Ecommerce Platforms: Magento - An insider's edition of what you should know

An e-commerce platform is a software application designed to allow online businesses to manage their website, marketing, sales, and operations conveniently and efficiently from one place. While there are countless options out there, they are not all built the same. Let’s dive into Magento.

The first thing to note is pricing. A software that promises to streamline your daily operations and make your business more profitable and productive comes at a cost, as you might assume. Magento’s pricing starts at around *$1,600/mo. for its “cloud” or “enterprise” offering–and even if you use its “free” or “open source” version, there’s still a need for you (or somebody else) to run your own servers.

Next, let’s talk traffic. When websites deal with a sudden and significant influx of traffic, the server is likely to crash and the site will go down. Resolving this problem and setting up servers in a way that will allow you to scale up and manage the traffic can only be overseen by a skilled server administrator. The tricky part is that even when proactively adding more servers, it’s still challenging to know how many are needed that will mitigate the risk of falling short and resulting in a store crashing (which can happen at the worst possible time–when people are trying to make a purchase).

Regarding Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance audits, it’s important to keep in mind that you’re the one responsible and it can get somewhat costly, especially when auditors unearth problems that need to be fixed. In this case, a capable programmer or server admin is essential to resolve the issues–which, in turn, has the potential to disrupt functionality and add to the programmer’s workload.

All open-source platforms -- including Magento -- can become an easy target for hackers. What exactly does that mean? Due to its open-platform aspect, the source code of your store is readily available to anyone who knows how to get it, even when using the “enterprise” version, which costs a premium. Ultimately, hackers are already prepared and are one step ahead of your IT security team. If you don’t have one in place, make it a priority; keeping an online store secure truly is a team effort.

There are preventive measures that can be implemented to maintain a secure platform. Security updates must be installed regularly - as soon as they become available. This is an investment in both time and money, so keep in mind your total cost of ownership will increase.

If you haven’t upgraded from Magento 1, you’ve reached the “end of life,” which essentially means security updates are no longer available...leaving your store–and customers’ information–vulnerable to the hackers’ will. Realizing there’s been a breach can take valuable time, not to mention the added pain of informing customers that their personal and financial information is in the hands of foreign hackers. As we’ve all seen, this does elicit a fracture in the level of trust your valuable customers have with your brand.

In addition to the security aspect, other important factors merit time and attention as well. For example, extensions and server power. Magento extensions run within your own server, so adding more extensions can create a need for even more server power if you don’t want to compromise the speed of your store.

All extensions are built around a specific Magento version and, as time goes on and Magento receives updates, these extensions will eventually break (because they are not compatible with that specific version). As the developer releases a new version, you might find yourself needing to hire a programmer to install it and ensure it runs seamlessly. However, this doesn’t come with a guarantee that other issues like bugs, won’t pop up. And you don’t want to reach the end of the month having undercharged for shipping, collected too little in sales tax, or given away free products.

All in all, when making the critical decision on an e-commerce platform, topping the list is the ability -– and will -- of the developers to keep their extensions updated and their software secure. Spend time looking for and working with a company that makes this a priority. BubbleUp has worked with several ecommerce platforms and can help you navigate the details to find solutions that work best for your business. Give us a call 832-585-0709.

*Contact Magento for current pricing