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With Such a Flurry of New AWS Offers, It's Easy to Get Overwhelmed and Miss What's Useful for eCommerce

At Skeddly we’re focused on bringing you the best in AWS help tutorials, AWS scheduler services, and AWS backup services. However, from time to time we like to reach out to other leaders in the AWS space to help you, our blog readers, stay on top of the latest developments and news within the AWS ecosystem.

Today Skeddly had the opportunity to speak with Denis Zlatov, the Co-founder and Customer Success Officer at JetRails, a mission-critical website hosting provider that is best known for providing premium hosting for eCommerce websites. JetRails also use AWS as one of their main tools of choice when working on client projects.

Without further ado, let’s jump into the interview.

The Interview

Denis, it’s great having you with us today. Why don’t you jump in and tell us a little bit more about JetRails. Why the focus on eCommerce?

As a company, we’ve been focused on web hosting since 2000. In that time, we learned that eCommerce is where some of the biggest challenges in web hosting are found. Sites need to be secure, fast, stable, and scalable for bursts of traffic. We’ve leaned into this part of the web hosting industry, focusing on providing mission-critical hosting to businesses that need premium hosting management, monitoring, and support. By providing white-glove support, we’ve been able to differentiate from other hosts and really stand out in the market.

You’ve mentioned that customer success is vital for the operations of your company. Can you tell us a little bit more about the internal systems you have in place to help increase the chances of customer success within your organization? What have been your successes and failures in this space? In your experience, what are the major red flags you see, which you think will work against a potential client’s chances of success when they first come to you? How do you deal with these cases?

We deliver customer success by focusing on providing what eCommerce merchants need. We deploy layers of proactive security to block bad bots, hackers, and other malicious traffic from negatively impacting our clients and their websites. We also monitor sites so that we can help with issues in real-time.

While security is crucial, it’s not the only important point. We work with lots of technology, from Content Delivery Networks to caching technology like Varnish and Redis to deliver faster loading speeds for merchants. In eCommerce loading speeds directly impact conversions and revenue.

Speed and security are some of the easiest issues to spot with a website, but scalability is just as important. We have solutions to help merchants scale up for seasonal increases in traffic and marketing campaigns, as well as autoscaling for merchants that experience unpredictable traffic spikes or operate sites with traffic patterns that cannot be planned in advance.

Perhaps most importantly, we provide premium support. We pick up our support line within 10 seconds and respond meaningfully to tickets within 15 minutes. If you’re an eCommerce merchant time is money. Even if your site is up, if it’s not operating properly and efficiently, it may be costing you short-term revenue and long-term clients.

In essence, by proactively maintaining your eCommerce hosting environment, the result is a more stable and reliable website and business. At JetRails, we help make white-glove support available to more merchants, helping to ensure their success.

Our team handles everything from recommending the right hosting environment by reviewing analytics and data to predict our client’s needs, to migrating the client’s website for them.

The #1 issue that we worry about, is that the client doesn’t have developers that are following best practices and being proactive. eCommerce platforms like Magento require security patches and other maintenance that we rely on our clients to address. If they don’t have good developers to help them, we can recommend some great ones, but they need to do their part to keep their eCommerce site safe and healthy.

The cloud presents an easily scalable solution for virtually any eCom company out there. This, and cost reduction are often the two features that attract many to the cloud in the first place. What other major benefits does the cloud offer eCommerce stores? In particular what benefits does the cloud offer eCommerce companies that eCommerce companies themselves might be overlooking?

Being in the cloud isn’t always a cost-saving. In many cases, we can provide better pricing on dedicated servers and clusters or in a private cloud than a merchant will pay to be on a public cloud like AWS. We fully-manage bare metal servers, and public clouds, so it’s up to the client to choose which they prefer. We will, of course, weigh in with our recommendations. The biggest reason that we recommend cloud hosting is autoscaling.

With AWS, for instance, we can autoscale horizontally and vertically, adding more resources to web nodes, and adding more web nodes altogether.

Not every business needs autoscaling. For instance, B2B businesses are unlikely to see big bursts of unexpected traffic. Paying for such an environment can simply be an unwarranted cost burden for such businesses. Usually it’s most cost efficient to keep predictable work load on bare metal and not pay for the virtualization overhead. In either case it’s important to choose an environment based upon the specifics of your business.

You’ve seen first hand how AWS can change the way a business operates. What are some of the most creative uses of AWS you’ve seen eCommerce companies adopt that they simply couldn’t have done (or couldn’t have easily done) on other cloud platforms?

We strongly believe that cloud adoption should be done right. Very often we see merchants approaching us with their entire hosting environments running on EC2 containers for every single workload. If all you need is just plain Linux systems there are much better, more cost efficient solutions. Of course, not every AWS tool is ideal for every situation but if choice is made to deploy in AWS we will rely on the tools developed for the environment. All of our deployments utilize RDS Aurora, Cloudwatch and load balancers. It’s likely that we will add Cloudflare and/or Sucuri into the stack for idiosyncratic Ecommerce platform needs but you can rest assured that we will get as much value as possible out of public cloud tools.

You also specialize in hosting migrations. This gives you an opportunity to see the before and after snapshot of a company based on their hosting decision. What are the biggest benefits that you’ve personally seen infrastructure changes have on a company (i.e. SEO ranking, CR increases, user engagement increases etc).

We’ve seen big reductions in Time to First Byte (TTFB) and other loading speed metrics. For example, we’ve had customers with TTFB over 3 seconds, that, after migration, were well under 1 second.

We’ve had customers greatly reduce their hosting costs. We’re all about efficiency. If you architect an environment well, it can often lead to big cost savings. Just because a customer was already on AWS, for instance, doesn’t mean it will cost them as much to host on AWS with JetRails (with better results!)

Some things are harder to put exact numbers to, but we’ve helped businesses address historical security issues and intermittent hosting issues that caused them downtime, or led to shoppers getting error messages.

We’ve also had customers work with hosts that couldn’t keep up with them. If you’re paying your developers per hour, having them spin their wheels trying to make progress with a host that doesn’t communicate quickly and effectively can be costly. It can also lead to extended downtime, errors, and delays.

We have some great eCommerce hosting case studies on our website that highlight some specific cases.

Your company specializes in Magento, Bigcommerce and X-Cart optimized infrastructure. It’s well-known that these platforms are an excellent solution for eCommerce businesses. Are there any special challenges or considerations when integrating any of these platforms with AWS? If so, how do you overcome these issues?

We’re best known for our work with Magento. It’s a big part of what we do… but we’re dedicated to helping eCommerce merchants, whether they’re using WordPress, Drupal, or a similar CMS with BigCommerce, WooCommerce, X-Cart, Prestashop, or another eCommerce platform. All of these platforms were designed as monolithic (not cloud native) apps. When choosing to deploy in AWS you want to end up with a self-healing, auto-scaling architecture. To do it right is a fairly complex project and it can get out of hand (and budget) very quickly. Just like with most complex IT projects the biggest challenge we see is to know which AWS tools to use, which ones not to use, and which 3rd party tools need to be properly integrated into the stack.

Would you mind telling us your preferences between AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform when it comes to hosting? What are the major pros and cons of each platform specifically as they relate to eCommerce companies?

When it comes to public clouds we operate exclusively in AWS and Digital Ocean. Digital Ocean may not be talked about quite as frequently, but we believe it should be. They have powerful hosting infrastructure and are often better priced than the big 3 (Google, Microsoft, and Amazon). This is not often talked about, yet, but any merchant deploying in AWS should understand that every dollar spent on that infrastructure goes to the largest eCommerce company in the world, a potential competitor. If this is a consideration then DigitalOcean, private cloud or good ol’ bare metal systems is the way to go.

Lastly, let’s talk predictions. What can we expect to see in the year 2020, when it comes to cloud service innovations?

With re:Invent 2019 just finishing and 77 product launches there is no shortage of new “stuff” coming out from AWS. The rate of innovation there is simply astonishing. With such a flurry of new offers it’s easy to get overwhelmed and miss what’s useful for eCommerce. As always, our R&D is on top of things and we will likely be testing AWS Fargate for Kubernetes and ECS Cluster Auto Scaling. Both of these are more geared towards new gen, cloud native applications. I think in general we will see better, improved APIs which will allow for more data flow between onprem installations and cloud deployments.

Thank you greatly for taking the time to speak with Skeddly’s readers about your experience working with AWS. To our blog readers, if you’d like to learn more about JetRails you can do so by following them on Twitter or heading over to their website here.

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