop Design for each key page within the website. Images are often the easiest way to convey ideas and the client can evaluate at an early stage the websites potential appearance.

The Designs will form a key part of the documentation, which can be referred to as a specification of website features, as well as the look and feel.

During this stage Keystone Data present ideas to the client, collaborate on any potential changes and ensure the designs are signed off ready for development.


At Keystone Data, we ensure the Specification is thorough and accessible for the client to make sure the build is developed to exacting standards. In the specification stage we annotate the website designs to explore how the website will function.

The specification will be provided as a rich document detailing how the underlying NetSuite products, categories and website content will be displayed on the website and edited in NetSuite.

Step 3 – Website Development

The Website Development stage involves Keystone Data using modern technologies to build the website itself. Using our own bespoke Ecommerce platform, we are able to ensure that the website is built with NetSuite in mind; offering a platform that far exceeds the possibilities available when integrating with an external Ecommerce system.

Step 4 – Initial Website testing

During this phase Keystone Data will set up example products within NetSuite’s Inventory and website content, so as the website closely matches the initial designs. This allows us to mimic the functionality defined in the specification and test the processes in preparation for our clients to begin managing the backend.

At this stage we like to present the functionality of the website to our client and ensure the build is surpassing expectations.

Step 5 – Website Refinement and Population of Data

Within the Website Refinement stage, the client will begin to populate the website with their own data and complete the website testing under tutelage from Keystone Data. We have produced extensive guides and documentation that adds to NetSuite’s own support to ensure the system is accessible and manageable.

With an open line of communication, our clients can feedback to us on any issues or discuss any future developments.

Step 6 – Website Go Live Pre-Testing

Going live with a web store can be a daunting undertaking. At Keystone Data, we test the build at every stage to promote reliability but prepare the client for Go Live with a Test Plan prepared for all eventualities.

Testing isn’t just limited to the frontend however, with the full order system tested in NetSuite too.

Keystone Data work to provide the best possible solutions for all our clients, and so while this process gives an insight into what you could expect when building a website with us, our exhaustive approach to NetSuite means that may just be the start.

The process above focuses on the front-end implementation of an Ecommerce website with an existing NetSuite system, however at Keystone Data we specialise in NetSuite implementations that coincide with delivery of an Ecommerce platform too. For more information, please don’t hesitate in contacting Keystone Data today.



Preview: SuiteCommerce Advanced Monte Blanc Release

NetSuite is looking to hit new heights with development of Monte Blanc, their upcoming release of SuiteCommerce. With a targeted release of early Q1, NetSuite is looking to up user experience and deliver greater operational efficiencies. New features are expected to include: improved support for SuiteCommerce InStore (NetSuite’s Sales Associate Interface to support Omnichannel Retail), enhanced B2B capabilities, detailed performance analysis, and increased marketing functionality.

Here are our highlights from the mountain of new features:


New Payment Options

SuitePayments will be offering some more modern alternatives to debit and credit cards in the fairly immediate future. With different methods growing in popularity, NetSuite is looking to respond with the ability to set up support for: e-wallets, mobile wallets, direct debits, vouchers and real-time bank transfers.

Multi-Channel “My Account” Experience

NetSuite wants to be the true unified, multi-channel solution; and so Monte Blanc will look to supply a “My Account” experience that delivers peerless visibility. A customer will have the ability to see online, in-store or employee-added purchases, along with information pertinent to each individual channel sale.

Store Locator

It’s hard for a retailer to forego the ability to help their customers find them. Luckily it looks like the ability to guide people to your retail is on the horizon. As is to be expected, the Store Locator will provide the standard search functionality on postcode or address.

Google Tags made simpler

The new Google Tag Manager will make implementation of dynamic tags for marketing and analytics much easier than the current hardcoded ones. Especially when combined with out-of-the-box support for Google AdWords, Google Universal Analytics, Bing Ads and Optimizely.

Diagnosing bottlenecks

Maybe a little later than Q1, but in the near term, it will be possible to speed up your website’s performance with the Application Performance Sensor (APM). The APM will add a tool to the dashboard that can help the user to pinpoint the root causes of performance issues ready to be addressed.

All these features, coupled with shareable wishlists, product comparisons and password protected sites and pricing, should help define SuiteCommerce Advanced as a truly modern platform.

Further information can be found on the NetSuite Website or if you want to talk through your Ecommerce options don’t hesitate in contacting Keystone Data today.

Complexity of Ecommerce in relation to Magento, Shopify & NetSuite SuiteCommerce

NetSuite Ecommerce – Magento, Shopify or SuiteCommerce – Choosing the best option.

In this post I provide an overview of some of factors users of NetSuite should consider when choosing an Ecommerce Platform.


Whilst at Keystone Data and in a previous company I have built a great many NetSuite integrated websites.  As a general rule, for simpler sites, integration with Best of Breed is a good idea, however as sites get more complex the cost of integration can outweigh some of the benefits the best of breed platforms offer.


Before discussing which platform you should choose, I have clarified a few often misunderstood terms relating to SuiteCommerce, SiteBuilder and SuiteCommerce Advanced (often referred to as SCA)


What is NetSuite SuiteCommerce?  

NetSuite SuiteCommerce is NetSuites native ecommerce platform.  One way to think of this is a way of opening up your internal ERP system and allowing customer to interact directly with it.

Doing this has significant advantages over integrating with an external platform as your customers can be provided with live data directly from your internal system and are effectively accessing the same system as your internal staff via a customer facing website.

SuiteCommerce offers two distinct products, SuiteCommerce SiteBuilder and SuiteCommerce Advanced.


What is SiteBuilder?

SiteBuilder is NetSuites legacy ecommerce platform offering a well road tested but rather simplistic ecommerce front end with limited customisation ability.

What is SuiteCommerce Advanced?

SuiteCommerce Advanced is a more flexible, higher end product offering full flexibility and higher performance.


Best of Breed vs SuiteCommerce

NetSuite SuiteCommerce platform offers an extensive set of capabilities for building Ecommerce Websites.  However, building out Ecommerce functionality directly on NetSuite using SuiteCommerce can be more expensive that building using a best in class platform such as Magento or Shopify.

You might therefore conclude that best in class is the way to go, however if you have experience integrating ecommerce sites with ERP or you have read our article “How to Integrate Ecommerce Sites with NetSuite” you might have noted that although it can be cheaper to build on a best in class platform, the integration costs can outway the savings made by doing this.

Although this is true, for very simple ecommerce websites integration can be fairly straightforward and therefore best of breed is more suitable than SuiteCommerce.

A list of features which make ecommerce sites more complex and more difficult to integrate with an ERP system include:

  1. Complex or quantity driven pricing –  the methods used to configure these pricing structures will often differ between the ERP system and Ecommerce Platform.  Therefore integrating this can be very tricky.
  2. Offers, promotions and coupon codes – In addition to differing methods of configuring these elements, these can be represented differently on orders / invoices.  This can introduce considerable challenges when integrating
  3. Multi Language, multi currency, and multiple geographical zones targeted – These elements can introduce a whole range of issues when integrating, from issues with currency exchange rates, issues with lack of centralisation of multilingual product data.
  4. Complex delivery options – these very quickly become next to impossible to integrate due to differences in the way these are set up.
  5. Customer based pricing – this area will almost certainly differ between Ecommerce System and NetSuite, if the business has a large number of customers this area can prove very time consuming and challenging to integrate.
  6. Integrated support systems
  7. Fully integrated returns processes
  8. Live orders required for customer orders not placed online – this would require a 2 way integration.
  9. Online statement downloads – As Accounts Receivable procedures are not operated in the Ecommmce platform this must be provided by the ERP System.

However, in addition to the features I outline in this document, other factors will play into the decision on platform such as:

  • Budget – If a business generates a large volume of business online and has a considerable budget, an additional spend required to implement SuiteCommerce Advanced will not be significant when compared to the advantages to be gained from a fully integrated ecommerce front end.
  • Technical Skills of In house staff – The customer might have an existing Ecommerce site or technical skills developing an another ecommerce technology.


Ecommerce Support

4 ways to get the most from NetSuite’s Customer Service & Support System for Retailers

1. Quick Add Solutions

When responding to customer queries we often find we reuse the same snippets and templates over and over again. To make the process more efficient, you should use Topics & Solutions to organise your predefined copy for use in customer cases.

NetSuite’s Knowledge Base can be used to feed FAQs onto your website or to advise employees; but in this instance, we suggest that you use them to standardise your case handling and email responses.

Topics act as a Category for the different Solutions which help when finding and adding Solutions to email responses.

To add a Solution, begin by going to Lists > Support > Solutions > New.

Setting a descriptive Title is really important here, so users can find the solution easily when adding it as a snippet to a Case response. In this example we will be adding a “Customer Returns Information Snippet (Standard)” Solution that could be used to drop the standard process information into an email to respond to a customer return request.

The “Status” must be set to Approved to allow use of the Solution on Cases and can be used for employees to create drafts before management approval. Checking “Display Online” will make the Solution available for Website Content.

The “Abstract” acts as a brief description, and will be displayed on the Solutions list to help identify each distinctive Solution. The “Description” section is where you can define the Snippet you’d like to appear in the case email. This area is HTML editable to help maintain your Email Templating, but can also just be added via the Rich Text Editor. CRMDSK Tags are also available in Solutions which are able to incorporate live NetSuite information in the copy.

As mentioned earlier, Topics help to categorise the Solution and can be used as a filter searching for Solutions to add to case responses. Other Solutions can be added to “Related Records” too to allow links through to similar responses.

Once saved the Solution can be used in the “Outgoing from Support Rep” section of NetSuite cases. This means that by clicking on the Solution it will automatically be added to the body of the email, saving time and ensuring consistent communication standards from all employees.

It is possible to add multiple solutions to a single message and therefore construct formulaic and consistent replies to different variations of queries.

2. Using Rules and Criteria

As a basic customer support system, NetSuite will supply all queries in one place with a Round Robin approach to sharing them out between support reps. However, if certain Case or Customer fields would be great filters for focusing who receives which queries they should be incorporated as Rules. For example, using Case Types (as discussed later) to better define what the customer is asking and associate it with the equivalent department is a lot more efficient than bouncing it between support reps until it finds the right knowledge base.

Rules can be added by going to Setup > Support > Case Rules and they work similarly to a Saved Search. For example, if you wished to associate merchant customers with a senior support group, a Case Field Rule could be added that declares if Merchant Account checkbox is TRUE on the customer record, then apply that case to the Case Territory with a senior support group added as members.


3. Efficient Case Capture Forms

Ecommerce Retailers can make use of a link between Website Capture Form and NetSuite to drag queries straight from the customer into the system. Unfortunately lots of retailers tend to stick to the default form that doesn’t make the customers do a bit more of the leg work for them.

Directing cases to the right people not only helps the customer get the right answer but saves the business huge amounts of time. With groups or territories set up, it makes sense to make your customer select a case type that adds their case to the relevant territory.

A good Case Capture Form can help tailor a customer’s query to your system and guide it towards more formulaic responses to help save time. NetSuite can allow the user to attach Files, which is a great way to encourage customers to add screenshots, while it is also easy to add an auto-reply to confirm to the customer the issue has being received.

Multiple forms could be added to help your website to categorise different queries and direct them directly to the equivalent group, or a rule set up to send all with a Case Type of “Returns Query” directly to the Returns Department.


4. Defining Unique Case Types

Case Types are used to help process and understand the type of customer query the business has received. However, the NetSuite default types are fairly basic; comprising of: “Question”, “Concern” or “Problem”. Tailoring the types to better suit your business is an efficient way to help focus your Customer Support.

Evaluating the current types of queries you tend to receive, and defining them within categories could help you better direct incoming cases. For example, the three types could be split into “Sales”, “Product”, “Website”, “Order Management” and “Return’s” “Questions”, “Concerns” and “Problems”.

Using unique Types can help break down the lists of Cases, and associate them to the relevant Support Groups; but then also can be used for Online Forms to encourage the customer to direct queries better too. A list like the following could make identifying cases much easier.


For more information on implementing Customer Service & Support features for your NetSuite account, contact Keystone Data today.



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The internet in the consumer’s pocket : What retailers can do about Smartphones, Tablets and becoming Omnichannel

Consumers are swimming in more channels than ever when taking the purchase journey. Businesses have accepted they need to consider more than ever just how connected to the world of pricing and product information their customers are. With 31% of consumers visiting in-store before buying online and  34% doing research online then coming in-store, there is a worry retail outlets could be on their way to just being Amazon’s showroom (The Omnichannel Opportunity, Deloitte/ebay, 2014).

The answer, it is implied, is Omnichannel. Consumer expectations are sky-high and so a need for a seamless system has arisen, where the brand connects its bricks and mortar to ecommerce, mobile apps and social media seamlessly.

And so the focus of this blog materialises, when mobile devices now mean consumers can be connected to the web and wandering through your store at the same time, what should you do about it?


Internet-in-their-pocket shoppers and Google

The first worry with Android shoppers is their ability to quickly Google your product straight from the barcode. Why is this a worry? Well first of all you’re not price-competitive, second of all you’re not on the first page of search results and finally you haven’t given any reason for brand loyalty.

Luckily that wasn’t actually your scenario and we can think on this first. The first and biggest concern posed by the internet is the threat of substitute. Are you selling someone else’s product or brand that is subject to price wars, or is your product fairly generic and alternatives can be easily found? If yes and yes it is time to deliver a compelling argument to your customer. A great brand is a reassurance and great service a way to be distinctive, but the modern millennial is a thriftier adversary than ever before.

One solution is for the retailer to develop their own range and brand so they can dictate how much their product is worth through marketing and customer experience, rather than eBay’s average auction price. That level of brand control is what you see all across the high street, but what about using a bit of the consumer’s tech against them. Could it be possible to use consumer’s searching devices to even the playing field?


Wi-fi-ght at all

Some retailers have started offering wi-fi in-store and it isn’t just for bored husbands at the changing rooms. Sure it may trap people in Debenhams a while longer, and offer a way to collect some extra people for the mailing list; but what happens if the consumer jumps from product reviews to competitor checkout? (Want to make use of your competitor’s wi-fi? Keystone Data offer a fully-unified NetSuite ecommerce solution and responsive website development that will look and function beautifully on the shopper’s mobile)

This is where the omnichannel approach starts to take shape. If the customer has the opportunity to go online, give them a reason to stay loyal to you on the web. Invest in the SEO for your likely product searches to reassure the customer of your brand’s legitimacy, offer incentive codes at point-of-sale in-store to force them through the checkout online or give cues in-store to further rich content available online or on your Social Media (video tutorials for example).


Connecting your customer service

Anything your customers can do, your staff might just be able to do better. The advancements in tablets and unified cloud solutions, like NetSuite, means retail staff can now be given the whole supply chain at their fingertips. Having the opportunity to give Mr & Mrs Smith a live, accurate and instant promise when it comes to stock, is a reassurance that will remind them of the usability they enjoy from Amazon. Being able to transition this quote into an order in no time, even better. Being able to set them up with an account for your web-store at the same time and you’re ready to enjoy omnichannelling.

Once Mr & Mrs Smith have their access online it is easy for retailers to forget that they were happy to come in-store once upon a time. Click and Collect is often seen as the reserve for larger companies, but it’s often just a case of being the person willing to stay in all day for the delivery. If your opening hours are more likely to be accessible to the young professional than Royal Mail’s vague midday drop-off, that could be a unique selling point that makes you money in your area. Offer out a discount for Click & Collect through your mailing list and social media, and then you could be punching above your weight in the omnichannel arena.




What does the Bronto Software aquisition mean for NetSuite Customers and Partners

NetSuite’s acquisition of Bronto Software Inc., a privately held cloud-based commerce marketing company, in a cash and equity transaction valued at approximately $200 million brings together leaders in cloud-based omnichannel commerce solutions. Bronto will enhance NetSuite’s platform and accelerates their SuiteCommerce vision as it has created several components that are squarely focused on commerce marketing.

Bronto is the leading email-marketing provider to the Internet Retailer 1000. With a large and vibrant customer base of over 1400 customers and almost 250 employees, it provides a cloud-based marketing platform for organizations to drive revenue through their email, mobile and social campaigns. While they primarily focus on B2C manufacturers and retailers, they also have many B2B customers.

More than 3,000 brands leverage NetSuite’s SuiteCommerce to drive their commerce strategies across point-of-sale, ecommerce and call center. The leading unified cloud omnichannel B2B and B2C commerce platform alone brings together all the operational capabilities required to deliver a complete omnichannel commerce solution from order and inventory management to global multi-currency and multi-country tax compliance.

For Customers:

Bronto’s functionality checklist includes messaging tools that allow customers to deliver personalized email, SMS , and social campaigns, automation in the form of drag-and-drop tools to create multi-step automated campaigns and cover the lifecycle of customer interactions such as cart recovery, product ratings and reviews follow-up, post-purchase and welcome series, sales tools with omnichannel capabilities including e-receipts and coupon management, marketing CRM in the form of list management and segmentation tools to assess engagement across all messaging channels.

Customers will now enjoy compelling commerce experiences and they can better engage their users on an on going basis between site visits and drive repeat purchases. Integrating Bronto’s industry leading commerce marketing capabilities with NetSuite will also help customers deliver relevant content and offers that can be leveraged across every transactional channel.

The Bronto team will continue to support the Bronto product and services, and remain as the main point of contact. Approximately 40 joint customers, primarily in the retail industry, will continue to have two separate account managers though unifying those accounts under a single account manager is the long-term plan.

For Partners:

Currently, Bronto does not have any reseller partners, but they have implementation, agency and application partners. As Bronto’s products are a natural extension to SuiteCommerce, NetSuite plans to add the Bronto solution to the list of products that can be promoted by their channel partners in the months ahead. While unifying Bronto’s software with SuiteCommerce spells the convergence of ecommerce, content management and digital marketing and is a part of NetSuite’s focus on Customer Experience Management (CXM), NetSuite will only be selling the Bronto product through the Bronto direct sales team for now.



Integrating Ecommerce Websites with NetSuite

Integrating Ecommerce with NetSuite can involve a large amount of development resources, it is important to set realistic expectations and goals at the outset if you are to achieve a viable, robust integration.

In addition, a number of technical and business considerations need to be taken into account when choosing a technology stack most appropriate for this type of integration.

In this post I have provided an overview the most common messages exchanged and the development effort likely to be associated with these messages.

I have also presented a high level overview of three technology stacks / architectures you might choose to employ during this type of integration.


Messages and level of development effort requied

Message Effort required Notes
Stock update 2 days Involves setting up and testing a stock file integration between NetSuite and the external Ecommerce Platform.
Full Catalogue Data Integration (not including categorisation) 7 days  – estimated – requires evaluation Some investigation is required, certain product configurations in the Ecommerce Platform in NetSuite or the ecommerce platform may cause issues.
Category Integration 4 days – estimated – requires evaluation
Discounts Based on specifics of the project. Differences between discounting methods with NetSuite and the chosen ecommerce platform can make integrating this area problematic
Customer specific Products  / pricing   Based on specifics of the project. This area can be problematic.  We usually recommend considering a rebuild using SuiteCommerce where integration of customer specific pricing is required.
Orders 2 days One way integration, sending orders from the Ecommerce site to NetSuite.
Shipping confirmations 2 days Send shipping confirmations from NetSuite to the Ecommerce Platform
Credit notes / refunds  Based on specifics of the project. Investigate payment gateway integration / if tokenisation has been implemented / customers can be refunded via the site.


Three viable architectures for integration are as follows:

Technology stack Senario integration is usually used in
 Middleware Queue based messaging middleware – EG Rabbit MQ / Dell Boomi / Mulesoft 




Integration is required between a software as a service ecommerce platform and NetSuite.Company completing the integration are not the owner of the software as a service platform.For example, we have used this approach to integrate a number of Shopify Webstores with NetSuite.
 FTP Based Message Queue + RestletsFTP Server with file based queue 



Integration is between NetSuite and an open source installed Ecommerce Platform such as Magento.This is the most common approach taken in practice due to the popularity of Magento and the availablity of low cost development resource who understand how to get information from an FTP based file queue in / out of Magento.
 Direct Integration with NetSuite Queuing RestletsCustom Record based queue in NetSuite 


 Recommended if a software as a service Ecommerce platform is to be integrated with NetSuite and the work is being carried out by the owner of the platform.



Queue based messaging middleware – EG Rabbit MQ / Dell Boomi / Mulesoft

Integration is required between a software as a service ecommerce platform and NetSuite.

Company completing the integration are a third party and plan to have a large number of integrated ecommerce customers.



Direct Integration with NetSuite Queuing – Restlets – Custom Record based queue in NetSuite

Recommended if a software as a service Ecommerce platform is to be integrated with NetSuite and the work is being carried out by the owner of the platform.



Another New NetSuite implementation project

dangerous goodsWe are delighted to have recently signed another NetSuite implementation project for a company based in Stoke on Trent that supplies a range of advanced composite materials to consumers, businesses and other organisations. This project includes introducing new processes throughout the organisation, developing various specific warehousing and shipping features to suit the dangerous materials industry fully integrated into NetSuite and re-implementing their web site to be fully integrated with NetSuite.

It is expected to take three to five months to complete and we should be able to announce the client’s name once the initial phase is successfully implemented.

We are very excited to be running such a project and developing our knowledge in the dangerous goods area.


Ecommerce Downtime and how to avoid it

I often get asked how much you should expect to pay to host, for example, a Magento Website. As with many similar questions the answer is “it depends”…. A range of factors will drive your decision in terms of the appropriate environment for your Magento build including traffic volume, integration with external systems, volume of products and number of concurrent users you expect to support on the Magento Admin System to name a few.

Although it’s difficult to put a figure on this I would say that the old adage “you get what you pay for” is often very true. Although what you need will vary this is often an area where companies look to save money, which I believe can be a big mistake.

Two major considerations which are often not given sufficient focus when selecting a provider in this area are uptime and performance. Performance is often given a great deal of focus by business owners, however I would argue uptime is just as important, this is why.

Uptime Guarantees

For many years I have been creating service level agreements stating our targeted uptime for client sites. On many occasions I have drawn up agreements which offer uptime guarantees of anywhere between 99.5% and 99.9%. These metrics sound great at face value and when most companies hear their service provider is agreeing to provide uptime of more than 99.5% they think “problem solved as long as they are hitting that” and move on.

Those companies would be well advised to look at these guarantees in more detail, both in term of how the downtime is measured and what the effect of the downtime on revenue will be.
Lets take for example a medium ecommerce business turning over £3 Million online (average daily revenue £8219) via their website. The following table shows the downtime and associated lost revenue with this downtime (assuming the downtime occurs during a period of average sales).

Percentage Uptime Downtime hours per year Direct revenue loss
99.9% 8.76 £3,000
99.8 17.52 £6,000
99.7 26.28 £9,000
99.6 35.04 £12,000
99.5 43.8 £15,000

This should make those who feel comforted by the fact that they have been offered 99.7% uptime on their website take notice and take this metric as seriously as site performance.
Clearly the actual lost revenue is likely to be higher, particularly in cases where downtime relates to inadequate resources on the server as downtime is more likely to occur when the server experiences high traffic.
Another important note is that downtime not only causes lost revenue, it also reduces your Google ranking and damage customer loyalty.

Want to work towards 100% uptime? Here’s what to do

On server monitoring


There are plenty of hosted services and open source installable products to choose from such as Zabbix or Copper Egg.
I particularly like Copper Egg and the hosted model for monitoring, this requires less maintenance on your server and is very powerful and fairly simple to set up. These monitoring tools provide a whole range of metrics such:
– Disk space
– Memory Usage
– File system access
– Metrics relating to database activity.
You can also set up customer performance monitors to keep a check on metrics such as the responsiveness of API’s.

External monitoring

External monitoring services such as the popular Pingdom service are an essential tool and are often used to calculate uptime stated on this blog post.

When setting up external monitoring some things to consider:

– Don’t just use a ping check, use semantic monitoring. This means setting up the monitoring system to actually load site pages and check specific content is present. If you just do a ping check the site could be registered as up but be delivering a blank page instead of the home page.
– Consider Real User Monitoring.
– Something else I have done in the past is to set up Selenium checks which complete key processes such as placing an order and schedule these processes to run on regular intervals. This is worth it if you have time as remember loading the home page every 1 minute tells you nothing about whether the checkout is online and payment gateway is operating (anyone who monitors payment gateway services and the banks 3D Secure services will tell you these services regularly have downtime issues)

Cross reference log files, external monitoring and internal monitoring

This is really the key in tuning your hosting environment and moving forwards toward 100% uptime. When you experience downtime cross reference the error logs, site traffic logs and on server monitoring to establish the cause of the downtime.
This will allow you to make changes to avoid recurrence.

Best practice in deployment of changes and site updates

A great deal of downtime is caused by developers deploying changes which have not been properly tested or deploying changes too frequently.
Ensure your developer has good practice in terms of setting up a development and staging environment.

Staff training

Providing staff with administrator access to a large hosted application such as Magento poses a considerable risk to a business. Staff are able to install plugins if they wish, turn on and off caches, back up databases, upload corrupted data etc.
Staff training in these areas is an important part to play in avoiding site downtime.