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Hostdedi Amsterdam Data Center Launches Cloud Servers

Hostdedi Amsterdam Data Center Launches Cloud Servers

Four years ago, we expanded our European hosting services to include Amsterdam, arguably one of best-connected cities in the world. Now, we’re bringing the scalability and versatility of Hostdedi Cloud to our Amsterdam data center!

Why Amsterdam Matters for Ecommerce

Amsterdam hosts about one-third of Europe’s data center capacity, and for good reason. In North Holland (Netherlands) and near the Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMS-IX), the combination of geography and technology provides reliable low-latency connections to France, Germany, Scandinavia, and much of eastern Europe. 

The city continues to stand as a center of information technology and ecommerce entrepreneurship, with proven network infrastructure and expansive connectivity to key EU markets. Amsterdam’s history as an international trade hub played will see further exposure this October, when the city hosts MagentoLive Europe, a gathering of 2,000 merchants and developers from around the world.

A Closer Look at the Amsterdam Facility

As a PCI-compliant hosting provider, we apply the same high standards of reliability and security that we apply to all of our data centers. The Amsterdam facility occupies a state-of-the-art data center only minutes away from AMS-IX and uses redundant Tier 1 carriers for dependable connectivity and speed. 

Sixteen generators and 2N redundancy keep the data center ready for nearly every power-loss scenario. As for security, the facility upholds triple-authentication access with biometric readers, as well as 24-hour manned security stations, intrusion detection, and camera surveillance. 

Cloud Services

With the launch of Amsterdam Cloud Services, our clients can expect the same security and performance already present in all of our global data centers. We built this platform to make it easier than ever for your service to grow with your business.All Hostdedi Cloud services include:

  • 24-hour support and monitoring
  • Free migration
  • PCI-compliant cloud hosting
  •  optimized application hosting for Magento, WooCommerce, WordPress, Drupal, and others. 

If you’re a Hostdedi Cloud client, you may also add:

  • Auto Scaling: Ensure your site stays online during foreseen and unforeseen traffic spikes. Be billed only for what you use, when you use it.
  • Cloud Accelerator: Boost your site’s delivery of static content (.jpg, .gif, .png, .bmp, .js, .css, among many others) to deliver a near-instant experience to your site visitors.
  • Instant Dev Sites: Create dev and staging environments at the touch of a button. Test changes without fear and maintain user security with auto-scrubbing of personally identifiable information (PII).


Questions? Our sales team has answers! Contact them at
[email protected] between 9 a.m.– 5 p.m. eastern, Monday to Friday.

 

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Hostdedi Amsterdam Data Center Launches Cloud Servers

Hostdedi Amsterdam Data Center Launches Cloud Servers

Four years ago, we expanded our European hosting services to include Amsterdam, arguably one of best-connected cities in the world. Now, we’re bringing the scalability and versatility of Hostdedi Cloud to our Amsterdam data center!

Why Amsterdam Matters for Ecommerce

Amsterdam hosts about one-third of Europe’s data center capacity, and for good reason. In North Holland (Netherlands) and near the Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMS-IX), the combination of geography and technology provides reliable low-latency connections to France, Germany, Scandinavia, and much of eastern Europe. 

The city continues to stand as a center of information technology and ecommerce entrepreneurship, with proven network infrastructure and expansive connectivity to key EU markets. Amsterdam’s history as an international trade hub played will see further exposure this October, when the city hosts MagentoLive Europe, a gathering of 2,000 merchants and developers from around the world.

A Closer Look at the Amsterdam Facility

As a PCI-compliant hosting provider, we apply the same high standards of reliability and security that we apply to all of our data centers. The Amsterdam facility occupies a state-of-the-art data center only minutes away from AMS-IX and uses redundant Tier 1 carriers for dependable connectivity and speed. 

Sixteen generators and 2N redundancy keep the data center ready for nearly every power-loss scenario. As for security, the facility upholds triple-authentication access with biometric readers, as well as 24-hour manned security stations, intrusion detection, and camera surveillance. 

Cloud Services

With the launch of Amsterdam Cloud Services, our clients can expect the same security and performance already present in all of our global data centers. We built this platform to make it easier than ever for your service to grow with your business.All Hostdedi Cloud services include:

  • 24-hour support and monitoring
  • Free migration
  • PCI-compliant cloud hosting
  •  optimized application hosting for Magento, WooCommerce, WordPress, Drupal, and others. 

If you’re a Hostdedi Cloud client, you may also add:

  • Auto Scaling: Ensure your site stays online during foreseen and unforeseen traffic spikes. Be billed only for what you use, when you use it.
  • Cloud Accelerator: Boost your site’s delivery of static content (.jpg, .gif, .png, .bmp, .js, .css, among many others) to deliver a near-instant experience to your site visitors.
  • Instant Dev Sites: Create dev and staging environments at the touch of a button. Test changes without fear and maintain user security with auto-scrubbing of personally identifiable information (PII).


Questions? Our sales team has answers! Contact them at
[email protected] between 9 a.m.– 5 p.m. eastern, Monday to Friday.

 

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The Best One Step Checkout Extensions for Magento 2

The Best One Step Checkout Extensions for Magento 2

Lengthy checkouts annoy your shoppers and send them to your competition. 

The default checkout page for Magento 2 fails to solve this problem. Fortunately, there’s plenty of extensions in the Magento 2 marketplace that attempt to fix this problem. However, sorting through the available candidates is no small task, so keep reading to help narrow the field.  

What Is One Step Checkout?

Optimizing the shop experience is the most reliable way to increase your conversion rate and prevent abandoned carts.

Properly executed, one step checkout removes the annoying hoops between your customer and the Place Order button. The name of the game is quick, easy, and painless.

An effective one step checkout extension limits the process to one page, and: 

  • Suggests a delivery address
  • Allows customers to add a comment 
  • Includes a field for coupon codes
  • Allows store owners to configure checkout fields
  • Supports varied payment methods
  • Provides clean address, shipping method, payment method, and order review sections 
  • Identifies the shopper’s IP address to expedite future checkouts
  • Optimizes the page for mobile
  • Provides checkout analytics and reports
  • Has a prominent Place Order button

Each of the Magento 2 checkout extensions provided in this article achieve the above. Let’s take a closer look at what each has to offer.

How We Narrowed the Field 

At time of publication, the Magento marketplace has 19-and-counting one step checkout extensions available. We’ve narrowed the field to five options that support the latest stable relase of Magento 2 Community Edition, which is currently version 2.3. This version was released in November 2018, and any extension still not compatible is arguably the victim of neglect by its developer.

If you’re sticking with Magento 1 despite it reaching official end of life in June 2020, here’s what you need to knowIf you’re running Magento 2, but not the latest version, we recommend that taking immediate action to patch your store. Unpatched software can degrade your store’s performance and expose your customers to significant security risks.

  When deciding whether or not to purchase support for any extension, remember that support also includes updates to that extension. Keeping your extensions updates is one of the most reliable ways to keep your safe and secure.

Cost: $299
Support: 3 months free, then 12 months for $120
Installation Service: Not available
Front-End Demo
Back-End Demo

Aheadworks front end demo image

Featuring a two-column design, Smart One Step fuels auto-address suggestions with GeoIP  and Google, and allows unregistered guests to make purchases.

If you’re looking to further expand functionality, Aheadworks offers other extensions for coupon code generation, gift cards, reward points, and store refunds. Between companies, extensions don’t always play nice with one another, but you can prevent some headaches as long as you don’t mind fully hitching your wagon to Aheadworks.

Installation service is unavailable, although Aheadworks provides a one-page installation guide.

Cost: $570
Support: 6 mos $105/12 mos $140
Installation Service: $85
Front End Demo
(Back End Demo Not Available at Time of Publication)

OneStepCheckOUT AS front end demo

With 150 reviews in the Marketplace for their Magento 1 extension, One Step Checkout AS has a well-established reputation in the community. This experience comes with a hefty price tag. In theory, however, a good extension will drive sales and provide value over and above the cost of acquiring it.

If you want the streamlined, barebones experience for your shoppers, you can certainly give it to them. The extension also offers CSS compatibility and fully embraces a modular approach to customization. 

If you’re planning to use multiple extensions, OneStepCheckOUT promises easy compatibility. If you’ve enlisted their support service, they also promise to help you integrate troublesome third-party extensions for no additional cost.  

Cost: $199
Support: 6 mos free/9 mos $180/12 mos $300
Installation Service: $99
Front End Demo
Back End Demo

Mage Delight One Step CHeckout Demo image

If you want one-step checkout but don’t necessarily need heavy customization, MageDelight’s One Step Checkout may be a reasonable choice. Customization is limited to field selection and interface color, which will be enough for owners just looking for consistency with their storefront. 

Options like coupon generation, refunds, and other features not already listed in the What is One Step Checkout section will require additional extensions. 

Purchase includes 6 months of free support. 

One Step Checkout by Templates Master (Swiss Up Labs)

Cost: $189
Support: 1 yr Free, then $588/yr
Installation Service: Free
Front End Demo (2-column)
(Back End Demo Not Available at Time of Publication)

Templates Master 1 step checkout demo

The purchase of One Step Checkout by Templates Master includes free installation, 1 year of support, and free integration of third party modules. However, the cost of support after that first year jumps to $588 annually.

As for layout, store admins have full control over checkout fields and can select one, two, or three columns. Four different checkout page skins are included, and it’s possible to customize your checkout page with JavaScript or HTML.

Cost: $299
Support: 3 months free with free lifetime updates/6 mos $79/12 mos $129
Installation Service: $59
Front End Demo
Back End Demo

Amasty 1 step checkout front end demo

One Step Checkout by Amasty has something to offer both layperson store admins and seasoned developers. The former can easily and quickly tweak layout, colors, and fonts. For users wanting more control, the extension provides CSS and LESS support.

Notably, this is the only offering on this list to provide free lifetime updates. 

Advanced options include gift options, header and footer promo information, delivery date and time, and others.

One Step Checkout Extensions At a Glance

Following is a summary of our findings at the time of publication. The policies, prices, or functionality of these products may have since changed. 

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The Many Ways to Check Your Grammar in WordPress

The Many Ways to Check Your Grammar in WordPress

The Many Ways to Check Your Grammar in WordPressJohn McPhee, a renowned writer of non-fiction books and magazine articles, describes in his book “Draft No. 4” the editorial process his articles must pass through before publication in the New Yorker

The first phase involves multiple drafts and editing passes by McPhee himself. When McPhee submits the article, there is a conversation with the magazine’s editor-in-chief, which may prompt further rounds of rewriting.

Next, an editor scrutinizes the article line by line, suggesting edits for McPhee to approve. Then, each fact in the article is cross-checked and verified by a professional fact checker. The process culminates with a minute examination of every sentence by one of the world’s most gifted grammatical nitpickers. Altogether, the process can take several months.

And, after all that, mistakes still often find their way into the print edition.

Bloggers and writers who write primarily for the web do not have anything approaching the editorial support structure of a magazine like the New Yorker. They are often their own editors, proofreaders, and fact checkers. 

Until recently, WordPress bloggers who used the Jetpack plugin collection were helped in this task by After the Deadline, a grammar checker that could highlight errors before the writer hits the publish button. Sadly, After the Deadline is no more. It was removed with the release of Jetpack 7.3.

After the Deadline was removed because there are many alternatives on the market. Most are unreliable, but there are a few that can be trusted to let writers know where the embarrassing mistakes lurk.

Grammarly

Grammarly is the best-known and best-regarded grammar checker on the market today. It’s not perfect, but it can spot errors that other checkers miss, and it is available as a browser plugin, a standalone application, and a mobile application on iOS and Android. The browser plugin allows Grammarly to work with WordPress text fields and other web text fields.

One of Grammarly’s best features is how it explains why it has flagged an error, rather than just putting a squiggly line under it and expecting the writer to figure out what’s wrong. It can also fix many errors with a single click.

Grammarly is available both as a free service with basic features and as a paid service with more advanced grammar checking.

Hemingway

Hemingway is less a grammar checker than a style dictator. It highlights what it considers grammatical errors, but its primary goal is simplification. It lets you know when your sentences have become convoluted and flags constructions that are often found in bad writing.

For writers who like to use the full capabilities of the English language, Hemingway can be frustrating. Its idea of clear writing is a little too simple for many, and its standards are arbitrary. McPhee’s articles become a sea of red and yellow when pasted into the Hemingway app (as do the novels of Ernest Hemingway himself). 

But, if you find your sentences tend to be overly complicated and difficult for readers to parse, Hemingway is worth checking out.

Google Docs

Google recently added machine-learning powered grammar checking to Google Docs. As you might expect from Google, its grammar checker is based less on traditional rules of grammar and more on an analysis of how language is used in a large corpus of written material.

Docs is not as harsh a grader as either Grammarly or Hemingway, and it sometimes lets glaring errors like word repetitions through, but it’s a welcome addition to a platform that many WordPress users rely on. If you’re a user of Google Docs and WordPress, you may find the Wordable service useful; it can export documents stored in Google Docs to a WordPress site, which ultimately is much better than copying and pasting.

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5 Craft CMS Plugins You Need To Know About

5 Craft CMS Plugins You Need To Know About

One of Craft CMS’s greatest strengths is its collection of high-quality plugins. There may not be as many Craft CMS plugins as there are WordPress plugins, but Craft’s Plugin Store, which was introduced last year with the release of Craft CMS 3, offers a satisfying range of functionality to the already feature-rich content management system.

If you haven’t already, we urge you to spend a few minutes exploring the plugin store. In the meantime, here are five of our favorite plugins.

Feed Me

Feed Me is a content importer for Craft CMS. It can import content from many different sources, including RSS, XML, CSV, and JSON. Feed Me allows users to select field mappings for the files they want to import so that they can map arbitrary data to Craft CMS entries, categories, tags, users, and more.

Feed Me is an incredibly useful tool for developers and designers who need to get information from other sources into Craft CMS. Pixel and Tonic, the developers of Craft CMS, thought the plugin was so useful that they bought it.

CodeMirror

CodeMirror is a full-featured JavaScript code editor that can be embedded into web pages. You have seen CodeMirror in action if you have used Adobe Brackets, Bitbucket, Codepen, or the Firefox Devtools. The CodeMirror Craft CMS plugin brings CodeMirror into Craft CMS as a field type so it can be embedded into any page.

Image Optimize

Image Optimize is — as you may have guessed — a Craft CMS plugin that optimizes images. It performs lossless image optimization on several image types, including JPEG, PNG, SVG, and GIF images. Lossless optimization strips metadata and performs other optimizations that reduce the size of images without impacting their quality. The image optimizations are processed automatically.

SEOMatic

SEOMatic is the leading Craft CMS search engine optimization plugin. Like other SEO plugins, SEOMatic adds information to Craft CMS pages to help search engines understand the content. Among the metadata SEOMatic adds are Facebook Open Graph tags, enhanced sitemaps, robots.txt and humans.txt files, and HTML meta tags. SEOMatic isn’t vital to good SEO on Craft CMS sites, but it helps site owners publish content that has the best possible chance of ranking.

Splash

Splash is a helpful little plugin that provides a search interface for the Unsplash image collection within Craft CMS. Unsplash hosts thousands of high-quality images that are free to download and use with attribution. Chances are, you’re using Unsplash anyway, and the Splash plugin is a pleasant convenience for clients. As the plugin’s developers point out, Splash can “stop clients uploading bad images ever again! (Just kidding, of course they will).”

We’ve looked at five plugins of the several hundred top-notch plugins available from the Craft CMS store. If you’d like to learn more about Craft CMS and Craft CMS hosting on the Hostdedi Cloud, get in touch today.

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Is Drupal More Secure Than WordPress?

Is Drupal More Secure Than WordPress?

Is Drupal More Secure Than WordPress?Drupal is widely regarded as a secure content management system, so much so that it is often chosen for sensitive sites, including the sites of many government agencies. WordPress’s reputation for security is not quite as impressive, and we’re all familiar with stories of hacked WordPress sites.

Does that mean it’s fair to say that WordPress is less secure than Drupal?

This is not a simple question to answer because it depends on our answers to other questions: What do we mean by secure? How do we measure security? It certainly wouldn’t be fair to compare media stories about WordPress security with Drupal’s record — there are hundreds of times more WordPress sites than Drupal sites, so you’d expect WordPress to be hacked more.

One possible definition of a secure Content Management System (CMS) is one that is extremely unlikely to be compromised if it is configured according to the documentation and regularly updated. If we accept that definition, then both WordPress and Drupal are secure. No application on the web is ever totally secure, but properly configured and regularly updated Drupal and WordPress sites are unlikely to be compromised.

What Are the Qualities of a Secure CMS?

There are many ways to measure the security of an application, but from the perspective of users, three factors are particularly important.

  • Few vulnerabilities. Software bugs that cause exploitable vulnerabilities should not be a regular occurrence. They’ll sometimes happen because software is complex and humans are fallible, but users should not expect to see their sites regularly hacked because of vulnerabilities in the core application.
  • Vulnerabilities are quickly fixed. When vulnerabilities are reported to the developers, patches to fix them should be released quickly, and users should be informed of the need to update (or updates should happen automatically).
  • Easy to secure. If a content management system is generally used by people without a lot of technical knowledge, then it should be designed to minimize opportunities for users to create security problems. For example, it shouldn’t be easy for people to use a default password instead of a secure password.

It’s easier to compare Drupal and WordPress on some of these measures than others. We can see how many critical vulnerabilities are found and fixed in WordPress and Drupal. We can’t see vulnerabilities that haven’t been discovered or reported — so-called zero-day vulnerabilities — but reported vulnerabilities are a useful proxy for overall risk.

It’s clear that both projects have their share of vulnerabilities, but we can also see that patches are released quickly. Both projects take security seriously and react with haste when vulnerabilities are reported.

Security Beyond the Core

What about WordPress plugins and Drupal modules? The fact is that when a WordPress site is hacked, it’s almost always a plugin to blame. There are 50,000 plugins created by developers of mixed ability who are not equally motivated to secure their code. Drupal too has occasional security issues related to modules, but the Drupal module ecosystem is smaller and more tightly controlled.

There are many high-quality WordPress plugins made by developers who are committed to building secure products, but the depth of the WordPress ecosystem means that the average WordPress plugin is more likely to pose a risk than the average Drupal plugin.

For both content management systems, and WordPress in particular, it pays to be cautious when sourcing and installing modules or plugins. Nulled plugins — pirate premium plugins — are a particular issue in the WordPress world. They are often infected with malware, and once a malware-infected plugin is installed on a site, it’s game over.

Developers Can Only Do So Much

Now we come to the most significant cause of security vulnerabilities for any content management system: its users. As we’ve established, every CMS has vulnerabilities that can be exploited by hackers at some point in its life. Those vulnerabilities are usually quickly fixed, but the fixes are useless if they aren’t installed. WordPress users who fail to update WordPress and its plugins are probably the single biggest cause of compromised sites. Outdated sites are also a big problem in the Drupal world, albeit on a smaller scale.

Whereas WordPress’ attracts non-technical users, the same is not true of Drupal, which is squarely aimed at developers and organizations that have the expertise to maintain a more complex content management system. However, because users are expected to be experts or at least have some technical knowledge, it’s not as easy to be secure as WordPress.

Updating Drupal and its modules can be a bit of a pain compared to WordPress’s automatic minor version updates, but if you know what you’re doing, it’s not prohibitively difficult.

Drupal or WordPress?

The truth is that both Drupal and WordPress are secure if properly installed, configured, and maintained. The opposite is also true; a poorly maintained Drupal or WordPress site is a gift to hackers.

Drupal has fewer issues with plugin vulnerabilities, but if a Drupal site is left without updates for a couple of years, it’ll be hacked as quickly as an unpatched WordPress site. Moreover, because Drupal is more complex and more challenging to update, a non-technical user may struggle to maintain adequate security.

If you don’t need the power and flexibility of Drupal, then a well-maintained WordPress site is the best option — just remember to keep the site and its plugins updated. If you do need Drupal’s flexibility, then the fact that expert developers choose Drupal for highly sensitive government and corporate sites should reassure you that Drupal can be secured to the highest level.It’s important to understand that security goes deeper than whichever CMS you choose. Both Drupal and WordPress rely on utility software, a database, a web server, an operating system, and more. These must all be maintained and updated too, and that’s the job of the hosting provider. The first step in securing your content management system is to choose secure WordPress hosting or secure Drupal hosting.

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Responsible Disclosure Only Works If Software Is Updated

Responsible Disclosure Only Works If Software Is Updated

Responsible Disclosure Only Works If Software Is UpdatedWhat should happen when a security researcher discovers a vulnerability in a popular software project? Should details of the vulnerability be released so that users can protect themselves? Or should it be kept secret so that bad actors can’t exploit it?

There are drawbacks to both approaches. Immediate full disclosure puts users at risk. Bad actors find out about the vulnerability too, and there isn’t a lot users can do to protect themselves until patches are released. In contrast, secrecy allows software developers to ignore vulnerabilities, and there is no guarantee that bad actors don’t know about them already.

The industry has, for the most part, settled on a hybrid approach called responsible disclosure. When a security researcher finds a vulnerability, they inform the software’s developers but they don’t go public immediately. The developer is given time to release patches. Once the patches are released, the vulnerability is publicized so that users know to update. If the developer fails to release a patch in a reasonable amount of time, the vulnerability is disclosed to users so they can protect themselves. The amount of time given to developers varies; Google’s Project Zero allows 90 days.

Responsible disclosure attempts to balance competing goods. Users who are in the dark about vulnerabilities can’t respond to the threat, but immediate disclosure gives bad actors an advantage. Secrecy might prevent widespread exploitation of a vulnerability before it’s been patched, but developers, especially developers of proprietary software, may not be inclined to invest time and money into bug fixes for vulnerabilities no one knows about. Responsible disclosure is the golden mean between complete transparency and security by obscurity.

Responsible disclosure depends on the assumption that software is updated when patches are released. Secrecy following discovery is justified by the risk disclosure poses to users. They would be exposed without any way to fix the problem. Delayed disclosure is justified by the belief that once patches are available, users are safe.

But what happens when users don’t update? They are in as much peril as if the vulnerability had been exposed without patches having been released. Bad actors know all about the vulnerability, including, in the case of open source software, exactly which code was vulnerable and how to exploit it. Unfortunately, failing to patch isn’t rare: many recent data leaks and security breaches were the result of the exploitation of known vulnerabilities for which patches were widely available.

The point is this: over many years, a system for handling vulnerabilities has evolved, a system which aims to keep software users as safe as possible. Developers, security researchers, and corporations cooperate to minimize the risk to users. But users — businesses, server administrators, hosting providers — have a vital role to play. They have to update their software when patches become available. If they don’t, they put their business, their customers, and the wider population at risk.

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Uncovering the Benefits of Elasticsearch, SOLR, Sphinx, and MySQL

Uncovering the Benefits of Elasticsearch, SOLR, Sphinx, and MySQL

Magento Search- Uncovering the Benefits of Elasticsearch, SOLR, Sphinx, and MySQLFor 74% of consumers, the quality and relevancy of search results on an ecommerce site is the difference between whether they do or don’t make a purchase. Storefronts can no longer rely on good navigation alone. Search has become a primary purchasing path, with consumers that use search 200% more likely to make a purchase than those who don’t.

Powerful on-site search provides more than just a direct purchasing path. It also provides customers with the ability to research and further define desired products and attributes. This not only means consumers are able to research their choices more effectively, it also positions you as an industry leader and an invaluable consumer resource.

This article looks at the search options available to Magento merchants, and outlines four of the main tools available; including Elasticsearch, SOLR, Sphinx, and MySQL. It examines the pros and cons of each, and provides a recommendation of what option is best.

Keep reading to see which Magento search option is right for your storefront.

Consumers who use search are 200% more likely to convert.

Note: this article will not be taking a detailed look at the multiple Magento search extensions available on the marketplace, but instead focuses on more powerful, external solutions.

How Magento Search Works

How Magento search works depends on what search option you choose and how you configure it. In some cases, it’s possible to simply connect a search engine to your Magento store and it will do the rest automatically. In other cases, proper implementation requires either a developer or expert. 

Regardless of which path you choose, once a search engine has been implemented, it will index your site. This provides an easy to search through directory of your products and their attributes. Depending on the size of your store, this can take a few minutes to a few days. 

When looking for a search engine, there are several different features that should stand out. These include:

  • Fast and accurate results
  • Natural language processing for longtail and complex search queries
  • Filtered results pages for more accurate results (Faceted search)
  • Error-tolerance (this needs to be high to provide better, more relevant results) 
  • Synonym management (especially important for niche stores)

Elasticsearch

Elasticsearch (ES) is currently the most popular and the default option for Magento search. 

As a java-based document store, Elasticsearch is engineered to store large numbers of JSON documents and speak to them natively. So in addition to being able to handle text-based queries, it can also understand advanced analytical queries too, including interpreting numeric and geo data. 

Where Elasticsearch really shines is in its full support for Apache Lucene’s real-time search. From a customer’s perspective, this means ES is able to provide faster and more relevant search experiences. For store owners, this means faster conversions. 

Adding Elasticsearch to the Magento Catalog Interface

Currently, Elasticsearch is recommended by both us and Magento. Part of the reason for this is that it’s easy to set up. On Hostdedi accounts, it can be turned on under the Environment tab in your Client Portal. The endpoint can then be transferred into Magento by following this guide

At the moment, both Foursqaure and Github use Elasticsearch.

A Faster, More Accurate Search Option

Elasticsearch makes use of Fuzzy searching, a technique which allows for stores to interpret customer queries even when they mistype or aren’t 100% sure what they are looking for. Combined with synonym and stop word interpretation, this places ES as one of the more capable search engines available to merchants. 

Elasticsearch is able to provide faster and more relevant search experiences leading to more conversions. 

ES also allows for merchants to customize search results based on defined parameters. One of the technologies used to do this is finite state transducers. In English, this means that ES can handle search queries that consider both the input and output, and that can then provide results based on the relationship between these two pieces of data. 

Complex Search Query Support

While both Elasticsearch and SOLR (below) are based on Lucene query parsing, Elasticsearch provides support for structured query DSL. This allows for more complex search queries not supported by a just-Lucene search engine. 

Elasticsearch also support scoring scripts, which can be written and implemented through JavaScript. At this point in time, SOLR does not offer this functionality.

Official and Community Library Support

Official: Java, PHP, Javascript, Python, Groovy, Ruby, Perl, .NET, 

Community:  Java, JavaScript, PHP, Python, R, Ruby, Clojure, Cold Fusion, Erlang, Go, Groovy, Haskell,.NET, OCaml, Perl, Scala, Smalltalk, Vert.x 

Elasticsearch Pros

  • Has become the default replacement for the default Magento MySQL Search Engine 
  • A little faster than SOLR
  • More aligned with modern web development practices (so likely easier to use)
  • Ready to go out of the box with the Hostdedi Elasticsearch Container solution

Elasticsearch Cons

  • Will take up space due to indexing
  • Can cost extra for hosting space
  • Requires indexing

SOLR

Another standalone, scalable search option for Magento. For a long time, SOLR dominated the Magento search market for high-traffic sites. Not only does it offer a number of important features search admins are looking for, it’s also a scalable solution capable of handling heavy traffic loads.

Some of the features you’ll find with SOLR search include:

  • Search term suggestions based on misspelling
  • Weighted search results
  • Layered navigation
  • Powerful autocomplete
  • Relevancy management
  • Support for synonyms and stop words

At the moment, Cnet and Netflix use SOLR. 

Near Real-Time Search Speeds

Where SOLR shines is when it comes to group searches. This is because SOLR supports distributed groups (including grouped sorted, filtering, and faceting). For ecommerce store owners, this allows for their customers to go through better, more relevant search experiences. At this point in time, the main competitor, Elasticsearch, does not support this in the same way. 

SOLR offers a number of important features search admins are looking for.

When compared to alternatives, SOLR is a more complicated search engine to implement. Not only does SOLR’s interface take longer to learn than Elasticsearch’s, its deployment also requires a little more knowledge than Elasticsearch’s. 

If you’re looking for some added functionality that comes with additional work, then SOLR may work for you. However, in 99 cases out of 100, we would recommend Magento store owners opt for Elasticsearch. 

Official and Community Library Support

Official: Java

Community: PHP, Python, Javascript, Ruby, Erlang, Perl, Scala, Go, Clojure, .NET

SOLR Pros

  • A popular search option for Magento 1 stores
  • Does not require a massive indexing process
  • Truly open source

SOLR Cons

  • Harder to implement
  • No longer the latest and greatest in Magento Search

Sphinx

Sphinx is a powerful Magento search tool capable of searching multiple content types, with support for multiple languages. While not as powerful as the options above, its favored by a lot of Magento 1 stores due to the ease of integration. 

Sphinx is currently used by Mozilla, Craiglist, and Dailymotion.

Fast Search From a Premium Module

By default, Sphinx doesn’t run through an external container but an extension that can be downloaded through the Magento Marketplace. Despite this, it’s still capable of holding its own when pitted against the other options on this list. 

From their own documentation, Sphinx is able to deliver over 500 queries/second when a product catalog consists of over 1,000,000 skus. 

In terms of its actual search capabilities, Sphinx includes a number of features you see with most of the other search engines listed here, including:

  • Synonym and plural form support
  • Long tail search 
  • Stop word support

Sphinx also allows for multiple search types, including products, categories, attributes, and blog content. Its morphology preprocessors allow for different word forms to be replaced with their base form. In Sphinx’s example, this means translating Dogs into Dog. There are, of course, much more complicated use cases where this helps to provide unique and highly-relevant results for customers. 

Sphinx is able to deliver over 500 queries/second when a product catalog consists of over 1,000,000 skus.

A Magento 1 Search Tool

While we always recommend using Elasticsearch, we’ve found that when Sphinx is used it tends to be with Magento 1 stores. If you’re running a Magento 2 store, Elasticsearch is a better option – especially if you’re just getting started or are in the process of replatforming from magento 1

If you’re interested in how to configure search on Magento 1, then we recommend checking out this article from Shero.

Sphinx Pros

  • A powerful search engine used by a lot of large, popular sites
  • Years of development have made it stable

Sphinx Cons

  • Not as well supported as alternatives
  • Lacks the speed of Elasticsearch and SOLR

MySQL

The original default search engine for Magento. While competent in its own right, it doesn’t compare to the enterprise options available. Moreover, the MySQL search option for Magento has now been deprecated. Instead, Magento 2 is now configured to use the Elasticsearch search option by default. 

The default MySQL search is also missing some other features you’ll find with SOLR or Elasticsearch, including suggestions, clustering, attribute weights, and tips when zero results are returned.

MySQL search options through the Magento Catalog

For this reason, we recommend avoiding the default MySQL search option. With the current ease of integration afforded by Elasticsearch, why wouldn’t you want more powerful search powering your Magento store?

MySQL Pros

MySQL Cons

  • It’s not nearly as powerful as other options
  • It has been deprecated 

Expanding Magento Search Functionality Through Extensions

If you own a smaller Magento store and don’t want to invest in a dedicated search engine, then it’s also possible to expand the search functionality of Magento through extensions. These can be found and downloaded from the Magento Marketplace

The Best Magento Search Engine

We recommend that all merchants make the move to Elasticsearch. Not only because it’s easy to integrate with your Magento store, but also because it provides numerous improvements over the alternatives. 

While speed and performance is comparable to SOLR, Elasticsearch does have a slight edge. It also allows for consumers to make more complex searches with more relevant results, thanks to a number of additional features such as fuzzy searching, full indexing, and DSL query support.

In terms of development, Elasticsearch also provides much more in terms of official and community client libraries. This means that your developer is more likely to be able to handle and scale it efficiently. Combine this with its out of the box readiness on the Hostdedi container platform, and it becomes the clear search engine choice for most Magento stores. 

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Spring Cleaning Your WooCommerce Store For A Busy 2019

Spring Cleaning Your WooCommerce Store For A Busy 2019

Spring Cleaning Your WooCommerce Store For A Busy 2019

WooCommerce doesn’t require a lot of day-to-day maintenance to keep it in peak condition. But, as winter comes to a close and the dust of the busy holiday season settles, spring is the ideal moment to take stock and make sure everything is working as it should be. A little spring maintenance will help your store remain fast and secure throughout 2019.

Update WordPress, Plugins, and Themes

WooCommerce stores should be updated regularly throughout the year, but the busy holiday season leaves little time for ongoing maintenance. If your store hasn’t been updated in a few months, now is the perfect time to spend a couple of minutes hitting the update button. Make sure that you’re running the most recent release of WordPress, WooCommerce, other plugins, and the store’s theme.

Updates help to keep your store safe from hackers and criminals by patching security vulnerabilities. If you don’t update regularly, you may be in for an unpleasant surprise later in the year.

Check Your Backup Procedure

We recommend that all WooCommerce stores are regularly backed up to at least two locations, one of which is a remote location. There are many services and plugins to help you backup your site. We covered some of the best in this post from last year.

Whichever method you choose, it should be checked regularly to make sure it’s still working. It is not uncommon for retailers to lose data because the backup they thought was keeping their store safe had stopped working. When you’re dealing with the aftermath of an attack or accidental data loss, there’s little more frustrating than finding that your backup scripts haven’t worked for the last six months.

Manually run a backup to make sure the process completes successfully, and then carry out a test restore on a staging or development site. You should be able to quickly recreate your store, and if you can’t, it’s time to rethink its backup strategy.

Audit Plugins

We’ve already covered updates, but it is also worth looking at plugins that haven’t been updated for a while. You can see when a plugin was last updated in the Plugins section of the Admin menu. If a plugin hasn’t received an update in a few months, you should investigate to ensure that it is still maintained.

Unmaintained plugins are not necessarily a security issue, but if a vulnerability is discovered in an unmaintained plugin, it won’t be fixed. If you have any plugins that are unmaintained installed on your store, try to find an alternative that is actively developed.

While you’re looking at plugins, this is also a good time to deactivate and uninstall any plugins that you aren’t using. It’s better to remove unused plugins because every plugin adds code to your store, and code that has been removed can’t cause security or performance problems.

Run Performance Tests

WooCommerce stores evolve as new features are added, plugins are installed and uninstalled, and alterations are made to themes. These changes can impact performance, so it’s wise to run performance tests every once in a while to identify any issues. We recently published a detailed guide to performance and load testing your WooCommerce store.

Check Content for Freshness

The beginning of the year is an opportune moment to review the content you have published over the past few months. Blog posts and web copy can become outdated. Editing dated information ensures that content remains a valuable resource over the next year. Pay particular attention to the site’s About page; it should be updated to reflect changes in the businesses branding strategy and to recent events.

With a couple of hours of spring cleaning maintenance, you can put your WooCommerce in a strong position of reliability, security, and performance for the next year.

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Which Ecommerce CMS Is Right for you?

Which Ecommerce CMS Is Right for you?

Which Ecommerce Platform Is Right for you?Every ecommerce store is unique. Merchants have a lot of choices to make before their store even goes live; choices including site design, customer base, and product curation. Yet underlying these choices is another, potentially more important one: which ecommerce CMS is right for delivering on those decisions?

In 2019, ecommerce sales will account for 13.7% of retail sales worldwide. By 2021, that number is expected to increase to 17.5%. Improved access, data-driven strategies, and mobile implementations are only a few of the reasons for this rapid growth. The continued development of ecommerce CMSs to match merchant and consumer expectations is another. 

From Magento to WooCommerce, and beyond, the right CMS allows merchants to create a storefront that optimizes the buyer’s journey and increases sales. 

This article takes a look at seven of the most popular ecommerce CMS available to merchants. It breaks down the pros and cons of each and looks at which merchants should be using which. If you’re looking to set up a new ecommerce store, or are interested in exploring other possibilities, keep reading. 

The Ecommerce CMS Comparison


Magento pros and cons

Magento 2

Magento 2 is one of the ecommerce world’s most functional platforms. Capable of creating and managing more complex buyer journeys, the application is used by some big names, including Coca Cola, Warby Parker, and Nike. 

Currently over 19% of the top 1 million websites use Magento, positioning it as the most popular ecommerce CMS for larger ecommerce stores. Part of the reason for this is its community. At the heart of Magento, vendors, developers, and merchants have come together to create an ecosystem that few other platforms can rival. 

Magento is used by some big names, including Coca Cola, Warby Parker, and Nike. 

That ecosystem has continued to grow following Magento’s acquisition by Adobe. Integrations with Adobe technologies have continued to be expanded and improved, with many finding Magento 2 to be the “complete ecommerce package”. 

Yet Magento isn’t right for all merchants. Development of the type of user experiences and buyer journeys offered by bigger brands requires a bigger investment. For this reason alone, Magento may simply not be the right choice for smaller merchants. Store management is also a more complicated process than with something like WooCommerce.

In addition to this, to truly take advantage of the Magento platform it’s important to find the right hosting provider. This is because Magento is a resource heavy application. If you choose Magento, look for Magento optimized hosting.

We recommend Magento 2 for merchants looking to create cutting edge online experiences that improve the bottom line. But it’s important to remember that this kind of development means a steep price tag. 

Pros

  • Incredible functionality and capabilities
  • Great community that is constantly working to develop even better ecommerce solutions
  • Open source version is free

Cons

  • Often requires a developer for first time store owners

Magento pros and cons

Magento 1

Magento 1 is the first release of Magento, and still manages to hold its own in terms of functionality and performance. Currently, there are over 4,500 live Magento 1 sites in the top 1 million sites worldwide.

At this point, sites running on Magento 1 are generally ones that moved to the platform before the Magento 2 release. While Magento 1 is still a very capable ecommerce CMS, it doesn’t have some of the features and support you’ll find with the second version of the application. This is despite still having strong community support. 

One of the main differences between Magento 1 and 2 comes in the form of security. Magento 2 supports improved security protocols, including a strengthened hashing algorithm for passwords and improved user management for admins. 

To make this worse, the upcoming June 2020 End of Life means that the M1 platform will no longer continue to receive official support. This means many will have to replatform to either Magento 2 or another ecommerce application. 

If you’re still unsure what your options are, learn more about what the Magento 1 End of Life may mean for you

For new merchants interested in Magento, we recommend moving straight to Magento 2.

Pros

  • A history of success with a huge contingent of merchants
  • A supportive community that will continue to support the platform after its End of Life

Cons

  • Will be deprecated in June 2020
  • Doesn’t have a lot of the functionality and support you’ll find with Magento 2

Shopify pros and Cons

Shopify

Shopify is an easy to use SaaS ecommerce tool. Over the years it has grown from a small, simple application into a capable ecommerce storefront. In doing so, it has solidified its position as one of the more popular options available to merchants.

However, while great for beginners, as soon as merchants begin to see significant purchasing volume, Shopify’s problem starts to make itself known. Unlike alternatives such as Magento, Shopify’s custom functionality is still rudimentary. As a result, it does not allow for the same level of curation regarding the buyer’s journey. Over time, this can limit further merchant growth. 

Despite this, Shopify has great support and security thanks to being a closed-source SaaS product. Many of the application’s optimizations all come as standard and are managed by Shopify themselves. This can be both a positive – as you know there is a team of experts behind your store –  and a negative – in that you’ll have to wait for unique and cutting edge performance enhancements. 

Shopify offers merchants a capable ecommerce storefront.

Still, Shopify is host to just over 10% of the top 1 million websites worldwide and the application is only growing in popularity for small and medium businesses.

If you’re looking for a simple, easy to use ecommerce cms, then Shopify may just be the right choice. If, however, you’re looking to expand your online ecommerce experience and create something distinct, we recommend looking towards Magento. 

Unsure which application is right for you? We’ve put together a Magento vs Shopify comparison

Pros

  • Easy to setup and use
  • Reliable support from the Shopify team

Cons

  • Shopify takes a cut of all transactions on your site
  • Not as versatile as Magento

Sylius

Sylius is a new addition to the ecommerce scene, and one that has managed to consecutively score wins against competitors in terms of functionality and design. Currently the application of choice for a small number of sites, that number has grown rapidly; especially considering that the platform has only been around for a few years. 

Perhaps one of the main barriers to entry for merchants looking to move to the Sylius platform is that it requires a developer to create a fully capable storefront. This is a double-edged sword for most merchants. It means that their storefront will likely be an unforgettable one with a curated user experience, but it can also cost a lot to implement properly. 

A Sylius storefront will likely be an unforgettable one with a curated user experience.

Despite this, if you’re a merchant looking for a more advanced platform that offers capabilities that rival even the most advanced ecommerce CMS, then Sylius is probably one of your best choices. If you’re looking for something simple that you can manage yourself, we recommend that you continue reading. 

Pros

  • Offers complete control over functionality
  • A great open source community

Cons

  • Is still relatively new 
  • Requires a developer to create your site

BigCommerce is great for content management

BigCommerce (for WordPress)

If you’re looking to take full advantage of the content marketing opportunities available to merchants, then BigCommerce may be one of your best options. 

Released in 2018, the BigCommerce for WordPress plugin has quickly grown, now offering merchants access to a clear and easy-to-use ecosystem that offers both powerful ecommerce functionality and content management. 

It’s able to do this due to being a headless implementation of BigCommerce. This means that product management is controlled by the BigCommerce back-end, while front-end design and navigation are managed by WordPress. 

BigCommerce for WordPress is a headless implementation of BigCommerce.

BigCommerce does require merchants to pay an additional monthly fee. However, this means that you’ll have access to BigCommerce support (for help with the application) and potentially improved security. 

Interested in learning more about the BigCommerce for WordPress plugin? Read Topher DeRosia’s guest post, currently BigCommerce for WordPress’ Developer Evangelist.

Pros

  • Allows merchants to use both the product management tools of BigCommerce and the content management tools of WordPress
  • Relatively easy to use with great functionality

Cons

  • An additional monthly fee

Prestashop is a great beginner ecommerce cms

Prestashop

Prestashop has been on the ecommerce scene since 2007. During that time, it has gone through several iterations. Available in both self-hosted form and as a SaaS platform, it now offers some great options for beginners looking to get started with a small ecommerce store. 

Firstly, Prestashop helps to simplify daily management tasks by offering an easy to use interface. This includes intuitive labels and the ability to expand functionality through downloadable modules. We took a look at Prestashop and compared it to Magento, and found that in terms of number of downloadable add-ons, the application is almost on par with Magento. 

But that’s about where Prestashop’s advantages end. In terms of customization, there’s not a lot you can do. If you’re looking for an ecommerce platform that allows you to create unique, memorable buyer journeys, we recommend looking elsewhere. Prestashop’s customizations pretty much start and end at color schemes, basic UI elements, and modules.

To date, just 2 Prestashop sites have made it into the top 10,000 sites worldwide, out of over 270,000 total live sites. This trend seems to be in keeping with the purpose and audience the platform is primarily designed for. 

Pros

  • Easy to use and get started with

Cons

  • Limited functionality
  • Not as up-to-date as alternatives

WooCommerce is another great option for content creation

WooCommerce

The final entry on this list should need no introduction. WooCommerce is the most popular ecommerce CMS available, with over 3 million live sites.

Like BigCommerce for WordPress, WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin. It expands the natural content management functionality of WordPress to include advanced configurations for ecommerce.

Because of its nature, it not only manages to serve as a great choice for merchants interested in content marketing and SEO, it also provides a solid foundation for ecommerce and product management. 

It’s especially good for small ecommerce stores that are either just starting up, or looking to manage most of their content and design in-house. Unlike most of the other CMS on this list, WooCommerce merchants have access to a huge range of pre-designed themes and customizations.

WooCommerce is a great choice for merchants interested in content marketing and SEO.

WooCommerce also provides merchants with the ability to expand functionality through extensions. These allow more control over payment processes, the buyer’s journey, and more. 

Yet despite these capabilities, WooCommerce is still a simple ecommerce platform when compared with competitors like Magento and Sylius. Advanced customization still requires coding knowledge, and the WordPress platform limits what can be done. 

If you’re a small business owner then we can’t recommend WooCommerce enough. However, if you’re already an established store, we recommend taking more control with another option on this list. 

Pros

  • Free and open source
  • Easy to use and get started with
  • A huge range of different themes and extensions
  • Includes the great content management of WordPress

Cons

  • Not as functional as some of the alternatives on this list
  • Limited by the capabilities of WordPress

The Right Ecommerce CMS for You

Each application has its own advantages and disadvantages. Much like the products a merchant sells, choosing the right CMS requires merchants to analyze both the resources available to them and their own preferences. 

For medium and larger stores, we recommend adopting Magento 2. Not only is it a versatile platform that continues to grow, it also has an incredible community that’s both helpful and knowledgeable.

If you’re looking to be on the cutting edge of ecommerce, we recommend making the move to Sylius. While a relatively new platform, it has already proved itself with merchants worldwide. Contact the Sylius team to learn more about what it can do for your storefront. 

Ecommerce sales will account for 13.7% of retail sales worldwide in 2019.

For those interested in content marketing and taking advantage of its relatively “new” appearance on the ecommerce scene, BigCommerce is going to offer a lot of tools you won’t find elsewhere. At the same time, it’s also going to allow better management of products. 

For smaller stores, we recommend WooCommerce. With an easy to use interface and even simpler product management, it’s better than a lot of other “easy to use” and manage CMS available. Not sure how to get started, follow our WooCommerce setup guide.

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