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Magento vs. Volusion vs. WooCommerce vs. Demandware

We often get asked about which eCommerce platform is best. Although we often recommend Magento (and specialize in Magento Managed Hosting), each platform has it’s pros & cons. so let’s take a deeper dive and take a look.

First, let’s take a look at the eCommerce market place, comparing the platforms used by the top 1 million websites.

ecommerce-usage

As you can see, Magento continues to be the leading eCommerce provider (and has gained market share every year for the last few years). Being owned by eBay gives Magento tons of funding in developing updates. In fact, their current Magento 2.x is perhaps the biggest update to Magento since it was first released. Additionally, being open source makes it affordable (free for non-enterprise) and ensures that the code is not proprietary and easy to work with. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the most popular platforms.

1. Magento

Open-source, owned by eBay. 14% market share. Just released a major update (Magento 2).

Pros

– Open-source (ie: free).
– Very popular: Tons of themes, plugins, addons, etc.
– Very customizable.

Cons

– Backend can be overwhelming for novice users.
– Requires a developer to do periodic updates, fix bugs.

2. Woocommerce

#1 WordPress addon for Ecommerce. 10% market share.

Pros

– Integrates with WordPress.
– Very easy to use.

Cons

– Limited addons/plguins.
– Somewhat customizable, but still limited.
– Not suitable for high traffic sites.

3. Volusion

15 years in business. 6% market share.

Pros

– Very easy to use.
– Doesn’t require separate hosting.

Cons

– Not customizable.
– Limited ability to change anything.
– Hosted by Volusion.
– On-going costs.

4. DemandWare

Enterprise-level Ecommerce. 1% market share.

Pros

– Enterprise-grade – meant for millions of transactions.
– Battle-tested by several fortune 500 companies.

Cons

– Limited plugins/addons.
– Requires a full-time developer to use & maintain.
– Very pricey.

Final Comparison

magentoVSwoocommerceVSvolusionVSdemandware

As you can see, Magento often winds up being the most flexible and cost effective choice. It’s for this reason we created a special managed shared hosting plan specifically optimized for Magento: Magento Shared Hosting.

What you need to know about PHP7

1. What is PHP7?

PHP7 is the next major update to the PHP programming language that powers most of the internet. It’s upcoming release will mark over 11 years since the initial release of PHP5.

2. What happened to php 6?

PHP6 was (and still is) a very large and highly publicized project/branch of the PHP project. It is not related to the upcoming PHP7 release and risked creating confusion for both the developers and users alike. A vote was taken from 7/23/2014-7/30/2014 to determine the name of the successor to PHP5 (latest branch being 5.6). PHP7 was selected with 58 votes vs. only 24 votes for calling it PHP6.

3. What are the benefits of PHP7?

Performance improvements and security are the underlying goals of PHP7. In fact, PHP7 has been tested to perform twice faster than the current latest PHP branch (PHP5.6). Specifically for WordPress, the same server can handle more than double the requests/second with PHP7.

php7-wordpress-testing

4. Backwards compatibility: Is my script/site compatible?

Being a major release, there is a big potential for older scripts to break or not work properly. Amongst the bigger changes in PHP7, asp-style tags (<% %>) will no longer be supported, so you would have to make sure all the php tags follow the proper format ). Major CMS’s like WordPress, Magento, etc.. already use coded that is compatible with PHP7 so no further action will be needed. However, it’s always useful to keep in mind any custom themes or plugins you installed in your CMS and checking to make sure those are still being maintained and updated.

5. PHP 7 Release Date

PHP 7.0.0 was released on 12/3/2015 and then updated to PHP 7.0.1 on 12/17/2015. However, it will take some time for the major hosting platforms to start supporting it. At T35 Hosting, we plan to roll out PHP7 within the next couple of weeks as we finish our own internal testing to make sure none of our clients are negatively impacted. cPanel, the leading hosting platform, is planning on rolling out support for it by the end of February, at which point it will be much easier for web hosts to implement.

cPanel Video Tutorials

Did you ever need some help with cPanel? Or have you not used it for a while and need a refresher? Good news! The folks at cPanel actually put together some great tutorials that are useful for both beginners and intermediate users. Check them out!

cPanel 11.x Video Tutorials

cpanel

MySQL

A guide to creating and modifying MySQL databases in cPanel.

Quality: High | Low

Change Style

A quick guide on changing the look and feel of cPanel to fit your personal style.

Quality: High | Low

Updating Your Contact Information

Change your contact information as well as preferences.

Quality: High | Low

Shortcuts

Easily access your cPanel by adding cPanel shortcuts to your desktop or browser’s bookmarks toolbar.

Quality: High | Low

Subdomains

Learn all about creating and managing subdomains.

Quality: High | Low

MySQL Wizard

Create and manage MySQL databases with this step by step wizard.

Quality: High | Low

Addon Domains

Learn about creating and managing addon domains.

Quality: High | Low

Parked Domains

Learn about creating and managing parked domains.

Quality: High | Low

Redirects

Learn how to make a specific web page redirect to another page and display the contents of that page with redirects

Quality: High | Low

Change Password

Change the main password for your account.

Quality: High | Low

Password Protect Directories

Learn how to limit access to a certain part of your site by requiring a user name and password to access a folder or folders from the web.

Quality: High | Low

GnuPG Keys

Generate or import GnuPG Keys to encrypt messages using a “public key” that can only be decrypted by a “private key”, which is retained by the intended recipient of the message.

Quality: High | Low

Hotlink Protection

Prevents other websites from directly linking to files on your website.

Quality: High | Low

IP Deny Manager

Block a range of IP addresses to prevent them from accessing your site.

Quality: High | Low

Site Software

Blogs, Bulletin Boards, CMS, Chat, Ecommerce, and more!

Quality: High | Low

SSH/Shell Access

Manage your SSH keys to allow automation when logging in via SSH.

Quality: High | Low

How Much Would You Pay For The Front Page Of Digg?

Would you pay over $1,000 to get to the front page of Digg? Well, you’d actually need to pay more than that. According to TechCrunch, a “power Digger” charges $1,200 to get your story to the front page. With no guarantees, you put in a four figure investment and hope that your story fares well. Many have been using and abusing the giant social bookmark in an attempt to tap into some of its enormous potential. Being one of the biggest 200 websites in the world according to Alexa, Digg is one of the only ways that most webmasters have into making mainstream.

Digg however isn’t easy to conquer by yourself. The ability to get a story popular on Digg has turned into a market in itself. A story must have around 200 Diggs (no, this number is not exact and Digg does change its algorithm often) to become “popular.” Becoming a popular gives your submission endless benefits. A term called the Digg Effect has even been coined to express the aftermath of a popular story.

Automated systems such as UserSubmitter and Subvert and Profit have decided to take a tactical approach to the problem. Their system is simple: Diggers Digg stories while webmasters get their stories Dugg. Diggers get paid for Digging, webmasters pay to get Dugg, and the system gets a piece of the pie. Everyone is happy, right? Wrong.

Digg is left in the crossfire of all this exchange. A system that is made and run by people is being abused and spammed by stories that would otherwise never make it. Digg isn’t happy and neither are their investors. Having only a small portion of the users control a majority of the content poses a problem. In fact, Digg has recently banned dozens of its most active users. Their goal was to find people abusing their system – specifically with scripts and programs. However, they ended up deleting many users that have testified to never using an automated system in their life. These once loyal and active Digg members have been punished for doing nothing wrong.

So as webmaster, marketers, and bloggers alike – how should we go about to tapping into Digg’s potential? We can use automated systems and risk having ourselves and our websites banned from Digg forever. Website giants such as DigitalPoint have been banned and despite their best efforts, are still banned. We could always hire the expert from TechCrunch, but $1200 is a steep investment to make with no promises made.

There is one more service we found: SocialElves. Social Elves has connections with many power Diggers and promises to get your submission popular. At a cost of only $300, it seems like the most practical solution. Any catches? Well, there are a few. Since they do not directly pay anyone to Digg or use any automated systems, they cannot make just any submission popular. In fact, they admit to refuse most submissions. So you must have an interesting and “diggable” story before coming to them. That means no “get rich fast” schemes guys! They do have a money back guarantee – giving you $1.50 for any Diggs under 200.

Digg is a great resource and definitely something that most webmasters should try to tap into. If you have the time and energy, you can become an active Digg user and try to push your own stuff. However, this can waste hundreds of hours and take months. Alternatively, you can try your luck with SocialElves or another service. In any case, make sure to let us know how you do!

Have you had experience with Digg, SocialElves, or anything else I mentioned above? Let me know! Comment below.

Geocities shutting down – another one bites the dust

Some of you might have already heard the news, but to me it’s still unbelievable. Frequent visitors of this blog might remember seeing a rewiew I did a few months ago about all the old free hosts and how most of them no longer exists. Geocities was actually one of the few that was still around – mostly because it was backed by Yahoo! and could absorb the millions of dollars of expenses they were accruing.

Well, even the might Yahoo! no longer wants anything to do with free web hosting. For those that were online in the 1990′s, you might recall that Yahoo! spent over $2.87 billion to buy geocities. That’s right folks, say that number outloud to yourselves. $2.87 BILLION dollars. Not to mention that $2.87B in 1999 dollars would equal well over $3 BILLION today. Ironically enough, the value of the entire Yahoo! corporation was down to as low as $12B earlier this year.

Geocities was one of the original web hosts, and was actually one of the few that was started before T35. I actually enjoyed competing with them over the years (as opposed to competing with Google and all the dirty tricks they use). Here’s the official and final word from the Geocities folks themselves:

Sorry, new GeoCities accounts are no longer available. After careful consideration, we have decided to close GeoCities later this year. We’ll share more details this summer.

Tripod Free Hosting Closes Down

An email I received from tripod this morning:

Dear User,
As announced on the 26th of November 2008 the portal and webhosting activities of the Lycos Europe GmbH will be discontinued. Unfortunately, the free hosting service Tripod is effected. For this reason we are hereby terminating your Tripod Account as of 15th February 2009. Until the 15th February you can use your Tripod account and your Homepage as usual. After this date we will close your account and delete all your content which was stored on Tripod in accordance with legal requirements. After this date it will be ímpossible to view your Homepage in the internet or to do a Backup using FTP from your page because the content will be unrecoverably deleted. That is why we advise you to to backup all necessary data in the near future from your Tripod Account on your hard drive and if wanted to upload it to another homepage provider. Please keep in mind that we do not offer any support for the free homepages neither by phone nor by email for upcoming questions. Because of this reason we created a short description how to backup your data. We regret having to take this step and we want to thank you for your confidence in the past. Currently, we are still working on finding a solution to provide you the service through another provider. If we should succeed in doing so, we will inform you within the next 4 weeks. But as this is currently doubtful, we would like to ask you to assume the end of the service. Despite the sad news we wish you and your family a successful 2009.
Best wishes,
Your Lycos Tripod Team

For those who read my “What happened to free web hosting?” post from last year, Tripod was one of the few that was actually still around and operating. I guess I spoke too soon though. Although I haven’t used my tripod account in half a decade, it’s still sad to see another iconic 90′s free web host close it’s doors.

*UPDATE* I am still trying confirm if this applies to all of tripod, or only the European operations (tripod.co.uk). If anyone knows, please feel free to chime in.

Microsoft IIS to overtake Apache?

Netcraft recently released their October statistics and the results are startling. Apache now has less then a 10% lead on Microsoft’s IIS — the smallest gap between the two since IIS was launched in 1996! From my personal experience, I was always under the impression that Apache was the dominant platform for serving content on the internet. Microsoft’s IIS similarly to it’s operating system, was always plagued by security and instability problems . It’s one thing to get a blue-screen on your personal computer, but imagine getting one on a server hosting millions of websites?

Never the less, Microsoft has apparently been able to not only reverse the market share loss, but attain a huge gain over the last few months. To me this seems to be the result the new Vista roll out and a greater focus on security. Poking around the new IIS I also noticed the integrated features and improved focus on web 2.0. In fact, it seemed extremly easy to setup a blog service and other social network applications with the new version.

A quick check on server statistics accross the ‘net confirmed my view: The majority of blog’s and web 2.0 sites now run IIS! Based on the way things are going, Microsoft’s IIS is set to become the dominant technology for serving content on the internet within 6-12months. Sounds far fetched? Check out the netcraft chart below:

Apache — 68,155,320 — 47.73%
Microsoft — 53,017,735 — 37.13%
Google — 7,763,516 — 5.44%
Sun — 2,262,019 — 1.58%
lighttpd — 1,541,779 — 1.08%

Is Fantastico for cPanel becoming obsolete?

I was setting up another server for T35 Hosting yesterday and noticed something new in cpanel’s WHM (the administrative side of cpanel). They now seem to have a pretty comprehensive list of one-click-install scripts that can be offered to customers.

For those not so familiar with Fantastico, that has pretty much been their business model since they started a few years back. In fact, Fantastico has been so popular that it’s now a standard feature on most cPanel web hosts. Now that cPanel itself is offering the same service, has fantastico become obsolete? Why pay an extra $10/month per server and deal with the setup hassles when cpanel seems to offer many of the same one-click-install scripts? Granted cpanel’s list of add-on scripts isn’t as comprehensive as fantastico’s, they do seem to offer many of the most popular and the most used ones.

I’m curious to see how Fantastico responds to this new challenge from cPanel — especially when cPanel controls the software and interface that Fantastico’s scripts are built for.

Unmetered and Unlimited Space and Bandwidth

While browsing a web hosting forum yesterday I noticed an interesting phenomenon. Unlimited and unmetered hosting is becoming a big taboo in the hosting world. In fact, most web hosting and webmaster forums have begun banning all posts about such plans.

First a little background, including the difference between unlimited and un-metered.

Unlimited space and bandwidth is something that has been around since the beginning of web hosting. A web host usually offers this as a way to attract customers, while at the same time hoping that nobody uses any significant amounts of space or bandwidth. Unfortunately, many hosts offered such a service with the intention of terminating accounts that used more than a few megabytes of space or bandwidth. Thus in the late 90’s there was a significant customer backlash to companies offering “unlimited plans”. As a result, many hosts started clarifying that they didn’t offer “unlimited plans” but instead were offering “un-metered” plans. The difference they claimed is that they just didn’t meter or keep tack of bandwidth usage on the servers.

The present day situation

Almost half a decade later, it now feels like we are experiencing a second coming of the unlimited/unmetered backlash. What’s interesting is there are companies, like T35 for example, that still offer unlimited plans without any intention of deleting accounts that use a lot of resources. In fact, many companies have found ways to offer these plans by placing restrictions on other features to keep everything balanced. At T35 Hosting for example, we limit file sizes to 512kb. That makes it hard for a customer to use tens of gigabytes of space for legitimate reasons (although we do have a few using over 10gb). Unfortunately, the hosts that have abused the unlimited/unmetered offerings seemed to have ruined it for everyone. We now find ourselves at a point where we can’t even advertise these kind of plans in some of the largest webmaster forums on the ‘net!

What now?

All of this reminds me of the automobile industry, where based on bad experiences in the 1980’s, Americans have come to associate hatchbacks with something very negative — making it very hard for any car company to successfully launch such a car. I wonder if the hosting industry has come to a point where we need to re-brand unlimited plans to something that would make them more marketable? Kind of like calling hatchbacks “sports wagons” (audi a3, etc..). What do you guys think? Are unlimited and un-metered plans still worth keeping around? Are the companies offering hundreads of gigabytes (or even Terabytes) of resources the new “unlimited” web hosts?

What happened to free web hosting?

With T35 Hosting celebrating our 10 year anniversary this year, I was digging through some old boxes to find something cool to put on the site. To my surprise, I found the original web hosting business plan! Thumbing through it brought me to the largest section: “The Competition.” Quickly skimming down the list, I was shocked to see so many old names… names that weren’t around anymore. Partially for the benefit of the readers and partially for nostalgic reasons I decided to come up with a list of the biggest free web hosts of the late 90s and take a quick look at where they are today.

FortuneCity
Late 90s
fortunecityold
Alex Ranking: ~ #200
Free Hosting? 100mb Today
fortunecitynew
Alex Ranking: #1,660
Free Hosting? No

FortuneCity, founded in 1997, was one of the first free web hosting providers. They also grew to become one of the largest, consistently ranking in the top 200 web properties in the world. These days they have completely dropped their free web hosting plan (which used to be the only service they offered). Their new site looks sleek, but the paid hosting plans (and prices) are nothing to write home about.

Geocities
Late 90s
geocitiesold
Alex Ranking: ~ #100
Free Hosting? 5mb Today
geocitiesnew
Alex Ranking: #70
Free Hosting? 15mb

Geocities is perhaps one of the most well known free hosts. So popular in fact, that it eventually got Yahoo’s attention and was purchased in early 2000. Re-branded as Yahoo! Geocities, it now caters towards paid business plans, although a 15mb free hosting plan is still offered.

Hypermart
Late 90s
hypermartold
Alex Ranking: ~ #150
Free Hosting? 75mb Today
hypermartnew
Alex Ranking: #18,931
Free Hosting? No

Although Hypermart was relatively late to the scene in 1999, it became a quick favorite by offering a whopping 75mb of space. Unfortunately it has since stopped providing its free web hosting plan. In a somewhat botched maneuver they attempted to force-convert their free members to paid accounts. Since the late 90s they have went from being in the top 150 web properties to barely making the top 20,000.

Xoom
Late 90s
xoomold
Alex Ranking: ~ #500
Free Hosting? 500mb Today
xoomnew
Alex Ranking: #26,384
Free Hosting? No

Xoom was also a fairly popular free web host that got a significant boost when it was purchased by NBC in 2000. Unfortunately the new management had very little experience in running a web host. The company soon failed and closed up shop. The domain itself was unused for years until recently when it was purchased by paypal-like company.

Crosswinds
Late 90s
crosswindsold
Alex Ranking: ~ #1000
Free Hosting? Unlimited Today
crosswindsnew
Alex Ranking: #161,001
Free Hosting? No

A medium-sized web host, Crosswinds eventually gave up on its free hosting offerings. Today it’s a regular paid hosting provider and its rankings have consequently dropped from 1,000 to not even cracking the top 100,000. There are rumors of the company bringing back its free hosting operation, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

T35 Hosting
Late 90s
t35old
Alex Ranking: ~ #2,000
Free Hosting? 35mb Today
t35new
Alex Ranking: #5,000
Free Hosting? Unlimited

Although T35 Hosting was never as big as Fortunecities and never had the financial backing of NBC-Xoom, it has surprisingly survived where most others have failed.

A quick look at this list shows a very pessimistic view of the once flourishing free hosting industry. Some of the biggest names in the industry have closed up shop and have repositioned themselves as paid hosting providers. Even companies with deep financial pockets (like NBC-Xoom) have folded under the pressure. What do you guys think? Is there one common link that caused the downfall of so many of these companies? Is this really the end of the free web hosting era? What does it take to survive as a free web host in the 21st century?