Merchant Services: Defining Tech Talk

November 14, 2011

For merchants navigating their business through the e-commerce industry, there’s quite a lot of technical jargon to be aware of. It’s now more important than ever to stay on top of the latest buzz words that go along with the technology that is at the heart of e-commerce. It can sometimes be a hassle to figure out what tech trends are important to business and what’s just a passing fad. The Official Merchant Services Blog offers some insight and explanation for some of the most important technologies that are affecting businesses today:

1. Virtualization.

Virtualization is the creation of a virtual (rather than actual) version of something, such as a hardware platform, operating system, a storage device or network resources. Cloud Hosting is essentially an extension of virtualization. But it goes way deeper than that.

Hardware virtualization or platform virtualization refers to the creation of a virtual machine that acts like a real computer with an operating system. Software executed on these virtual machines is separated from the underlying hardware resources.

Virtualization is something businesses can use to improve their workflow as well as their performance. You can pretty much “virtualize” just about any hardware or software that you need. One of the classic examples of Virtualization is an operating system. Mac users who run Windows on their Mac, are using Virtualization.

2. The Cloud.

The phrase “the cloud” is getting tossed around everywhere today. From television ads that boldly utter “To the cloud!” to web hosting companies offering cloud hosting, it’s a pervasive bit of tech jargon. But what exactly is the cloud?

Cloud Computing is a model of computer use based on sharing computing resources stored in an online environment rather than having local servers or personal devices to handle the applications. Cloud computing is obtaining mass appeal in corporate data centers because it enables the data center to operate like the Internet.  Cloud solutions for businesses are often more efficient and less expensive than maintaining software and servers on local machines. This can apply to everything a business needs to function, from financial software to document and file storage. A cloud solution can take all of that online, allowing a business (from many locations even) to access the application remotely.

A cloud can be private or public. A public cloud sells services to anyone on the Internet. (Currently, Amazon Web Services is the largest public cloud provider.) A private cloud is a proprietary network or a data center that supplies hosted services to a limited number of people. When a service provider uses public cloud resources to create their private cloud, the result is called a virtual private cloud. Private or public, the goal of cloud computing is to provide easy, scalable access to computing resources and IT services.

3. Search Engine Optimization.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a specific topic we’ve covered before in The Official Merchant Services Blog. But it is extremely important and worth adding to this list. SEO is about maximizing the potential of your website to attract online customers. What it boils down to is a series of tactics and actions that you take to improve your web site’s page ranking on internet search engines. The higher your site is on searches, the easier it is for potential online customers to find your site. This drives potential business to your web site.

4. Unified Communications.

Unified Communications (UC) is a really basic concept with that can sometimes be presented to people in a complicated manner. What it essentially is: The merging of multiple communications tools, such as web conferencing and instant messing, into a single interface or integrated system.  Much like Search Engine Optimization, UC can be very helpful to businesses. On even a basic level, a business can make itself more efficient by maximizing their communication tools. This could be something as easy as integrating BlackBerry with Outlook.

5. Crowdsourcing.

Crowdsourcing, a phrase coined by Jeff Howe in a 2006 Wired article, is the act of outsourcing tasks usually performed by specific individuals instead to a group of people or a specific online community through an open call. Crowdsourcing is a distributed problem-solving and production model. The way it works is problems are broadcast to an unknown group of solvers in the form of an open call for solutions. A “crowd” of users typically forms into an online community, and the crowd submits solutions. The crowd also sorts through the solutions, finding the best ones. These best solutions are then owned by the entity that broadcast the problem in the first place –– the crowdsourcer –– and the winning individuals in the crowd are sometimes rewarded.

The typical activities that crowdourcing gets use for are design tasks, the refining or carrying out of an algorithm’s steps, or help in capturing or analyzing large amounts of data. Because it can handle functions like those, crowdsourcing has become popular with businesses. Essentially it can be used leverage mass collaboration enabled by Web 2.0 technologies and then help businesses achieve their goals.

It All Ties Together

This is just a short list of tech terms that merchants will encounter while trying to get their e-commerce solution running smoothly. Remember that value to your business is the cornerstone for evaluating technologies that can enhance your business. So don’t be confused or deceived by the buzz. Gimmicks can seem tempting and attractive, but always keep in mind that the product or service needs to bring something to the table that specifically improves your business. In the five examples provided here, there is one underlying theme to take note of: They all connect.

Virtualization ties into Cloud Computing, as one is an extension of the other. SEO and UC share the same goal of optimizing the way your business does a specific function –– search engine results of your businesses’ web site for SEO, and efficient communications within your business for UC. It’s also worth noting that many SEO tactics hinge on using Social Networking tools to improve your SEO, and those same Social Networking tools can be made more efficient with UC concepts and tactics. It’s all about improving your business and the tech presented here today by Host Merchant Services can be linked together in a concerted effort to enhance what your business can do online.

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