Around the world, online shopping has changed the way customers make their purchases. The boom in online shopping has made eCommerce sites immensely lucrative, whether as an independent business or in support of an offline brand. Currently, there are an estimated 2.14 billion online buyers around the world, and with global shipping, distance is no longer a barrier to reach target customers. By 2040, NASDAQ predicts that over 90% of retail purchases will likely be made online, and so it is never too soon to launch your own eCommerce site.
Launching an online eCommerce site has become easier than ever, with several eCommerce platforms available. As the competition amidst eCommerce providers rises, the race to provide the best features intensifies. First released in 2008, Magento is one of the leading eCommerce platforms available, and currently powers more than 250,000 online stores globally. A key concern for merchants is the ease of operation of the eCommerce site, and that includes hosting. Adequate hosting is vital to power a good quality eCommerce site, and with Magento Commerce Cloud, you get hosting services built-in.
Magento has built its reputation over the years by continuously evolving and improving its offering for eCommerce platforms. An ace in its repertoire is the Magento Commerce Cloud solution, hosted on their AWS (Amazon Web Services) stack. Magento Commerce Cloud was first released in 2016, previously known as the Magento Enterprise Edition. Understanding all about Magento Commerce Cloud can help you in deciding if this is the right solution for you.
What is Magento Commerce Cloud?
Magento is an eCommerce platform, open-source and written in PHP with two main editions; Magento Open Source and Magento Commerce. It caters to small, mid-market and enterprise level businesses, enabling full scalability and supporting business growth. While Magento Open Source is available for free for download, Magento Commerce is a paid solution. The basic functionality remains the same, however, Magento Commerce has more advanced features than Open Source. It is easier to scale up Magento Commerce, and is designed for growing businesses, while Open Source is more suited for beginners.
For Magento Open Source, independent hosting is required as it is not provided. Magento Commerce has both options available, with an on-premise version with independent hosting or with cloud hosting provided, known as Magento Commerce Cloud. In terms of features, there is a significant difference in capabilities between Magento Open Source and Magento Commerce. There is greater support for customisation, plug-ins, extensions, and exclusive features with Magento Commerce. In general, you can get the best eCommerce site with the help of qualified developers that have technical knowledge of the open-source code.
Between Magento Commerce and Magento Commerce Cloud, the distinguishing difference is that hosting is provided by Magento itself, unlike Open Source or Magento Commerce where you need to find separate hosting. Although this may seem like a minor difference, its impact on operations is significant. With a hosted solution, you can save on added costs of independent hosting and resources to manage it. The Magento Commerce Cloud easily deploys your sites internationally, has excellent up-time, fast loading pages, full PCI compliance and performance monitoring.
Based on the size of the business, there are two different Magento Commerce Cloud plans available, the Starter Plan and the Pro Plan, and both offer hosting and support the eCommerce site architecture. With each plan, there is integration environment available for developing, testing, and integrating services. Amazon Web Services (AWS) powers the Magento Commerce Cloud underlying infrastructure for the Starter Plan. If you opt for the Pro Plan, you can choose between AWS or Microsoft Azure for infrastructure support.
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
Magento Commerce Cloud is available as Platform as a Service (PaaS), enabling advanced programming in a simpler manner for a complex eCommerce site that is easy to operate. The first PaaS was developed in 2005, and over the years the technology has significantly advanced. PaaS involves complete development and deployment entirely on the cloud, supporting resources that can be used to create sophisticated cloud-based enterprise level applications. The resources are purchased from cloud service providers and accessed online on a pay-as-you-go basis.
Similar to Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), PaaS includes storage, servers and networking with the addition of development tools, middleware, database management systems, business intelligence services, and more. PaaS is designed to facilitate the complete life cycle of website applications from building, testing, and deploying to managing and updating. With PaaS, you can avoid purchasing expensive software licences, infrastructure, middleware, container orchestrators and development tools. All you need to do is directly manage the final applications and services while the cloud service provider handles everything else.
Data stored on PaaS can be fully analysed and minded for business intelligence purposes, to identify patterns and gain insights for better forecasting. This support for business intelligence is immensely useful for eCommerce platforms. It can also be used to develop multiple platforms, so you can use the same PaaS for mobile devices and desktops. Coding time is reduced making it faster to bring about new changes in your final platform, and additional capabilities can be added as needed. Since everything is accessed online, development can take place from different locations, giving you a greater number of developers to choose from.
In eCommerce, a PaaS provides you with the platform where you can setup your eCommerce site. There is full flexibility to edit the source code and develop your own custom applications, while easily uploading content and managing databases. However, you do not need to administer the system software or the operating system itself, and are separate from the administration of the server. A PaaS eCommerce platform is beneficial if you want to have a fully customised and custom developed website, and want to install additional apps and software. It is also useful if you want to have access to the coding used in your eCommerce website for future changes or expansion.
Magento Commerce Cloud Starter Vs Pro Plan
The earlier Magento cloud hosted eCommerce platform was targeted towards larger businesses, however, Magento Commerce Cloud can be used for eCommerce sites of all sizes. The Magento Commerce platform is available on a paid subscription basis, with the exact cost of the plan depending upon your business size and needs. The Magento Commerce Cloud Starter Plan is designed for smaller businesses while Magento Commerce Cloud Pro Plan is geared towards larger businesses. All the core Magento 2 features are included with the Starter and Pro plans, along with Magento Business Intelligence tools and dashboard.
There is unique architecture for each of the plans, so as to cater to the development and deployment needs of the size of business involved. Nevertheless, the architecture for both the Starter and Pro Plan supports databases, web servers, and caching servers for end-to-end testing across multiple environments while also enabling continuous integration. Full 24×7 monitoring and email support is provided with both the plans for the cloud infrastructure as well as the core application.
- Magento Commerce Cloud Starter Plan
The Magento Commerce Cloud Starter Plan is targeted towards small B2C merchants that have a small budget and want flexibility, and are expecting to grow to double their size. It supports online sales of up to USD $10 million with around 50,000 SKUs and a service availability of 99.9%. There are full eCommerce and Business Intelligence features with manual backups and data retention. B2B capabilities can be added on for an extra fee.
The starter plan comes with continuous cloud integration tools for unlimited users, image optimization, Fastly Content Delivery Network (CDN), and extra security. There are a total of 4 active environments optimised for Magento Commerce through the PaaS plan. These include for production, staging and development, with an additional inactive environment supporting an unlimited number of branches. The Web Application Firewall service is only available on the production environments.
There is a streamlined upgrade process to move from the Magento Commerce Starter Plan to the Pro Plan. Accordingly, even if you start with the Starter Plan you can upgrade when required.
It is rumoured that Adobe might discontinue this plan soon and all customers will be moved to the Pro plan.
- Magento Commerce Cloud Pro Plan
The Magento Commerce Cloud Pro Plan is designed for established B2C merchants expecting to grow more than twice their current size. It also supports B2B capabilities, making it ideal for those interested in B2B or hybrid solution. It supports sophisticated integrations and frequently surging or spiky website traffic. With the Pro Plan you can have 4 million effective SKUs, and get the full eCommerce and business intelligence features combined with dedicated servers. Backups and data retention is automated for up to 2 weeks, giving you greater security, and service availability is 99.99%.
The Pro Plan comes with the same continuous cloud integration tools, Fastly Content Delivery Network (CDN), image optimisation, added security and Web Application Firewall (WAF) service as the Starter Plan. In addition, IaaS provides dedicated virtual infrastructure for production and staging environments. High availability architecture using a three-server IaaS setup combined with dedicated and isolated hardware gives enterprise level reliability and availability.
Architecture of the Pro Plan is a global master with three environments, with an inactive environment built into the integration. While most of the features remain the same as the Starter Plan, the robust capabilities of the Pro Plan are better suited for larger volumes of traffic and sales.
Top Features of Magento Commerce
The eCommerce features supported by Magento Commerce Cloud are primarily the same as offered with Magento Commerce. However, cloud hosting makes a major difference, especially in day-to-day operations and in the launch of an eCommerce site. A vast percentage of new Magento users are preferring to use Magento Commerce Cloud rather than deploying their sites on third-party hosting services. Magento Commerce Cloud is unique in its support of rapid and continuous development of a customisable environment that is highly scalable and has enhanced security. Here are some of the top features:
- Layouts and Themes: Utilise responsive blank and reference themes to create custom layouts and themes with variations for brands, countries and campaigns. The responsive themes easily adapt to fit laptop, desktop, tablet and mobile device screens.
- Page Builder: Easily create new and attractive pages with flexible layouts of images, text, sliders, videos and more without needing developers, by using the drag and drop interface. Preview each change and page before scheduling a launch time for a seamless update.
- SEO: Magento Commerce-based eCommerce sites have good support for search engine optimisation (SEO), and offer fully customisable URLs. Google sitemaps are automatically generated and you can enable detailed search results by editing product page data.
- Site Management: Regardless of the size of the eCommerce business or number of products, site management is simple. Multiple websites and stores can be managed from a single Admin panel, and all Admin activities of users are logged.
- Inventory Management: Benefit from a unified inventory management system for multiple locations and sales channels. Notifications can be setup in advance for when stocks run low, and personalised out of stock messages for customers.
- Catalogue Management: Customise the design of category and product pages with drag-and-drop merchandising, automated sorting and unlimited attributes. Offer downloadable, digital and virtual products with samples, and bundle products as desired.
- Product Browsing: Give customers the best look at your product with multiple images, swatches, and zoom-in capabilities. Display recommended and related products to increase average order value, and offer option to create wish list.
- Checkouts: Enable fast and easy checkouts to reduce abandoned carts with guest and registered user checkout options. Show mini cart on store pages to summarise the current order and indicate tax and shipping estimates.
- Payments: To encourage customers to purchase, support multiple leading payment methods and gateways including credit cards, debit cards, purchase orders, PayPal, bank transfers, cash on delivery, money orders and cheques. Magento provides full security so customers can safely share payment details.
- Order Management: Create, view and edit orders and invoices directly from the Admin panel and print custom invoices, shipping labels and packaging slips for order fulfillment. Facilitate split fulfillment using multiple invoices and credit memos.
- Loyalty Programmes: Provide customers with loyalty programmes by offering reward points for purchases, registration, reviews and other actions, and ways to redeem the points, such as discounts. Create exclusive offers and private sales for loyal customers.
- Customer Segmentation: Better understand your customers and offer personalised recommendations and deals by segmenting them based on factors such as location, order history, wish list, lifetime purchase value. New visitors can also be segmented based on products viewed or in their cart.
- Promotions: An effective way to encourage customers to shop is to offer promotions. Create specialised promotional campaigns, discounts, deals and new prices, and also track the performance of the promotions.
- Sales Channels and Advertising: Expand your reach by selling on Amazon and automatically sync your eCommerce site to easier manage catalogues, orders and inventory.
- PWA Studio: The Magento PWA Studio provides access to progressive web applications that can be used to create engaging and fast mobile experiences. Designed for mobile interfaces, the PWAs decrease time to market while providing rich visuals tailored for smaller screens.
- B2B Functionality: As the popularity of online shopping grows, it has become an excellent avenue for B2B sales. Magento offers dedicated features for B2B sites with support for company accounts, approval workflows, custom quotes, purchase orders and more.
- Global Audience: Go global with your eCommerce site and cater to a larger audience with multiple country sites, currency support and languages, all managed from a single admin panel. Support global shipping by integrating with international carriers.
- Advanced Reporting: With the powerful Magento Business Intelligence capabilities, you can get a complete view of your business and its performance with versatile reports and data analyses. Setup automated reports as required and build and manage reports from a single dashboard.
- Customer Service: Magento helps you offer your customers the best service through live chat and Contact Us forms, and support for returns. View the customer screen to solve any problem directly and edit customer orders and accounts as needed.
Features of Magento Commerce Cloud
Apart from the rich feature set of Magento Commerce that is supported by Magento Commerce Cloud, there are a wide number of distinct features offered as well. The dedicated features of Magento Commerce Cloud are designed to make the cloud-based platform easy to use, design, deploy and maintain. The goal is to create an eCommerce site that grows along with you, and supports the growth of your brand without adding extra work on your team. By using Magento for hosting, you don’t have to worry about finding and managing a separate hosting setup. Here are some of the top specialised features of Magento Commerce Cloud:
- Ece-Tools Package
Magento Commerce Cloud comes with a dedicated ece-tools package that enables you to create an eCommerce site that is fully mature and scalable. The ece-tools package consists of a set of tools, scripts and commands that are used to simplify processes such as project verification, management, and docker deploy environments. It is a scalable deployment tool that helps in simplifying the cloud upgrade process. They enable merchants to automatically deploy eCommerce projects and can be used to manage database backups, verify environment configuration and apply custom patches.
With the ece-tools package, the growth of your eCommerce site can be tailor-made to suit your preferences. The ece-patches are compatible with all Magento versions, and make it easier to upgrade and expand. New Magento updates are released frequently and the ece-tools help rapid deployment of new updates so that you can reap their benefits and boost security.
- Support for Quick Deployments
Quick deployments are always desirable, whether it is for the initial launch of a new eCommerce site, a new section or features, or simply a maintenance update. All environments on Magento Commerce Cloud are unified into a single Git tree, making the process of code merging and deployment simpler and faster. Configurations are readily available for speedy building and deployment, including for global sites. This means an easier process for developers and faster results for you. A quick launch, without compromising on desired features is a great way to enter the eCommerce market.
During site maintenance, a website will often go into Maintenance mode, hampering its productivity. This can specially be troublesome if maintenance is required during a high sales period. Despite the disturbances, many times maintenance cannot be avoided, but its duration can certainly be reduced with Magento Commerce Cloud. The duration of maintenance time is impacted by the size of the updates, required changes, and also by the amount of static content. Magento Commerce Cloud offers two options to deal with Static Content Deployment that helps reduce the maintenance window significantly.
- Enhanced Security
Security is of the utmost importance when it comes to online shopping, and all of your data and your customers data need to be secure. Magento Commerce Cloud uses a shared responsibility security model, bifurcating the security areas to compartmentalise and support the utmost safety, while offering merchants complete personalisation and flexibility.
Magento implements Fastly’s Web Application Firewall (WAF) to prevent malicious traffic from entering the overall network and your site. There is also protection built-in against common attacks and malware, to keep your eCommerce site safe. During the Fastly setup process, Magento completes the domain validation of your eCommerce site and provisions the SSL/TLS Certificates. To keep up your eCommerce site’s security and maintain PCI compliance, Magento Commerce Cloud accepts inbound connections only from visitors using accepted versions of SSL and TLS.
- Support for High Quality Images
The power of strong, good quality images is undeniable when it comes to online shopping, and they play a big role in encouraging customers to browse and purchase. Unfortunately, rich images are often a big part of the reason behind performance slowdowns on eCommerce sites, as they can take time to load. Magento Commerce Cloud enables you to use high quality images without sacrificing site performance, through the Fastly Image Optimisation (IO).
The IO is built on the Fastly CDN, and transforms and optimises the images closer to the users without affecting the origin server and the site performance. The image processing takes place on the Fastly service, thereby freeing the cloud servers to maintain core eCommerce operations. The Fastly IO has been found to reduce image weight by 60-90% without damaging the quality. This gives you the full flexibility to experiment with striking high-resolution images and to leverage them for conversion. Multiple images can also be added for a greater customer impact.
Why should you choose Magento Commerce Cloud?
An eCommerce site can prove to be a valuable asset as the demand for online shopping continues to grow. There are numerous eCommerce platforms available, but choosing the right platform is important for easy management and greater success. Although it is possible to migrate an eCommerce site from one platform to another, it is an expensive and time-consuming process and can also require rebranding.
Magento is one of the leading eCommerce platform providers currently in the market, and its Magento Commerce Cloud edition is a top choice amongst merchants. There are a wide range of benefits of Magento Commerce Cloud as it combines the powerful eCommerce features of Magento Commerce with robust cloud hosting. By accessing cloud hosting services as a part of the eCommerce platform, merchants can save time, effort and worry in finding a reliable hosting partner. Here are the top advantages of Magento Commerce Cloud, and why you should choose it:
The first and foremost benefit of Magento Commerce Cloud is the convenience it offers. Hosting is very important in eCommerce and influences the day-to-day performance of your site, speed, and availability. Poor hosting can result in slow site speeds and frequent downtime, all negatively affecting brand image and business success. When you opt for independent hosting, it adds on to your costs and takes resources and even then, still cause unexplained downtime.
Magento Commerce Cloud is hosted on the cloud and with the AWS cloud-based architecture, there are a dedicated team of developers that are supporting the servers. As a result, you can focus on your eCommerce business without worry about hosting, server status, website speed, or downtime. There is no need for additional costs, or resources or staff. An eCommerce site is prone to traffic spikes and Magento Cloud hosting is fully prepared to support any changes in traffic.
- Fast Development
There is already a significant amount of competition amongst eCommerce sites, and as the number of online shoppers increase, there will be more eCommerce sites as well. Time is of the essence, and being able to quickly launch a new eCommerce site, pages, campaigns or features is valuable. With Magento Commerce Cloud, you have full flexibility to customise the appearance, layout, theme, features and style to match your vision. Merchants get unlimited access and control over their eCommerce sites, with full source code access.
Even with all the customisations, Magento Commerce Cloud still supports a fast time to market. The cloud support and development tools enable you and your team to quickly develop and deploy new changes to your site. Fast development enables you to take more risks and experiment with your eCommerce site, since any step can be disabled if needed. Everything can be carefully previewed, checked and scheduled so only the best developments are made live for your customers.
For any eCommerce site, having fast performance is vital as customers are highly likely to leave a website or abandon cart if they face performance issues. The performance of an eCommerce site is heavily dependent on the hosting. With the AWS robust cloud infrastructure provided with Magento Commerce Cloud, you get support for fast and efficient sites. The 99.9% availability of the Magento Commerce Cloud servers ensure that your business is safe from unexpected downtime or network crashes.
Magento has also optimised features such as ElasticSearch, REDIS Cache and MySQL buffers, to further enhance the performance of Magento Commerce Cloud sites. The Fastly Image Optimisation technology further increases page loading speeds without compromising on image quality. An adequate amount of available memory is always ready so that there is no issue in operations. Performance is monitored remotely so you save on expenses for in house team and resources for server management.
Before choosing any eCommerce platform it is necessary to consider its scalability and your future growth plans. This can be in the form of expanding the product catalogue, offering more categories, entering new niches, catering to different countries or any type of growth desired. For online expansions, the eCommerce platform should have adequate capabilities as should your hosting service. Scaling up your offerings will likely result in more customers and sales, and the hosting needs to be able to handle the extra traffic without interruptions or downtime.
Magento Commerce in itself is immensely scalable and with Magento Commerce Cloud you also do not have to worry about hosting capacity. It is capable of managing enterprise level website traffic and can support scalability with multiple master servers, order archiving, scalable backend product management and more. With Magento Commerce, you can launch dedicated sites for global customers with different languages and currencies while the cloud supports international availability of the site. As it is easily customisable, you can setup third-party extensions and build your own custom extensions to suit growing needs.
An eCommerce site has an abundance of data and also has financial transactions with customers. Adequate security for all these details, especially customer data, is vital. There are threats from hacking, viruses, malware, malicious attacks and more that risk an eCommerce site. The hosting servers store data and have a great impact on the overall security of your eCommerce site. A single breach can be disastrous for your business and brand image.
The Magento platform is highly secure and with Magento Commerce Cloud you get fully secure hosting without having to worry about the responsibility of managing the hosting security. Magento takes multiple security measures and the Web Application Firewall protects your online store from malware. With a shared responsibility security model, the safety of your site is compartmentalised increasing the overall security. Magento regularly releases updates and security patches to make sure that you are fully protected against even the latest types of attacks.
- Total Cost of Ownership
An eCommerce site has immense potential for profit, but as with any business, the expenses also need to be considered. Although Magento Commerce Cloud is relatively expensive, especially when compared with the free Magento Open Source, the benefits are substantial. Magento commerce cloud creates robust ecommerce sites with more advanced features than open source and easier management than Magento Commerce. As you save on separate costs for hosting, you end up with a lower total cost of ownership for Magento Commerce Cloud.
The advanced functionalities, customisation capabilities, scalability and security of Magento Commerce Cloud help you create a profitable eCommerce store. The development costs are reduced as are hosting and maintenance costs. Keep in mind, to develop the best possible eCommerce site, it is advisable to take the help of certified developers. Magento certified developers have the experience and expertise to create your ideal eCommerce site and setup. Once the initial development is complete, you can easily manage and operate the eCommerce site without specialised technical knowledge. Initial investments for certified developers will lead to better results and a greater ROI for your eCommerce site.
Magento Commerce Cloud combines the best of Magento features and capabilities with robust cloud hosting support in the form of a Platform as a Service. As a result, you get an eCommerce site that is easy to manage, powerful, secure, scalable and fully customised. Whether you currently have an eCommerce site and want to upgrade by migrating, or are planning to launch a new eCommerce business, Magento Commerce Cloud is a great option.
With Magento Commerce Cloud, you can capitalise on all the leading features of the core Magento Commerce offerings, including multiple storefronts and unlimited control. The Magento cloud hosting uses Amazon Web Service cloud-based architecture, combined with advanced security. There is no need to look for additional hosting or spend time and money in managing it.
To beat the ever-growing competition amongst eCommerce sites, it is imperative to have a well-designed and developed eCommerce site. When it comes to developing an eCommerce site, having the right developers can make or break your project and its big launch. As a certified Magento solution partner, we at 18th Digitech have an experienced team of Magento Certified Developers that can create an ideal eCommerce site for your business. Contact us today to discuss your eCommerce needs.
Note that the information included above is correct at the time of writing this article.