AWS Smart Business Blog

Why a Small E-Commerce Company Can Be More Innovative and Nimble in the Cloud

Collecting, cataloging, and updating information from nearly 30,000 global price lists can be a Herculean task. Scalable and highly reliable infrastructure is required to provide 24/7, always available service. But that hasn’t stopped small and medium businesses (SMBs) from building successful e-commerce companies. Wine-Searcher, based in Auckland, New Zealand, offers the world’s largest global wine search engine supported by a team of only 85 people. Amazon Web Services helped Wine-Searcher deliver IT resilience and better manage their data without a huge team or infinite resources. I talked with CEO Jules Perry about how cloud IT solutions enable Wine-Searcher to deliver a global service and continue to scale to add new capabilities.

Solving business challenges with cloud

Q. Jules, Wine-Searcher sounds like a company full of sommeliers, but you see your business differently. Can you describe it for us?  

A. Wine-Searcher is the world’s largest global search engine and price comparison engine for wine, spirits, and beers. We serve about five million users a month around the world. Wine-Searcher is slightly unusual. We’ve got wine in our name, but we’re really an IT organization. We’re an internet business, and we collect data from around the world and present it to consumers as needed, to support the wine and spirit industry.

Q. Wine-Searcher used to have its own co-located data center. Can you describe how your needs changed?

A. For many years we found that the most flexible and reactive way to run our hosting business was to actually do it ourselves. And that’s why we chose to run co-location services. We’ve been hosting our own web services for 22 years. We found that we need to move to a more modern environment, something that can scale, something with better performance and resilience, and running your own on-premises or co-location services just doesn’t work in today’s world.

Over time, the services available from the cloud have become so good they’ve surpassed what you can do yourself, and what you can keep running. And the ability to be independent of the hardware means that we don’t need engineers who are trained and available in the middle of the night. We had a call-out on Christmas Day once. You can get away from those struggles and be kind of freed from the hardware.”

Starting with cloud security and then expanding services

Q. When you initially engaged with AWS, you were focused primarily on security, but quickly expanded from there. Can you tell us about your experience?

A. Our initial experiments with AWS were really based around providing a disaster recovery solution for our on-premises and co-location services. So, we were really just dipping our toes in the water of what AWS could do. Based on our experience and our belief that the systems work and are reliable and easy to use, we were able to plan a path towards moving all of our services and start to execute that.

AWS makes it easy to come on board. You can dabble with services, you can try things out, you can experiment on your own. You don’t have to make a massive commitment. You can just work as you need to work. And that’s a really attractive proposition. You pay for what you use, and you can adopt things at your own rate.

Customizing the cloud migration

Q. Many SMBs are concerned about the effort required to migrate their data. Can you tell us about your experience?

A. One of the challenges for migrating to AWS was to work out which services we embrace, what new technology we take on board, but also how do we migrate what we’ve already got? The lift-and-shift was how we initially did the migration, and that really worked for us. It meant that it was a kind of a risk-free migration, because all the technology we knew and understood and had tuned for many years was still in place, and it still worked for us.

Overall, it took probably a year to plan and execute the migration of the web-based services. Obviously, we moved our development services first. We run a Linux, Apache, Oracle, Solr PHP kind of environment—very typical. We migrated our development environment across to AWS first. We got some experience about performance and scale and making the systems work, connecting our developers to the systems.

New to digitization or looking to add more cloud capabilities to your SMB? Explore solutions by industry, benefit, use case, and more on AWS Smart Business

Innovating and becoming more nimble

Q. What have been some of the business benefits you’ve seen from the cloud migration that went beyond your initial expectations?

A. Now all of our staff are using Amazon WorkSpaces, from home, from the office, wherever they need to be, entirely. We don’t need any IT equipment other than a laptop for our staff to work securely anywhere. And that’s a real revelation. It gives us incredible flexibility. And through the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s meant that we’ve got the ability to just carry on working. So many businesses had to stop work. We didn’t. We just kept working.

Being in the cloud and being in control of our own technology also means that we’re free to innovate how we want to innovate. If we want to move fast, we move fast. If we want to be more cautious, we can do that too. AWS has a suite of services that allow us to experiment in new areas.”

Q. What does the future hold for Wine-Searcher?

A. The cloud has given us the freedom to try new things now that we’ve got the infrastructure to cope with that, and we can take more risks because we know we don’t have to worry about down time or service availability. It’s all there for us, so that frees us up massively to be more ambitious in what we’re doing as well. Having the AWS infrastructure behind us allows us to be bolder going into the future. We can make braver decisions with where we take the business. We can make decisions that we would have never entertained previously because we know the infrastructure, and the resources, and the capacity are there for us to do that.

Next steps

A cloud migration can make IT resiliency attainable for small teams that want to stay nimble and deliver a great customer experience. Wine-Searcher was able to improve reliability through a well-supported migration that ultimately provided a platform for future innovation. Learn more about how a cloud migration can help small and medium-sized e-commerce businesses reliably scale. Ready to speak with an SMB expert? Contact us now.

Purnesh Tripathi

Purnesh Tripathi

Purnesh Tripathi is an Account Manager at AWS who helps customers like Wine-Searcher realize the impact cloud technology can have on their operations. In 2016, he founded his own company in India, Wreath Engineering Services Pvt. Ltd., which provided consumers with products to increase their productivity both online and offline. Purnesh holds a Master of Professional Studies in Data Science from The University of Auckland and is based in New Zealand.

Jules Perry

Jules Perry

Jules Perry is CEO of Wine-Searcher. He is passionate about how software, systems and the Internet change and improve the world. Jules is based in New Zealand.