Minding the Storefront

Reliability, security and rapidity were key attributes a Canadian retailer thought crucial to establishing an effective online storefront to complement its existing business.

Although Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC), a national outdoor product and clothing outfitter based in Vancouver, B.C.,

decided in 2000 to enter the burgeoning world of e-commerce, it realized that it would require outside help to bring its plan to fruition.

It launched its storefront in 2001, employing Fusepoint Managed Services to ensure that the data was not only available 24×7, but also secure.

Fusepoint, in turn, leveraged Veritas Software technology to fulfill its task. According to Georgette Parsons, CIO of MEC, which achieved about $170 million in annual sales last year, her company considered a number of vendors before selecting Fusepoint.

Even though it was a new firm at the time with just one office in Vancouver, she said that the risks of doing business with the newcomer were dwarfed by the potential advantages.

“”This was, in retrospect, a very good decision,”” she said, adding MEC’s focus on business continuity helped it handle two major catastrophes last year: themassive power outage in Ontario last August and Hurricane Juan in Halifax, last September.

“”I was really impressed by the offer and their technical capabilities. It’s saved us from a lot of headaches.””

While she admitted that the services Fusepoint has provided aren’t inexpensive, she added that the cost was reasonable compared to the the price tag of having to perform business continuity tasks in-house. MEC, shecontinued, pays a flat managed services fee based on how many servers it uses and a variable fee linked to bandwidth use.

According to Stephen McWilliams, director of partners and alliances at Fusepoint, Fusepoint is just like an extension to its clients’ IT departments.

“”MEC is not in the IT business,”” said McWilliams. His company is using a Veritas storage solution to provide backup and recovery services to MEC.

Although businesses like MEC seem to understand the importance of e-business security, business continuity and disaster recovery, there are plenty of organizations out there that are still dragging their feet, he added.

Case in point: While Fusepoint saw an increased demand for its services following the blackout in Ontario last year, companies that had put business continuity on their Top 10 lists after the lights went out relegated it to the backburner once the lights went back on.

Commenting on what MEC might face if it were to operate its e-commerce Web site without an adequate business continuity plan, Fred Dimson, general manager of Veritas Software Canada, said that if customers were unable to access MEC’s online storefront because of downtime, they would quite simply go elsewhere.

But while it’s certainly important to keep systems up and running around the clock, organizations need to determine which systems are critical enough to warrant this type of attention, he adds.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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