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Hosting an Ecommerce Website - a buyer guide

Ecommerce, short for electronic commerce is about selling products or services over the Internet. In a broader sense, it refers to buying and selling products & services over electronic systems such as the Internet and other computer networks. If you are selling a product or a service, e-commerce would be a smart way to reach out to a large number of customers that the internet can provide.

Selling products online include an entire online process of developing, marketing, selling, delivering, servicing and payment collection. The use of commerce conducted in this way, has spurred innovations in electronic funds transfer, supply chain management, Internet marketing, online transaction processing and inventory management systems. Building an e-commerce system is a complicated process and it is better left to the experts. There are several free ecommerce systems such as os-commerce, zen-cart and virtual mart which you can install on your hosting platform and use. Such a system will cover your basic needs of order management and processing. However, such a free system comes with its own limitations and may not be entirely suitable for your kind of business. Further, it will require a certain level of technical knowledge from your end to be able to install and configure it to your own needs and since you have not paid anyone for it, little technical support will be available. A better option would be to find a company that offers a complete e-commerce solution. Many companies offer affordable solutions that allow you to run your virtual store without much technical hassles. They usually provide a completely hosted solution, keeping your mind free of the technicalities of hosting as well. Further, most ecommerce solution providers frequently enhance and improve their systems to keep with the times.

Things to look for in an ecommerce solution

Here is a checklist of essential features and facilities you would require and should look for in an ecommerce system to enable you to run your online business smoothly and with minimum manpower:

  • How it handles online customers? Does it also allow handling offline customers?
  • How it handles product catalogs? Does it allow cross-selling? Does it allow selling kits and matrix items? Kits are a collection of items bundled together and offered at a special price. Matrix items are a collection of similar items with variants such as size, color, style.
  • How it handles product pricing and discounts?
  • How it handles online orders? Does it allow logging offline sales as well?
  • How it handles inventory?
  • How it handles returns?
  • How it handles shipment?
  • How it handles accounts? Are transactions automatically posted in ledgers?
  • How it handles billing? Are there reminder systems and credit-ageing reporting in place?
  • How it handles payment? Does it allow multiple payment options to be implemented?
  • How it handles foreign currency transactions? Does it take care of forex gain/loss?
  • How it handles credit card payments, debit card payments, net-banking payments and other modes of online payments?
  • How it handles taxes? Are there provisions to define tax rules based on origin of goods, shipping destination, product type and type of customer?
  • Is it secure?

A good ecommerce system will automate most of the above tasks making it convenient for you to carry out your online business. Before you sign up with an ecommerce systems provider, surf some other e-commerce sites on their servers. Find out how they work. Try some shopping, and see if you get a good feeling. Also compare the other sites against yours, to see if it looks like you have the same needs. Contacting some of the other customers for feedback would also be a good step to take.

All said and done, if you still go for an in-house ecommerce development and are looking for a place to host them, here is a checklist of things you will need to look for.

  1. Depending upon how much traffic you are expecting for your ecommerce website you may opt for a shared or VPS hosting.
  2. You will need a hosting plan that provides SSL support so that your secure pages, that involve transactions are accessed via https.
  3. You will need an SSL certificate from a reputed certificate provider such as Comodo, Verisign, or Thawte. To install the certificate, you will require a dedicated IP address for your domain.
  4. You will need a payment gateway merchant account. Some of the companies that provide payment gateway service for Indian businesses are - CcAvenue, EBS, ICICI Bank Payseal, Transecute, Bill Desk, DirectPay.

If you are low on budget, you can ignore items 2 & 3 initially, as all payment gateway service providers give you SSL interface for collecting sensitive credit card data and during the entire process of receiving money online. However, if you have built your ecommerce system in such a way that you collect credit card information and process it within your own website then SSL & dedicated IP are a must.

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About the Author
Rajeev Kumar
CEO, Computer Solutions
Jamshedpur, India

Rajeev Kumar is the primary author of How2Lab. He is a B.Tech. from IIT Kanpur with several years of experience in IT education and Software development. He has taught a wide spectrum of people including fresh young talents, students of premier engineering colleges & management institutes, and IT professionals.

Rajeev has founded Computer Solutions & Web Services Worldwide. He has hands-on experience of building variety of websites and business applications, that include - SaaS based erp & e-commerce systems, and cloud deployed operations management software for health-care, manufacturing and other industries.

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