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Web Store Hosting: Weigh Your Options

Updated: August 6, 2019 | Share on LinkedIn

By Josh Feierman

Almost all attractions in 2019 desire some kind of web-based presence for their organization, which, given the long-time industry trend towards online ticket sales, makes perfect sense. Usually, it’s a web store. By driving your customers to purchase tickets online ahead of time, you make your business more efficient: you reduce the number of staffed ticket booths you need, you get better analytics as you can see the marketing source of purchases and identify other key data trends, and you offer a better guest experience with shorter lines and quicker entry. There are two main options you can leverage to integrate online sales with your ticketing solution and there are pros and cons to each.

Your Ticketing Solution Provider Hosts Your Web Store

Ticketing companies that offer a web store product, which integrates tightly with your on-premise installation, will typically also offer to host your web store in a secured cloud-based hosting environment and manage all the necessary infrastructure. All you need to do is maintain basic configuration of your items and publish them to the store as required; no custom programming or web development is required! The barriers to entry are quite low and you don’t have to worry about contracting with another vendor or purchasing expensive hardware to host your store.

In addition, by having your store hosted by your ticketing provider, you are able to outsource at least a portion of your PCI-DSS compliance. If your store consumes and processes credit card data, and at this time most do, then you will need to provide proof that your store resides in a compliant and validated environment. And while this doesn’t necessarily completely remove you from the need to ensure your on-premise environment is kept compliant (though that is increasingly possible, thanks to EMV device adoption and other industry advances), it certainly reduces the scope of your work required, since you simply need to request that your ticketing provider gives you their annual Attestation of Compliance certificate, which your QSA should accept as proof that your web site resides in a validated environment.

Finally, by hosting with your provider, you’re able to leverage their knowledge of how best to scale and manage your web environment based on peak demand. With proper advanced notice, they should be able to provision extra capacity for you utilizing load balancing services to ensure that your web site visitors have a user-friendly experience while purchasing tickets. Your attraction probably has peak demand months, where you require much higher dedicated capacity than during your quiet months, and with the flexibility of a cloud hosting environment, your ticketing provider can give you an economical avenue to accommodate that demand without needing to pay for excess capacity year round.

For many attractions, these advantages are enough to convince them that hosting with their ticketing and web store provider is the right course of action. Still, it’s by no means a panacea, and there are trade-offs in having them manage your hosting. For example, you do give up some level of control over when changes are made in the environment; while providers typically maintain very strict change policies, such that impactful changes are only made during off-peak times, for some attractions who desire extremely tight control over the availability of their site, this might not be acceptable. In addition, because providers are subject to their own compliance requirements as a Service Provider, you may be required from time to time to make changes or apply upgrades to your environment, and you may not have control over deadlines for these changes to be made.

For attractions where these trade-offs outweigh the benefit of using their ticketing provider to host their web store, they may instead choose to contract with a third party and have a customized web store built that utilizes their provider’s API.

**Note: a very small number of attractions choose to self-host their web store product themselves; for numerous reasons, we don’t generally support or recommend this, because of the complexities involved and the need to often spend considerable resources having your provider essentially remotely manage the environment.**

Or, A Third Party Hosts Your Web Store

The second option for having an online presence for your ticketing installation is to contract with a third party (or internal development team, if you have one) to develop a web site that utilizes an API to interact with your system. Your ticketing provider should publish detailed API documentation, and may even offer paid SDK time for developers who require direct contact with an engineer while developing against the API. In this way, you’re able to get a highly customized online store, which caters to your exact needs. By managing the hosting as well (either directly or through a third party), you also maintain ultimate control over when changes are made or when upgrades are applied. For attractions that require the highest level of control, and who have robust infrastructure and development teams available, this is certainly a viable option.

Things to keep in mind if you’re considering this: first, you will become the ultimate responsibility holder in terms of your compliance with PCI-DSS guidelines. Because your provider does not own or manage your online store, they will not be able to provide any proof of compliance. Second, you will also need to ensure that you have a resilient and redundant infrastructure in place to support your store, so that unplanned hardware failures or other issues do not cause unacceptable downtime. And finally, you’ll need to ensure that your custom store is updated to match the new API specifications upon upgrade, so you may incur more time and costs as part of routine upgrades of your installation.

Ultimately, both options are viable ones for attractions desiring an online presence. And either way, your provider should help you in any way they can. As with most decisions around your ticketing solution, it really comes down to the requirements you have, and what the costs and benefits of each option are. If you ever have questions about what solution is right for you, we highly encourage you to reach out to your provider and have a pro-active conversation, so that they can help meet your needs in the best way possible.

Gateway Ticketing Systems offers a web store product, as well as hosting and load balancing services, and we are always here to discuss whether hosting your store with us, self-hosting, or hosting with a third party is best for your operation.

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