The trials and tribulations of eCommerce: a look back

I have been a keen observer and sometimes participant of the eCommerce field since its very early days back in the late 1990s. Then the websites were wacky, the software shaky, and the tools touchy and troublesome. But somehow we managed to buy stuff online and Amazon and others have been raking in the dough every since.

In the beginning, IBM had its own NT-based eCommerce product that I reviewed back in 1999 for Windows Sources magazine. These suites of products had a lot of custom configuration, and really weren’t very good. Since that point, IBM has built quite a business around Websphere and other tools. Another article about evaluating payment systems for eCommerce that I wrote for back in 1999 described the sad state of affairs back then.

In those early days, I had fun assignments like trying to figure out how long it took staff from an online storefront to respond to my email queries. That seems fairly obvious, and there are still storefronts that don’t respond quickly enough to their potential customers.

But one area where we have come the furthest has been in online payments. A good example is the recent Apple Pay announcements last month. As the NY Times points out, even though nary a dollar has been spent with this new system, vendors are jumping on board Just Because It Is Apple. Even eBay has gotten so worried that they are in the process of spinning off PayPal, something that they have resisted for years. Here is my analysis of Apple Pay published in Ricoh’s blog.

If you are looking for some historical context of how payments have evolved, check out the following pieces that I wrote over the years:

From that last piece, I wrote:

Imagine how hard life with physical wallets would be if they acted like e-wallets. You would have to carry several different kinds of wallets around with you, since each store would accept different payment systems. You couldn’t convert your dollars from one system to another without a great deal of work. And if you lost your wallet, you would be out of luck.

sim2Today we have a lot of payment choices, including a little-known service from MasterCard called Simplify that is a web payment gateway that offers 2% rates (but only through software, no card reader yet.). We’ll see if my predictions will come true or not once again.

Network World: Slow Internet links got you down? Try Dyn’s Internet Intelligence

dynAs businesses extend their reach to more corners of the world, wouldn’t it be nice if you could monitor any Internet service provider from any location? Thankfully, Dyn, which sells DNS management tools, acquired Renesys earlier this year and extended the features of the Renesys’ Internet Intelligence product.

You can read the full review in Network World here.

A Better Way to Do Multifactor Authentication with Authentify xFA

xFA can add multifactor security to any web service with a few lines of code. We tested xFA on a small network in August 2014. It has cloud-based components to manage multifactor security, along with apps for iOS and Android.

Price: $19.95 per user per year

Fingerprint authenticators for iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy are expected for the near future.

Network World: Citrix Xen Mobile rates a spot on your MDM short list

xen phone security optionsWhen we reviewed six mobile device management products for Network World back in 2013, Citrix declined the opportunity to participate, but the company has changed its mind with the recent release of Xen Mobile v9.0 MDM. In our testing, we found that the software stacks up nicely against AirWatch and Good Technology, the two leaders from that review, and should be on any IT manager’s short list, particularly if you already use other Citrix connectivity products. (A view of its extensive security options can be seen on the right.)

You can read my review today in Network World here.

Computerworld: Peak vs. Tibbr, two communication tools reviewed

peak activity graphs1If you are trying to have more effective team communications, you are probably looking at products or services that go by names like “social CRMs” or “team engagement tracking apps.” Regardless of what they are called, these apps can connect to a variety of social networks and email accounts and make it easier to manage your communications, track what your team has posted, understand what other team members are working on and improve workflows and productivity by avoiding interruptions or massive amounts of email.

I tried out two of these tools, Peak (shown above) and Tibbr. Both are browser-based: Tibbr also has mobile and desktop clients. You can read my review in Computerworld here.

Network World: How Aryaka’s global private network speeds access to Internet apps

arayIf you are trying to improve global access to your applications, you have probably considered one of several solutions: stringing together your own private network, purchasing WAN optimization appliances, or using a managed cloud-based service provider. Figuring out the benefits of each solution isn’t easy and it is hard to test for variations in Internet connectivity, specific applications and other conditions.

But what if a vendor could show you exactly the benefit in a particular use case, so you could understand what they are delivering? I got Aryaka to do just that. You can read my post in Network World today here.

Computerworld: Working together: 3 new team collaboration tools, Glip, Flow, and Slingshot

The concept of how we collaborate is changing. Better tools are being developed that help workgroups put together documents, quickly schedule meetings and chat with each other. Today’s collaboration environment includes tools for text chats, bulletin boards, video conferencing, screen sharing and scheduling meetings. Among these are a number of lightweight products that offer quick and near-real time collaboration. I looked at three of the newcomers: Flow, Glip and Slingshot. (A screen from Flow is pictured above.)

While all have some things in common — all three seek to enable collaboration and can be used either on desktops/laptops or on mobile devices — they all do somewhat different things in the collaboration space.

You can read my review that appeared in Computerworld here.