When it comes to storing stuff online, the options are endless: Dropbox, iCloud, Google Docs, MegaUpload (RIP), Flickr, the list goes on and on. But as the amount of data we produce increases – everything from tweets and calendar entries to Facebook chat history and YouTube videos – so does the amount of energy and resources needed to process and store it all in the cloud.
For today’s Internet giants, finding innovative ways to improve the efficiency of data centres is essential, not just for the environment, but also for the bottom line. Pike Research predicts that by 2015, investment in energy efficient server farms will reach $41 billion. Many companies have already begun to explore cutting-edge technologies to keep server farms costs down:
A group of Facebook engineers were given the challenge of building the mot efficient and economical data centre possible. With every aspect designed from scratch, the new Prineville, Oregon facility uses 38% less energy than other Facebook data centres and cost 24% less to build. To share their findings, Facebook created the Open Compute Project, an industry-wide initiative to promote an open-sourced approach to data centre engineering.
Google uses a variety of methods to keep its data centres around the world up and running. In Finland, they converted an old mill into the world’s first seawater-cooled data centre where cold water from the Baltic Sea is pumped through the building to cool it down. At its Georgia, USA facility, Google uses recycled waste water to keep things cool, and in Taiwan, air conditioning is used at night and a thermal energy storage system keeps the facility cool during the day.
Unlike other companies that use cold cooling processes to control temperatures, eBay runs its Phoenix, Arizona data centre at 115 degrees Fahrenheit (most data centres run somewhere between 65-80 degrees). With temperatures so high, they are able to use hot water to cool the facility, which significantly reduces the amount of energy used and the cost of operations.
Microsoft’s newly expanded data centre in Dublin, Ireland is cooled using air from outside of the building. The new facility doesn’t require any water for cooling, which make it 50% more efficient than traditional data centres.
The company’s data centre in Maiden, North Carolina runs primarily on renewable energy sources and utilizes chilled water storage and outside air for cooling. Apple says that new additions to the facility will include the country’s biggest end user-owned solar array and the largest nonutility fuel cell installation in the United States.
Watch TV. See item x. Purchase item x. Do not get off the couch…
That’s the idea behind couch commerce, a new trend in retail that has the potential to change the way we shop. With the help of an app, consumers can discover and purchase items directly related to the show they are watching. Real-time TV content is integrated into an online marketplace, making way for a seamless and hassle-free shopping experience.
Illustration: Dondy Razon
Mark Zuckerberg announced that social commerce on Facebook would be “the next big thing.” With over 750 million members and a ubiquitous web presence, it’s safe to say commerce on Facebook is proof.
e-Commerce is developing rapidly. With a growth rate of close to 24% between 2009 and 2010, it’s only natural that social shopping is a topic of discussion.
Given Facebook’s incredible scope, here are three ways to utilize the site for business:
1. Directly on Facebook (F-commerce):
Facebook has a more personalized digital presence than Ebay or Amazon. If we examine the current top 50 F-commerce stores, nine out of 10 are performing artists. Television channels, sports team and films comprise the rest, selling merchandise like t-shirts and exclusive items.
The main challenge is getting people to see Facebook as a retail space. What’s more, it’s clear that an F-commerce store will never be capable of reproducing the experience of a large-scale e-boutique. Considering the weak conversion rates, experts don’t see a windfall anytime soon.
It must be noted, however, that intelligent use of this space to market exclusive products or even virtual products would be an extremely wise move on the part of retail brands.
2. Outside of Facebook
Facebook is already employed by numerous sites. In fact, through the Open Graph Protocol users can personalize a site by indicating their login and password. As such, they can “Like” a product, see their friends’ friends, review their purchases and, potentially, have a personalized homepage according to their fan pages.
Amazon has taken consumer purchase behaviour analysis to another level by studying what influences the consumer to buy: friend recommendations, number of recommendations and expert recommendations. This is often referred to as persuasive e-marketing.
3. Facebook data
This is the part that is often overlooked by brands because it returns to the basics of communication: if you want to learn something, you have to LISTEN! Many insights can be gleaned from watching people live and interact in the social network.
What about Facebook Credits?
Perhaps you’ve noticed that Facebook has launched its own currency called Facebook Credits. In this virtual world, $1 is worth 10 Facebook Credits. The main use of this currency is for brands to attract consumers. The site Ifeelgoods.com provides users with the chance to win Facebook Credits by signing up for their newsletter, commenting on a product or even purchasing a product. It’s an immediate reward that users, particularly gamers, appreciate. However, Facebook retains a 30% margin on this money – not really surprising when you look at the margins Apple receives for online film or music sales.
What’s the deal with Facebook Deals?
By launching Deals, Facebook is trying to compete with geolocalization sites like Foursquare. As such, you can reference your stores and offer discounts to people who are fans of it. It’s no more than a good PR tactic, but geolocalization is something to watch.
So Facebook is not an e-commerce paradise where everything is easy, but, for the brand that takes the time to establish a strategy, the opportunities are great. And just like anything else, jumping in with both feet without advance preparation could result in a costly and disappointing venture.