Feb 012013

The hottest eCommerce offers on the net today are the offers that say (copied right from their home screens):

  • “Everything you need to start selling online – today.”
  • “All-in-one eCommerce solution”
  • “Everything you need to create a successful online store”

Prices start at around $20 a month, give or take $5 either way. Too good to be true?

No. It’s true. That’s the problem. 

Right there, in that monthly charge, is your big red flag. Any eCommerce solution that starts out with a monthly charge is a “hosted solution.”

Even that sounds good. No added cost for hosting. Whoopee.

It’s a trap. 

The worst thing that can happen to you will be you have a really successful store. You sell tons of stuff and are making a few thousand dollars a week – and then you discover that the service has built-in limits. There’s a feature or function that your store needs that is not available from that supplier.

Maybe the company will add it for you? Of course they will. For a price. Their price. The price they want.

Negotiation? No. We do not negotiate.

OK, I’ll move my store somewhere else to another online service.

Go ahead, take your store off our server. But you cannot use our designs or templates. Even if we wanted to allow you to move them, they will not work anywhere else but on our hosting server.

Sorry, (they may say) but that’s the way it goes. We rented you the free software that is the store.

We own that software and you can’t take it with you.

BTW, (they will say) that database of products, prices, order details, shipping info, images and customers that is the soul of your online store? You own the data but we will not give you any tools that empower you to export it. You’ll have to copy/paste everything, one product, price, description, image link, customer contact info, order history, etc, one at a time, by hand. Could take you days of non-stop work for a successful online store.

Is that the way all these deals go? Usually Yes. You have simply bought a hosting service with a store thrown in for free. If you stop renting their hosting service, they own everything that they hosted. They may or may not allow you to walk away with some or any of it. And if you do, you probably will discover you only have a round peg that will not fit the square slot of any other hosting service.

What’s the alternative?

Start with a truly Open Source eCommerce shopping cart. One that you can install and manage on any of hundreds of thousands of eager to support you, inexpensive hosting services for prices that generally run $5 to $20 a month. You own the store. It will run on any of those hosting services (except those ones that offer a “free store.”

Whoooaaa? What’s that $20 per month stuff? I can buy hosting from BigDaddy or HostCroc or Bluewhatever for $1 a month on special or maybe as high as $6.95. Even when they are not “on special” they never cost more than $10 or $12 a month.

True, dat .

But be sure you are getting what you really need for the small money involved. Hosting is just like renting a real bricks and mortar storefront. There’s hosting and there’s hosting.

Dig in to make sure yours includes everything you need for a successful online store. Look for BOTH

  • Tech Support 24/7 by phone, for the inevitable technical issues such as infected software, broken scripts, lost files, etc. – These things happen all the time and you will want immediate help, usually on the seond ring, at any hpour of the day or night, holidays included.
  • Webmaster level help for your web site itself (most big hosting services won’t do that for any price). pro-active updating of your store’s software, themes and plugins, free backups and free restorations, etc.

Perspective:. $20 a month, the top price any small business needs to pay for the highest level of fully managed hosting service support is about 60 cents a day. That won’t buy you a cup of coffee in most restaurants. If you can’t justify that to make sure you have the best, most complete hosting service, maybe you should not be doing that business at all?

SUMMARY – Ours is a service business. Our goal and responsibility is to keep you in business. 

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