3 steps to making the internet your competitive advantage

Competitive advantages come in many forms. Maybe your business has developed a first-mover advantage, beat out competitors on price, features or stellar service or have the benefit of a sterling reputation built over years of discipline and hard work. But one area you may not have considered is how to fully leverage the Internet to make it your competitive advantage.

As more businesses migrate to the cloud and international ecommerce becomes the norm, ensuring your customers have a top-notch end-user experience is becoming a business imperative. Customer expectations, regardless of whether you are a startup or a multinational ecommerce company, one thing is certain: customers have no patience for slow web pages. Within a few seconds, sites are abandoned and competitors win business and brand loyalty. Knowing how well your customers reach you across the Internet is an important part of managing the end-user experience—and measuring and managing speed, security, reachability and availability. It is also the key to winning and keeping customers in the Internet age.

Following are the keys to making the Internet your competitive advantage.

Step 1: Monitor and Control the Internet

Many companies today have reduced cost while improving flexibility, reliability and scale of their Internet infrastructure by employing cloud service providers, CDN services and hosting companies. The sky is the limit for nimble market expansion and revenue growth. Even smaller companies are using relatively sophisticated data flow tools to manage their information and connectivity across the Web.

Yet, how many of these companies have a comprehensive, end-to-end view into the speed and availability of their information across the Internet? And how many companies understand how latencies, quality, outages or redirects are impacting their customers’ ability to access their Web offerings?

Each day there are an average of 3,000 outages around the world on the Web. While many are relatively harmless, major disruptions happen fairly often. In July this year, hackers breached motor dealer Eurokars Group’s Mazda website, and placed its logo and a message on the site. Although there was no evidence to suggest that any customer information was compromised, it could have caused customers to lose confidence in the brand. It takes only a few moments of downtime a year to provoke a customer to move to their competitor.  Besides, the time spent by personnel to investigate and mitigate an attack can be costly. Monitoring your company’s Internet connections is half the battle; having the control to reroute and avoid disruptions to your customers is the other half that gives you the control to mitigate these risks, protecting sales and customer confidence.

Step 2: Deliver Availability and Reachability

The ability for customers to access your website cannot be understated as a core business goal. The first step in having strong availability and reachability is knowing the constant state of your own Internet performance to get to key regions.

There are some important questions to ask to determine availability. Is my service available for use by my customers? Are my partners able to connect with my services? What does the connection performance look like among my selected cloud providers and do my CDNs meet my needs?

Impacts from availability issues can be significant. A recent Google cloud outage, which lasted for almost two hours, was related to an internal software issue related to its virtual network traffic routing. If your business was using a single cloud instance and you were not monitoring for network-wide availability, you would have experienced this outage and your availability would have been impacted. 

Reachability similarly affects your customers’ ability to access your website and services. How accessible are you in the largest markets around the world? Again, in cases where a business is using a single cloud instance, an outage or failure will have a detrimental impact on reachability. Unless your business is monitoring your reachability and mitigating for failures, you are open to disruptions and have little choices for rerouting in the event of a disruptive event.

In the event of an outage, smart availability and reachability strategies will give your business an edge over competitors that are down, providing the end-user experience that your customers expect, driving sales and building brand loyalty.

Step 3: Optimise Performance

Slow is the new downtime. The global proliferation of high-speed Internet  and the shift to mobile for Web browsing, app usage and ecommerce means that the expectations for performance are higher than ever. Amazon recently calculated that a page load slowdown of just one second could cost it $1.6 billion in sales each year. Do the math and even a startup Internet business could face huge penalties for Internet Performance deficiencies.

Most businesses are investing in performance tools within their enterprises but few are looking outside their firewalls to understand how the Internet affect each and every customer connection. Where does Amazon's symbolic 1-second delay come from? More often than not it comes from Internet Performance. So what does optimised performance really mean? In a nutshell, greater speed, network flexibility and the ability to see disruptions as they are happening and the power to resolve them before they affect your business.

Summary

Any organisation that generates revenues online is a global business and needs to consider the tools available to make the Internet a competitive advantage. While there is money to be saved by mitigating risk, harnessing the power of the global Web to streamline performance and make cloud, CDN and data decisions based on the performance—or lack thereof—of these providers can also help your bottom-line. Knowledge is power. Monitoring and controlling your Internet assets can empower you with the insights your company needs to make the Internet your competitive advantage. 

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