Taking on the world

By Martha Heller, CIO |  Business

In order to stay competitive, U.S. e-businesses need to start expanding into
global markets, and multinational companies will have to start doing a huge percentage
of their business on the web. Are there any false assumptions that companies tend to
make when going global?

They almost universally underestimate the magnitude of the task. It's like if you
have children, the first child feels like one child, but the second feels like four,
and the third feels like eight. The more countries you add to your multinational e-
business, the more complex the management of your infrastructure. Even if a company
already operates globally through traditional channels, its management usually doesn't
understand that the internet changes everything.

What I've seen happen is people all of a sudden hit the wall. They are doing great
e-business in the United States and say, "Well, we'll just use the same infrastructure
for the rest of our global business." But when they try to draw on the public internet,
the train comes to a screeching halt.

What gets in their way?

The public internet. It doesn't work nearly as well internationally as it does
nationally. When you're dealing with inter-country connections, the delays and
additional routings can cause significant problems for end users. And for companies
trying to build global brands in local markets, inconsistent user experiences can have
a serious impact on their brands.

If E-Trade provides a good customer experience in Los Angeles, but a poor one in
Australia, its global brand will suffer. There are local competitors in Australia with
a local brand presence, so for E-Trade to be successful in that market, they have to be
as locally relevant -- as fast, reliable and secure -- as they would be if they were
located in Australia.

When you go from Los Angeles to Australia through more than 20 router hops and a
number of different networks, you not only get degradation in performance, security and
consistency, you no longer have any idea where that user is coming from, and that
information is extremely important.

Why is it so important to know where the user enters your network?

An end user anywhere in the world should be able to read a global website in his or
her own language, without first having to visit an English page that says "check the
language you prefer." A truly competitive e-business operation will give users content
that is locally relevant: in their own language, with the price list in their currency
and with the right product set.

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