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Monday, January 12, 2009

Set Back with our on-line store

We had a terrible set-back with our on-line store. We used an open source store that has a free version. Some of the features in the store did not work correctly. They recommended upgrading the store to the newest version. We followed all instructions, only to find that the entire store inventory was gone! We are in the IT field, so we always make backups and more backups. None of the backups seem to work. Reading in the forums, we discovered that we were not the only ones who experienced this set back. Our guys worked for 2 days to restore all the products. The uploads did not work right. This is when I decided to put a stop to it.
Before we went on, I wanted them to test the functions in the store. Again, things did not work right. We went to the forums only to discover that there more bugs, some with fixes and some are not. Our goal was to spend minimal amount of money, but this was ridiculous. We spent so many hours working on something that did not show any results and seemed to be riddled with problems. Again, being a small business, we are able to make quick decisions and change course, and this is exactly what we did. We came up with a list of requirements and set out to check what was available out there. We saw 2 common solutions:
1. Hosted Stores – these are on-line stores that are hosted by another company. The company has to maintain the servers and all updates to the store (software updates.) Cost – includes usually a set up fee and reoccurring monthly fees. They also have various plans depending on the number of items in inventory. Some stores charge a percentage of every transaction. Some have different features available depending on the monthly fee.
2. Store software – these companies have developed a complete solution. You need to purchase the entire package. The software is installed on our servers. They provide installation support, but charge for that as well. The up front cost is high. The stores that had the features we were looking for cost between $1,000 to several thousand dollars.

We decided that we wanted a hosted store – the benefit to us: we do not have to maintain the server and the updates. The monthly fee seem reasonable to us. We currently have an eBay store. This store is going to be closed as soon as the new store is up. After searching many companies we found one company that we just love. The store is easy to manage, and has tons of features. They even have real people answering the phone. (We stopped doing business with companies that do not bother to pick up their phone.)

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