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The Ultimate Magento 2 Performance Checklist

The Ultimate Magento 2 Performance Checklist



At Hostdedi, we spend a considerable amount of time optimizing our infrastructure to make your Magento 2 store faster. After years of research and development, we’ve pulled together the ultimate Magento 2 performance checklist:

  1. Remove unused modules: Magento 2 comes with many pre installed modules that aren’t always needed. Yireo created a great module to disable the optional modules you don’t need through composer. The idea behind the module is quite simple: you replace any unused module with nothing to avoid loading unused modules and classes. This module and a complete how-to can be found here: https://github.com/yireo/magento2-replace-tools
  1. Enable CSS/JS minification and merging: Minifying and merging CSS files can greatly improve load times and the general performance of your store by cutting the number of requests your site makes when loading a page. You can minify and merge CSS and JS files from the admin panel by navigating to the Developer tab under Stores > Configuration > Advanced (keep in mind this tab will only show if you are using developer mode). Magento recommends using a 3rd party plugin like Baler or MagePack for JS bundling given that Magento’s bundling mechanisms are not optimal and should only be used as fallback alternatives.
  1. Enable production mode: While this one might seem simple, the number of sites we see using a different mode in Magento is staggering. No one should be running Magento 2 in production in a different mode, but we still see too many stores running on either default or developer mode. The best way to switch modes is via CLI: 

php bin/magento:deploy:mode:show

to see which mode is your store using and 

php bin/magento deploy:mode:set production

to set production mode

  1. Use Redis for session/default and full page cache: Redis is one of the most used key/value database engines and Magento 2 comes with integrated support to use it as a both session storage and default/full page. To configure your store to use Redis, run the following commands from your root folder:

bin/magento setup:config:set --cache-backend=redis --cache-backend-redis-<parameter_name>=<parameter_value>...

bin/magento setup:config:set --session-save=redis --session-save-redis-<parameter_name>=<parameter_value>...

You can find a complete list of Redis configuration parameters and values for sessions here and for the full page cache here

  1. Use Elasticsearch for Magento’s catalog search: Since Magento 2.4, MySql was deprecated (and removed) and Elasticsearch was introduced as the catalog search engine, greatly improving the speed and results of the searches. To enable Elasticsearch, navigate to your admin panel and under Stores > Settings > Configuration > Catalog > Catalog > Catalog Search you will find a tab called Search Engine. Configure your store to use your Elasticsearch endpoint, click Test connection and if everything worked, you’re all set. You can find the complete list of parameters to configure Elasticsearch here.
  1. Use Varnish to speed up your response time/TTFB: You either love or hate Varnish but at the end of the day, it greatly improves the TTFB, and if configured correctly, it can do wonders for the general usability and user experience of your site. Magento 2 features an out of the box integration, making Varnish configuration really simple. To configure Varnish, navigate to Stores > Settings > Configuration > Advanced > System > Full Page Cache, select Varnish from the Caching Application list and configure the rest of the options. A full list of all the parameters you can use to configure Varnish can be found here

You can also configure Varnish from the CLI by running:

php bin/magento config:set --scope=default --scope-code=0 system/full_page_cache/caching_application 2

  1. Use a CDN: A content delivery network is normally used to store media and static assets at edge servers near your customers for faster delivery. This means your assets are physically closer to your customer, resulting in faster response times. Configuring a CDN for Magento is not as straightforward as it should be but it can be achieved by using the admin and navigating to Stores > Settings > Configuration. Under General, click on Web and expand the Base URL sections. Once there, update the Base URL for Static View Files and Base URL for User Media Files with the URL of your CDN endpoint where static view and javascript files are stored. Do the same for Base URLs (Secure) and once done, click Save config. You might need to flush/clean your cache for this change to take effect. If everything worked as expected, you should be seeing your CDN url being used to serve most of your site’s static files.
  1. Enabling the Asynchronous email notifications, Asynchronous order data processing: during times of high concurrency, you might want to move processes that handle checkout, order processing email notifications and stock updates to the background. To enable async email notifications, go to Stores > Settings > Configuration > Sales > Sales Emails > General Settings > Asynchronous Sending

You can activate Asynchronous order data processing from Stores > Settings > Configuration > Advanced > Developer > Grid Settings > Asynchronous indexing

When enabled, orders will be placed in temporary storage and moved in batch to the Order grid without any collisions.

While there are no real magic tricks, we tried this guide in our cloudhosts and ended up with an A and a page load under 2 seconds on GTMetrix 🥳

If you’d like assistance enacting these changes, or are interested in our Managed Magento offering, please reach out to our award-winning support team 24/7/365 at [email protected].

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Magecart Attacks Again: the Latest on CardBleed

Magecart Attacks Again: the Latest on CardBleed

Only a couple of weeks after the first vulnerability with an associated CVE was discovered for Magento 1 after its end of life, reports about a large scale Magento 1 hack attempt surfaced. 

While stats are not definitive, as of today, around 3,000 sites were hacked. This attack, usually referred to as MageCart, is the most common type of attack against Magento 1 and it’s typically used to collect user credentials and credit card information from the application inputs and exfiltrate data to remote servers.

After carefully reviewing public reports and our WAF logs, Hostdedi identified the threat and swiftly added a fleet-wide block for /downloader. We also isolated the malicious content added to this prototype.js file and have removed it from every file, leaving the original malicious file as backup (prototype.js.bk) for the client’s reference. 

We already had filters for this, mostly against brute force attacks. But given that Magento discontinued Magento Connect after June 2020, we decided to block access and only re-enable it upon request for certain IPs. 

This is one of the biggest differences between a code based Magento 1 maintenance package versus a hosting-based approach. While almost every project issued notices and recommendations, they all required user intervention. 

Our approach was to deploy a fix to the entire server fleet without any user intervention.

While a few stores were impacted, the immense majority remained safe because of the infrastructure and systems we already had put in place. This foundation, plus our swift action, helped thousands of Hostdedi stores and customers to remain secure.

In addition, we released Nexcess_CSP for our Safe Harbor users. Content Security Policy (CSP) is an added layer of security that helps detect and mitigate certain types of attacks including Cross Site Scripting (XSS) and data injection attacks usually known as MageCart. This module helps any Magento 1 store to set CSP policies, avoid and report XSS attacks and has 2 main objectives:

  • Mitigate cross site scripting: disallowing the communication to certain URLs by specifying the domains that the browser should consider to be safe sources of scripts.
  • Mitigating package sniffing attacks: specifying which protocols are allowed to be used; a server can specify that all content must be loaded using HTTPS.

We did not find any intrusion for stores that had CSP_Nexcess installed and properly configured.  Hostdedi Safe Harbor provides an extra layer of protection against this type of attacks, which are likely to continue.

The best kind of protection against external attacks is a mix of server side protection in the form of a WAF plus modules and patches to keep your store protected.

Keeping your Magento 1 store fully operational means protecting it against known vulnerabilities. If you have yet to invest in Safe Harbor, this hack illustrates the importance of staying secure.

Hostdedi Safe Harbor is a sound foundation to keep your sites and stores protected while you are on M1.

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Hostdedi Magento Cloud vs. Magento Commerce Cloud

Hostdedi Magento Cloud vs. Magento Commerce Cloud

One of the misconceptions about the Enterprise version of Magento 2 is that you have to use Magento Commerce Cloud for hosting. Or that Magento Commerce and the AWS-based Cloud solution are one and the same thing. Magento Commerce Cloud hosting for your Magento store is built by Adobe and includes powerful features (modules) like page building progressive web applications (PWAs). Hostdedi Magento Cloud is hosting for your Enterprise Magento Commerce store, or your Magento Open Source Store with features for professionals like high scalability, development/staging environments, and PCI compliance.

In this post we’re going to clear up the misconceptions between these two very different platforms.

Magento Commerce Cloud was created about two years ago after Magento was sold to Adobe. It’s their official solution for hosting Magento and it has a lot of good things going for it:

  • Magento Commerce Cloud includes common functionality for your Magento store
  • They allow progressive web apps (PWA)
  • They have a cloud based infrastructure for scalability

But it’s important to remember that Adobe, even though they own Magento, is the new kid on the block. They’re still learning how to build & optimize the infrastructure needed to power a Magento site.

Building a Solid Infrastructure

Magento Commerce Cloud is great at including product features. But they’re still building their entire stack on someone else’s infrastructure. What does that mean?

It means, if you have a problem with your website, you first have to bring it to Magento Commerce Cloud team. And they have their standard Service Level Agreement (SLA) to respond to you. If in that time, they discover a problem with the underlying infrastructure, they’ll submit a ticket to Platform.sh – the company that maintains their infrastructure.

So your SLA is built on top of the SLA from another company. That means solving any potential problems could take twice as long. Not great if you have a problem that negatively impacts your store and you lose money every minute it’s not fixed.

Hostdedi Magento Cloud is built on our own infrastructure. Hostdedi has one SLA, and because we own the infrastructure, we can solve all of the problems ourselves and we don’t need to rely on any other companies. This means less finger pointing, more informed support, and faster resolution.

Experience

The other big difference between Hostdedi Magento Cloud and Magento Commerce Cloud is that we aren’t brand new to this space. Magento was literally built on our servers back in 2007 – before Magento v1 was even released (Magento v1 was officially released March 2008). 

We saw the opportunity of Magento back in 2008 when brick & mortar stores first started moving online to avoid the worst of the Great Recession. We helped brand new stores get started with Magento and we learned a lot about it in the process, like exactly how many PHP workers were needed, what caching systems were most effective, and which Magento settings are worth enabling. We distilled everything we knew to create the very first Magento specific hosting solution. 

We also wrote the book on Magento Best Practices and shaped the Magento community by siege testing Nginx vs Apache and settling that debate. We’ve improved and continued optimizing and put out a new book for Optimizing Magento 2.

Contributing Open Source Libraries

Besides optimizing hosting for lightning fast websites, Hostdedi also created Turpentine which was the first varnish cache for Magento. You can take advantage of this on any hosting that uses varnish. 

We also created security extensions and continue to contribute to Magento core.

Plan for Exploding Growth 

Most hosts, including Magento Commerce Cloud, give you a certain number of resources that you must remain within. If you go over a bandwidth threshold you might have to pay more – or if you have too many people on your site at a time, it slows down to a crawl. 

Hostdedi created our first Magento plan during a time when everyone was getting online and then immediately started outgrowing their small plans. We’ve also been around for over a dozen Black Fridays so we’re used to seeing retailers needing extra resources on demand. That’s why we built auto scaling into all of our plans.

If you have a post that goes viral or your Black Friday sales really take off, we have you covered with additional PHP workers which keep your website snappy and your visitors happy.

Conclusion

Adobe Magento Commerce includes a lot of nice product features and it can be easily managed in the cloud. Hostdedi Magento Cloud is both more established and leads the way with the most efficient & affordable infrastructure you can find.

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Hostdedi Magento Cloud vs. Magento Commerce

Hostdedi Magento Cloud vs. Magento Commerce

One of the misconceptions about Magento is that you have to use Magento Commerce for hosting. Or that they are one and the same thing. Magento Commerce hosting for your Magento store is built by Adobe and includes powerful features (modules) like page building progressive web applications (PWAs). Hostdedi Magento Cloud is hosting for your Magento store with features for professionals like high scalability, staging websites, and PCI compliance.

In this post we’re going to clear up the misconceptions between these two very different platforms.

Magento Commerce was created about two years ago after Magento was sold to Adobe. It’s their official solution for hosting Magento and it has a lot of good things going for it:

  • Magento Commerce includes common functionality for your Magento store
  • They allow progressive web apps (PWA)
  • They have a cloud based infrastructure for scalability

But it’s important to remember that Adobe, even though they own Magento, is the new kid on the block. They’re still learning how to build & optimize the infrastructure needed to power a Magento site.

Building a Solid Infrastructure

Magento Commerce is great at including product features. But they’re still building their entire stack on someone else’s infrastructure. What does that mean?

It means, if you have a problem you first have to bring it to Magento Commerce. And they have their standard Service Level Agreement (SLA) to respond to you. If in that time, they discover a problem with the underlying infrastructure, they’ll submit a ticket to the company that maintains their infrastructure.

So your SLA is built on top of the SLA from another company. That means solving any potential problems could take twice as long. Not great if you have a problem that negatively impacts your store and you lose money every minute it’s not fixed.

Hostdedi Magento Cloud is built on our own infrastructure. Hostdedi has one SLA, and because we own the infrastructure, we can solve all of the problems ourselves and we don’t need to rely on any other companies. This means less finger pointing, more informed support, and faster resolution.

Experience

The other big difference between Hostdedi Magento Cloud and Magento Commerce is that we aren’t brand new to this space. Magento was literally built on our servers back in 2007 – before Magento v1 was even released (Magento v1 was officially released March 2008). 

We saw the opportunity of Magento back in 2008 when brick & mortar stores first started moving online to avoid the worst of the Great Recession. We helped brand new stores get started with Magento and we learned a lot about it in the process, like exactly how many PHP workers were needed, what caching systems were most effective, and which Magento settings are worth enabling. We distilled everything we knew to create the very first Magento specific hosting solution. 

We also wrote the book on Magento Best Practices and shaped the Magento community by recommending Nginx instead of Apache (which for a company specializing in LAMP stack is pretty radical). We’ve improved and continued optimizing and put out a new book for Optimizing Magento 2.

Contributing Open Source Libraries

Besides optimizing hosting for lightning fast websites, Hostdedi also created Turpentine which was the first varnish cache for Magento. You can take advantage of this on any hosting that uses varnish. 

We also created security extensions and continue to contribute to Magento core.

Plan for Exploding Growth 

Most hosts, including Magento Commerce, give you a certain number of resources that you must remain within. If you go over a bandwidth threshold you might have to pay more – or if you have too many people on your site at a time, it slows down to a crawl. 

Hostdedi created our first Magento plan during a time when everyone was getting online and then immediately started outgrowing their small plans. We’ve also been around for over a dozen Black Fridays so we’re used to seeing retailers needing extra resources on demand. That’s why we built auto scaling into all of our plans.

If you have a post that goes viral or your Black Friday sales really take off, we have you covered with additional PHP workers which keep your website snappy and your visitors happy.

Conclusion

Adobe Magento Commerce includes a lot of nice product features and it can be easily managed in the cloud. But Hostdedi Magento Cloud is both more established and leads the way with the most efficient & affordable infrastructure you can find.

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Magento 1 End of Life: It’s July. Is your store safe?

Magento 1 End of Life: It’s July. Is your store safe?

We made it to July. Congratulations.

I’m guessing your online store, if you’re running Magento 1, is still standing – even if companies large and small were telling you that the “end of life” situation with Magento 1 was dire. If you’ve been reading things we’ve written already about it, you know we were big fans of being honest without creating alarm and stress.

But now we’re here – past Magento 1’s end of life, and we
need to ask the question, the one you’re likely asking yourself already. Is your store
safe?

I think there are four ways to answer that question.

Is your store’s code safe?

The good news is that nothing about the code that was
running on your site last month has changed this month. What worked last
quarter will work this quarter. Files didn’t suddenly go bad or corrupt. And
there weren’t any special protections on your files or code that expired.

The End of Life declaration for Magento 1 code from
Adobe/Magento means that if some new bug were found, they wouldn’t be creating
patches any longer. But that is a statement about the future, not about the
code that has been running your store up until now.

So the answer to this version of the question, is yes, as of
right now, your code is safe.

Is your store safe to handle financial transactions?

Another way to ask the question is whether the code itself
is good to handle financial transactions. In other words, will your store
remain PCI compliant? And the good news again is that there hasn’t been any
sudden change that would make your store out of compliance simply because Adobe
has said they want you to move to Magento 2 now.

That said, we’re not answering this question flippantly. The
reality is that PCI compliance is a constant and ongoing dynamic that requires
that everyone stay vigilant with compliance scans. If a scan comes back with a
gap or issue, the only way to stay compliant is to address the issues.

But if Adobe / Magento aren’t publishing patches and your
scan comes back with a vulnerability, how do you handle it? It’s a great
question and the driver behind our creation of the Hostdedi Safe Harbor
program
. We have your back.

Nevertheless, at this point, shy of something changing,
you’re good to go with handling transactions unless your payment gateway
decides to stop supporting their Magento 1 module.

If that happens, we
strongly suggest you check out Stripe
, who has a commitment to keeping
their Magento 1 module going for their customers.

Is your store safe from external attack?

Another way to ask the safety question is to wonder about
external attacks – malicious players who know that we’ve reach the end of life
for Magento 1 and they want to take advantage of the situation.

Most hosts have some level of protection against bad actors.
This kind of question is something you should ask them directly about.

What I can tell you about Hostdedi is that we’ve been hosting and supporting Magento 1 merchants since Magento was created. We know the codebase and we’ve created dedicated hosting solutions for stores of every size. Along with that, we’ve created a best-in-class security infrastructure that supports Magento 1 stores.

But if your current host doesn’t give you some great
answers, or if they tell you that your only answer is to migrate your store to
Magento 2, then I’d love to introduce you to our Safe Harbor
program
, which provides malware detection, firewalls and IP protection, and
so much more.

Will your store continue to stay safe?

The last way I think about this question of safety is about
the condition of your store as things continue to evolve and change.

One of the things we talk about here a lot is the evaluation
and transition that many merchants have been considering to other platforms –
like Magento 2, WooCommerce, Shopify and
BigCommerce.

Every one of those transitions, if they happen, take time.
So what do you do if you want to start that kind of transition but still want
to keep your Magento 1 store safe? Some of these migrations take months, others
can take quarters.

The good news, and you’ve seen me reference it multiple
times already, is our Hostdedi Safe Harbor
product
that isn’t a long-term contract. It’s a month-to-month solution
that provides protection even as you consider and potentially begin a migration
of your store.

No matter what, there’s a way to keep your store safe

As you can see, any way you ask the question, the answer
remains the same. With Hostdedi as your hosting partner, we’re here to help you
feel confident about running your Magento 1 store. No matter what, there’s a
way to keep your store safe.

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What is PWA? Using Progressive Web Apps for your Magento Store

What is PWA? Using Progressive Web Apps for your Magento Store

What are Progressive Web Apps (PWAs)?

Let’s begin by answering the question – what is PWA? PWA stands for Progressive Web Apps. Progressive Web Apps are a pattern for building web applications using HTML, CSS, JS and modern web browser APIs to bring a native-like experience. PWAs combine the best of 2 worlds: web and native apps. Like other mobile applications, PWAs are easily installable and make development work simpler for any merchant trying to reach as many customers as possible.

While the feature parity between Progressive Web Apps and native apps is not 1:1 just yet, PWAs have come a long way since inception. Features like instant loading, push notifications and offline navigation/purchase are now widely available no matter which PWA implementation you choose. 

They won’t be the right approach in every case – for example, if you need a feature that’s not available on a Web browser or through an API, you will likely need to go the native route. But PWA capabilities are continuing to expand and what may require a native app today, might be PWA-worthy tomorrow. Project Fugu is a good place to see what’s coming and what’s being worked on right now.

Why are PWAs such a big deal?

PWAs come with an incredible set of features that were once reserved for native mobile apps alone. While regular web apps have tremendous reach in every device with a browser, at the end of the day these apps are just a webpage in a browser. 

Native apps are another way to reach mobile users but they must be developed for one platform / operating system at a time. PWAs enable development of a single app for multiple platforms. This streamlined approach is something mobile developers have been anxiously waiting for – easily reaching every potential customer no matter what operating system they are using. 

They also solve one of the most challenging issues developers face: distribution. Since you don’t need to publish these apps in a marketplace, you can just add a few lines to your manifest and make PWAs easily installable with a couple of clicks. Results drive a consistent customer experience that they expect through a native application but with PWA, they get a standalone experience, completely separated from the Web browser. 

This means a full-screen experience with no URL bar, the ability to install the PWA and dock it to your device home screen instead of visiting a regular webpage plus everything a Service Worker has to offer. 

Instead of the legacy way of updating via form submission and waiting for approval and publishing of the new version to the App Marketplace, changes made into any PWA are immediately available the next time you are connected to the Internet and open the app. PWA installation is now a standard feature available in all major mobile browsers, as well as Chrome and Edge on desktop.

How does PWA help Magento merchants?

Let’s face it: the Magento 2 frontend was already old when it was released and we’ve seen how that plays with frameworks like Prototype.js and Knockout.js. 

The JavaScript ecosystem evolves quickly and constantly following the hottest frameworks, developer trends, and updated best practices. This makes it challenging to keep up when having to maintain separated codebases. 

PWAs are particularly attractive to merchants using Magento 2 because it reduces front-end development complexity, giving you flexibility, extensibility, and opportunity to deploy resources to develop new features. Developers can implement almost everything in the regular Magento 2 frontend at a fraction of the cost and time by using any of the available APIs.

How can customers run a PWA on Hostdedi?

We’ve made it easy to run PWA on the Hostdedi platform. We’ve created a step-by-step guide for how to install Magento’s official PWA PoC, Venia storefront. This resource outlines how to build, compile and transfer this PoC to one of our servers without the need to start and maintain middleware services.

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When Not To Push the Panic Button

When Not To Push the Panic Button

These are times of authentic fear, uncertainty, and doubt. The last thing any of us – or any of our bottom lines – need is the dissemination of falsehoods or false choices intended to drive panicked business decisions. Unfortunately, shamefully, and near daily, we come across such messages relating to the Magento 1 platform (M1) end of life next month.

Disruption? Yes, absolutely. Despair? Absolutely not. 

Deep breath. 

Some vendors would have you believe that maintaining PCI compliance is incompatible with staying on Magento 1. From multinational financial services to “solopreneurs in ecommerce,” businesses that rely on the M1 platform are NOT tethered to an expensive migration to Magento 2 at the end of June 2020. We know this because Hostdedi has been the leading hosting provider for Magento stores for more than ten years. 

We also know – now more than ever – that uninterrupted sales and services are top of mind. Thus, we designed Hostdedi Safe Harbor for those who cannot afford to – or need more time to strategize – or do not wish to migrate to M2. Stay with Magento 1, and our Safe Harbor product provides security and technology updates for an extended period of time. 

Hostdedi is a PCI DSS Level 1 provider across all hosting solutions. Our platform is aligned with PCI compliance requirements, offering your customers the secure buying experience they expect. Hostdedi Safe Harbor offers security procedures and safeguards that exceed compliance requirements.

You can also connect with us about alternative platforms that can meet the needs of ecommerce enterprises large and small, from high-paced to mid-level to newly launched. 

As previously shared in this space by my amazing colleagues and by me (please see below), you have options. Even 60 days out. Interim or otherwise, Hostdedi Safe Harbor may be the place and the space you need as you consider the following: 

  • The customizable flexibility, stability, and security of M1’s open source platform
  • Cost and time relating to re-platforming/migrating
  • Magento 1 is incredibly stable as it’s already been vetted by the entire Magento community.
  • Patches, patches, patches
  • Customization on the back end can mean replatforming costs upwards of 100k 

Here at Hostdedi, we are a big tent provider and love helping companies of all sizes – those who use the open-source version of Magento or those who use the enterprise version. We don’t champion doomsday either/or scenarios. Nor do we believe that adversity mandates an adversarial approach. History has shown that when people work together to put forth thoughtful solutions, we can collectively meet any challenge – today or tomorrow. The same holds true for all of us at Hostdedi and in our work with customers. Side by side, site by site, store by store. Let us show you how. 

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Ecommerce Tips: How to Ship Large and Heavy Items

Ecommerce Tips: How to Ship Large and Heavy Items

When it comes to shipping, consumers definitely prefer fast & cheap (or free) — but determining how you ship your products & how you pass along or absorb that cost is tricky. And it becomes an even greater challenge if you sell large or bulky items.

In this article we’re going to provide clarity into:

  • How to pack boxes and calculate shipping costs
  • How to save money while shipping large and heavy items
  • What qualifies as a large item
  • And finally, how you can ship large item with the three major carriers in the US

How to Pack Boxes and Determine Shipping Costs 

Products that are bulky (heavy or not), can be a challenge to ship. Your packaging must account for the item’s size while still allowing for packaging materials and filler. In addition there are both weight & size limits. If your package exceeds either of these limits you may need to find a different carrier or service. 

Understanding Dimensional Weight

If you think about how shipping carriers move packages around they do so with trucks. And these trucks have two limitations:

If either of these are maxed out the carrier has to use more trucks & drivers which is one of their main expenses. To take both of these limitations into account carriers now use a formula combining both the dimensions & weight called Dimensional Weight.

How to Calculate Dimensional Weight

Here’s how to calculate dimensional weight: 

  1. Measure the package dimensions in inches. 
  2. Multiply package length by weight by height. 
  3. Divide by 139 for FedEx shipping and UPS Daily Rates. Use 166 instead for UPS Retail Rates. 
  4. The result is the dimensional weight of the package. 

Usually, carriers have you weigh your package and check the dimensional weight. They’ll generally charge whichever is higher. Make sure to compare the pricing and recommendations of carriers before shipping. 

Cheapest Way to Ship Large Packages

Depending on the shipping carrier and their specific requirements, costs can be calculated in different ways and packages can be categorized differently. You can do this in advance of customer purchases and set up your website to calculate shipping charges. 

All of the major carriers offer free web tools and APIs to make this easier. For instance, USPS allows you to customize your customers’ online shipping experience with their free tools. Both WooCommerce & Magento offer software to help you calculate shipping costs with major carriers.

You can also keep your shipping costs as low as possible by: 

  • Weigh and measure your packaging materials. 
  • Try a variety of different packaging types. 
  • Use the lightest, most compact and cost-effective packaging materials possible.
  • Customers like fast shipping, but consider offering a discount or incentive for longer shipping times since this may save you money. 

Shop around and compare carrier pricing for products you frequently ship. Keep in mind that these requirements are subject to local differences. These guidelines apply to most packages shipped within the US. For other countries, check with the carrier. 

Why Does Package Weight Matter? What are Heavy Packages? 

If you know which shipping carrier you plan to use and the basic dimensions of the item you’re going to ship, you can develop a plan and get an accurate cost estimate. Weight and outer package dimensions are a big deciding factor in how much you’ll be paying for shipping. 

Shipping Carrier Limits

Of course the packaging you use for shipping is part of the cost, too. Large and heavy products can be expensive to transport and may also require special packaging that’s durable and designed for heavy or bulky items. This may require custom-designed cushioning or reinforced box materials. 

Custom materials may cost more and can also add to the weight and bulk of your shipment. The added mass ultimately means more fuel and resources used by the carrier to transport your product. Carriers pass these costs along to retailers as higher shipping charges. 

Each carrier has their own definitions for a “large” package. Heavy items must be packaged appropriately before carriers can ship them, so be sure to read their requirements carefully.

USPS shipping requirements don’t allow packages heavier than 70 pounds. So, if you have an item over that threshold, you might want to consider using a private carrier such as FedEx or UPS. UPS has special packaging requirements starting at 70 pounds while FedEx starts at 75 pounds.

How to Pack Heavy Items for Shipment and Determine Shipping Costs

Each shipping carrier has different guidelines & requirements for heavy & bulky items. With this in mind, here’s how to pack those items and determine your costs. 

FedEx Guidelines and Pricing for Heavy Items

FedEx limits

Weight limits

FedEx Home Delivery ships packages up to 70 pounds. Packages that are heavier than this are considered “heavy” and may be shipped through FedEx Ground if they are under 150 pounds. For items above 150 pounds, consider using FedEx Express Freight or FedEx Freight instead — these services accept shipments that are up to 20,000 pounds. 

Outer Box

Use corrugated cardboard for the outer box and package non-corrugated boxes inside instead of shipping these boxes on their own. For instance, if a guitar you’re shipping came inside a non-corrugated box, you should place the entire box inside a corrugated cardboard box for shipping. Use double-wall boxes if the item you’re shipping is heavy but under 150 pounds. 

Inner Boxes

Separate items inside the box in their own sealed boxes if they may be damaged under normal handling conditions. 

Safety Labels

Boxes that weigh over 70 pounds must be shipped via FedEx Ground, or FedEx Express Freight or FedEx Freight. If a box weighs over 75 pounds, you are required to attach a FedEx yellow and black heavyweight safety label. These are placed over the diagonal corners of the package. To get these labels, contact FedEx or visit a FedEx location. 

Filler

If you use filler material to cushion items, center your items away from box corners and wrap items carefully with cushioning material. 

Pricing

Your charges for shipping are based on weight, the FedEx services you choose, and the destination. 

To get the most up-to-date information on weights and standards, view the general packaging guidelines from Fedex

FedEx Requirements for Large Packages

Size

FedEx Home Delivery and FedEx Ground services require packages to be under 165 inches in both length and girth. For larger shipments, you may use FedEx Express Freight services or FedEx Freight. Using FedEx Freight, you can ship packages up to 21 feet long. 

Large Packages That are Lightweight 

Compare the true weight of the package with the calculated dimensional weight. FedEx charges the heavier of these two. 

UPS Requirements and Pricing for Heavy Packages 

Box Strength

Packages weighing more than 70 pounds must meet the UPS Box Strength Guidelines. Use strong packaging designed for heavy objects. Choose brand-new boxes that haven’t been exposed to humidity. 

Sealing Boxes

Ideally, seams should be stapled or stitched shut. Glue may tear or break during shipping, and rip your package apart. Use heavy-duty, reinforced tape with three strips over the top and bottom seam and also seal the middle and edge seams completely. 

Safety Labels

The UPS safety label program begins at 70 pounds. Above this weight, packages should have yellow and black warning labels provided by UPS. The warning should be placed directly to the right of the address label. Write down the total weight on the white portion of the safety label. 

Filler

Avoid box filler that shifts or doesn’t protect heavy items. For instance, packaging peanuts and polystyrene pieces may not cushion fragile shipments enough if the items are also heavy enough to crush the filler pieces. UPS recommends that you consider alternatives that are more appropriate for shipping something heavy such as cardboard that’s custom developed for shipping. 

Pricing

Your pricing depends on the UPS service you choose, your package’s final destination, and your package’s weight. A “Large Package” or “Over the Maximum” surcharge may apply. 

Review the UPS guidelines for packaging heavy shipments. 

UPS Large Package Guidelines

Size

The maximum package size for UPS is 165 inches in both length and girth. Freight Services may allow for larger maximums, so it’s worth it to find out what specific requirements apply to what you’re shipping and where you’re shipping it. 

Large Packages That are Lightweight 

Compare the actual weight with the dimensional weight. UPS will charge you for whichever is higher. 

Large Package Surcharge 

UPS applies an additional charge for packages that exceed a length plus girth that’s over 130 inches. Unless you use Ground Freight Pricing, you’ll pay for at least 90 pounds. 

USPS Guidelines for heavy items.

USPS Limits

Weight

Packages above 70 pounds aren’t allowed. So any package you ship through USPS won’t technically be a heavy package. Under this weight limit, your packages could still seem heavy, so you may need to pack accordingly and be mindful of how you fill the boxes and protect your items. 

Boxes

Choose a durable box that’s large enough for the item and appropriate filler. If you reuse a box, make sure all logos and writing are completely crossed out. 

Closure 

Close the box with all flaps down and seal with tape. The packaging tape you use should be at least 2 inches wide. 

Pricing

Generally, pricing is determined through the USPS Flat Rates or through the package weight and destination. 

To get the most up-to-date information on weights and standards, view the general packaging guidelines from USPS.

USPS Guidelines for Large Packages 

Size

The Postal Service will ship packages up to 130 inches length and girth combined through their Retail Ground service. Normally, their limit is 108 inches. 

Large Packages That are Lightweight 

Flat Rate pricing applies for packages up to 70 pounds which allows you to use size to determine pricing. If you’re unsure, check with your local post office. 

Read more about USPS guidelines

By controlling costs and being smart about shipping, you can increase your profits. Don’t be afraid to experiment with shipping and look for the right shipping improvements for you. 

Are You Ready to Grow Your eCommerce Business With Hostdedi Managed Hosting?

In addition to the shipping strategies we’ve listed here, a great hosting plan can be instrumental to growing your business. Fortunately, Hostdedi has you covered.

Our Managed WooCommerce hosting plan is ideal for growing businesses. Specially designed to convert more sales, Hostdedi’s managed hosting for eCommerce is packed with cutting-edge technologies to reduce query load times and cart abandonment rates. Best of all, our plans arm you with more than 20 different performance tests so you’ll know you can accommodate tons of web traffic.

Hostdedi also offers a Managed Magento plan which makes sure your site stays safe, is backed up, gives you staging sites, and auto scaling so when you get a lucky traffic spike your website stays online to accept all of those payments.

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Is Safe Harbor Right For You?

Is Safe Harbor Right For You?



If you’re a Magento developer or systems integrator you’ve likely been bombarded by emails, blog posts, and notices that end-of-life (EOL) is coming. That means no new features & no security patches which puts Magento 1 stores at risk.

While many store owners are preparing to migrate to Magento 2 or other ecommerce platforms, some will simply not be ready before Magento 1 reaches EOL to take strategic action.

If you’re still trying to figure out the right course of action for your clients or for your Magento store follow our decision tree.

Is Safe Harbor Right For You?

Safe Harbor enables businesses to keep their sites on Magento 1 after EOL by providing security and technology updates for an extended period of time.

So, whether you’re still weighing your options, or already have plans to migrate, Safe Harbor can offer the flexibility you need until you’re ready to move off of Magento 1.

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7 Ecommerce Analytics Tools You Might Not be Using

7 Ecommerce Analytics Tools You Might Not be Using

Although there are many data analytics tools available, most people continue to associate ecommerce analytics with Google Analytics. While it’s the standard choice, that doesn’t mean it’s always the best choice for measuring your ecommerce business.

Many of the most powerful analytics tools are tailored for a specific facet of ecommerce including brand management, customer data, or something in-between. If you are looking to supplement Google Analytics or replace it with another analytics platform, our list of effective data analytics tools can help. 

Ecommerce Analytics Tools you might not be using

Leads and Customer Data Analytics Tools

Customer acquisition and retention ultimately drive most ecommerce business decisions. More customers mean more sales which in turn means more revenue. For this reason, data analytics tools that focus on your leads and customer data (like Kissmetrics and Leadfeeder) can be central to your technology stack for your ecommerce business.

1. Leadfeeder

Leadfeeder tracks companies

At first, the features seem narrow or limited in scope, but Leadfeeder is an ideal and comprehensive tool for many businesses. While other tools track pageviews and customer data, Leadfeeder actually tracks companies that are shopping an online store. This makes it an ideal analytics tool for ecommerce businesses in the B2B space.

Leadfeeder has deep integration with Google Analytics — potentially adding a new dimension to Google Analytics data. But Leadfeeder also works with popular customer relationship management (CRM) tools including WebCRM, Pipedrive, and Salesforce.

Besides tracking the companies that visit your ecommerce site, Leadfeeder has other compelling features. For example, you can select specific companies or organizations that you would especially like to convert and have Leadfeeder notify you by email whenever someone from one of those companies visits your site. This gives you the chance to follow-up and further warm a lead, making Leadfeeder an effective selling tool.

Cost: Variable. Lite version (up to 100 leads and 7-day history) is free. Premium version starts at $53 per-month.

Web Analytics and SEO

A core metric of web analytics is tracking movements. For example, who is visiting your site, how they are interacting with your site, and what brought them there in the first place. These data points provide important direction for your ecommerce business. The data will show you which keywords drive the most traffic and the value of your backlinking strategy for conversion.

2. Gauges

The Gauges user interface is clean, user-friendly, and makes the most relevant data points extremely accessible.

Gauges is an up-and-coming web data analytics tool that is most notable for providing real-time insight into the traffic that your ecommerce store is getting. The platform is also lauded for its clean, user-friendly interface that puts the most pertinent information front and center.

Gauges was designed to be flexible and highly scalable. Businesses of all sizes can benefit from its live data tracking capabilities. Business owners who use Gauges appreciate that there’s no delay between a pageview or other engagement event, and the data being reflected in the platform. Plus, Gauges offers you a “bird’s eye view” so you can see what someone who is currently on your site is seeing.

Besides live data, Gauges offers other features that are common among web data analytics tools. These include keyword tracking, conversion tracking, referral tracking, and campaign management. The main drawback to Gauges is the thin integration support. However, even without official integration, Gauges is a very compact, non-invasive tool. It plays nicely with most other tools that you may be using simultaneously. Once you have a Gauges subscription, the platform allows you to install the tool on an unlimited number of websites that the tab-based interface keeps very organized and accessible.

Cost: Variable. Starts at $6 per-month for 100,000 pageviews. Offers a 14-day free trial.

3. SEMrush

SEMrush is a web analytics tool with robust reporting options.

SEMrush is a very versatile analytics tool. In fact, its ability to cover nearly your entire ecommerce technology stack has made it one of the top data analytics tools outside of Google Analytics. 

At its core, SEMrush is a robust SEO platform that is also a capable web analytics tool. For small and medium-sized ecommerce businesses, SEMrush is a popular choice for keyword tracking, search monitoring, and gathering important metrics like pageviews, referrals, and the performance of paid advertising campaigns. The platform also has some unique features including the ability to monitor your competitors, analyze the content on your site, audit your backlinks, and track what people are saying about your brand on social media.

SEMrush has a breadth of data visualization options, as well as the ability to customize your reports. For instance, you can have the graphs and charts on the main dashboard showing the performance of a handful of keywords that you’re trying to rank. So instead of forcing you into a certain view, SEMrush provides a variety of tools that you can use in whichever ways are best for your ecommerce business.

The downside to SEMrush is that there can be a bit of a learning curve, particularly with its somewhat complicated user interface. However, SEMrush does integrate with all the major social networks as well as WordPress, Trello, and virtually every cloud service Google offers. It’s no surprise that companies like eBay, PayPal, Forbes, and Wells Fargo are among SEMrush’s subscribers.

Cost: Variable. Starts at $99 per-month. Offers 7-day money back guarantee instead of a free trial.

Brand Management and Social Media Analytics Tools

For an ecommerce business, social media is an incredibly important marketing channel. In the absence of physical retail, social media is often the most effective way for ecommerce businesses to strengthen relationships with customers. As a result, social media analytics tools are core to rolling out a successful sales and marketing strategy. 

4. Keyhole

Keyhole is a very powerful brand management and social media analytics tool.

While many social media analytics tools track your brand, Keyhole is one of the most full featured tools in the market today. In fact, it largely makes up for the narrowness of its scope by offering impactful features like hashtag analytics and in-depth data tracking of your social media accounts.

As a brand management tool, Keyhole provides a complete picture of how your audience sees your brand. You can even track specific keywords or phrases. This is particularly useful when users don’t tag or mention your social media accounts in their posts. Keyhole also tracks your influencer marketing campaigns. You get full access to relevant engagement and conversion metrics for influencer content including estimates for your return on investment. There’s also versatility in reporting. You can filter and sort influencers based upon specific attributes like audience size and content engagement rates.

Businesses of any size can benefit from this effective social media analytics tool. Rather than choosing from the Twitter or Facebook analytics tools available, Keyhole integrates with all major social networks including YouTube, aggregating your mentions across all of these popular platforms in one central dashboard.

Cost: Variable. Starts at $26 per-month (billed annually). Offers a 7-day free trial.

5. BrandMentions

BrandMentions is a holistic social media analytics tool that shows the emotional response your audience is having to your brand

BrandMentions is unique compared to other social media analytics tools because of its holistic approach. While the service offers in-depth data tracking, the focus of BrandMentions is to track the emotional response your audience has to your brand. 

This is perhaps most apparent with the “sentiment meter” which is a concise visual representation of how your audience sees your brand. Each impression from your customers affects this meter, and you can set alerts for when there’s a social media post that falls below a certain level on your sentiment meter. This allows you to have a more proactive hand in solidifying a positive reputation for your ecommerce business.

BrandMentions also lets you do “competitor spying.” In short, this means you can track your competitors on social media — almost like your competitors’ social accounts were your own. By tracking the social media presence of your competitors, you can see what they’re doing and most importantly, find ways to do it better. The idea is to help your business be more visible and garner stronger, more positive feedback.

As a social media analytics tool, BrandMentions is effective for businesses of any size. The biggest weakness of BrandMentions is the very minimal integration options. In fact, you’ll need a tool like Zapier to enable something as simple as real-time notifications.

Cost: Variable. Starts at $49 per-month with user and keyword limitations. Offers a 14-day free trial.

Ecommerce Analytics Tools

Ecommerce analytics tools help you track sales and grow your business. They give you insight into customer behavior from tracking products often left abandoned in shopping carts, to finding the most relevant products to upsell.

6. Crazy Egg

Crazy Egg is an ecommerce analytics tool that lets you track how your customers and leads are interacting with your store.

Crazy Egg is among the most popular data analytics tools for ecommerce. That’s because it has features that are useful for online retail businesses of any size.

Arguably the most notable of Crazy Egg’s features is its heatmap. It’s an invisible layer placed over your ecommerce store, offering a thermal visualization of the “warmer” parts of a page that get the most activity. A heatmap is a useful at-a-glance representation of how your customers are interacting with your ecommerce store. For instance, you can use a heatmap to find out whether your customers are seeing and responding to your call-to-action.

Aside from the heatmap, Crazy Egg offers robust A/B testing for your ecommerce store. This makes it very simple to test variants of landing or product listings so you can determine which generates the most sales. There’s even a user recording feature that does exactly what it sounds like. It creates “recordings” of each user’s experience that you can play back like a video.

Crazy Egg is an ideal choice if you’re looking for a tool to better understand how customers are interacting with your ecommerce store. In terms of integration, Crazy Egg supports WordPress, as well as Google Cloud services.

Cost: Variable. Starts at $24 per-month (billed annually) for 30,000 pageviews and 100 user recordings. Offers a 14-day free trial.

7. Glew.io

Glew.io is the most full-featured ecommerce analytics tool available today

Whether you’re a multi-channel retailer or a humble online store, Glew.io is one of the best ecommerce analytics tools around. The platform has almost everything you could want: a familiar, WordPress-like interface with tons of reporting options, in-depth customer tracking, order management, and even financial data to complete the picture.

As an ecommerce analytics tool, Glew.io tracks many key product metrics and allows you to quickly distinguish top-selling products from those that generate the least profit, or products with the highest overhead from those with the lowest margins. In short, Glew.io provides tons of useful, actionable insights to strengthen your ecommerce business. Additionally, it’s designed for multi-channel retail, meaning Glew.io tracks sales from each platform you use. It can also pull data from your Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads, and Google AdWords campaigns to give you a complete picture of your ecommerce store’s performance. 

With more than 30 integrations for WooCommerce and other top platforms — including marketing automation, point-of-sale, shipping management, and enterprise resource planning tools — Glew.io is useful for ecommerce businesses of any size and revenue. Plus, there are more integrations being added regularly. 

Cost: Variable. Starts at $169 per-month with a 36-month agreement. Offers a 10-day free trial.

Editor’s note: If you want to save some money and get a plethora of data at your fingertips you can signup for our Growth plan which includes Glew.io.

Using Analytics Tools That Help You Make Smarter Choices

There are a ton of analytics tools for ecommerce businesses. And while Google Analytics is a great place to get started, you won’t be able to answer all of the questions your business will have using that tool alone.

We think the most robust solution is one where you use several data analytics tools simultaneously. This is one of the many reasons why we include Glew.io in our Growth plan for Managed WooCommerce hosting

Ultimately, you should use services that help you better understand your customers, gauge the success of your advertising campaigns, and generally make smarter choices for your business.

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