The E-commerce platform has evolved quickly. A technology that used to be the exclusive domain of the giant megastores is now within the reach of the average of small business. Anyone who can set up a site and buy a domain can set up a storefront and reach a worldwide audience using a great e-commerce platform.
MerchantTribe is one of the leading e-commerce plaforms out there. It is a sophisticated and full-featured open source eCommerce solution. Unlike most, it is ASP.NET-based.
There is also a hosted version that is available for $99 a month as well as the self-hosted free version. To get full customizability, we recommend that you go with the open source version and host it yourself. The MerchantTribe source is available at github; you can simply grab a copy, save it to your computer, and have at it!
What Makes MerchantTribe Different?
Besides being a free open-source ASP.NET e-commerce app, it has a big-data back end that powers a sophisticated analytics engine. The back end pools the data from all the contributing merchants (anonymously, of course!) and does all the (expensive) analytic work that’s needed to discover sales trends. It tells you what works and what doesn’t. As more and more stores use MerchantTribe, its intelligence becomes better and better. In exchange for contributing your data to the pool, MerchantTribe pays you back with sophisticated analytics for your business.
It’s like a mini-Amazon for your own store! In fact, Amazon invented modern big-data analytics (Google the term “hadoop” and read about it!). MerchantTribe makes this kind of technology available to the ordinary small business.
The Best 5
MerchantTribe is a full-featured e-commerce solution for merchants who need to be online
day and night. So we recommend some great cloud VPS hosts and some premium Shared hosts for those on a tighter budget!
- VPS.net: A world leader in cloud Windows VPS Hosting,
- Arvixe : Premium Windows ASP and VPS hosting,
- myHosting : One account gives you both Windows and Linux servers!
- Interserver : Excellent Windows VPS on a budget,
- Omnis Network : Great budget Windows Shared hosting and unmanaged VPS.
Read more about them after the break!
Of course, MerchantTribe requires Windows Server and ASP.net. And since it is a powerful database-driven e-commerce app, performance and security are also big concerns. Whenever credit card information is sent over the open internet, security jumps out as a huge issue. That’s part of the cost of doing business. This concern has to be factored into the selection of a good host. Plan on paying more than bargain-basement prices for hosting any e-commerce solution. Even if you can get by with a low-cost Shared hosting plan, you still need to make the site secure for credit card transactions.
For e-commerce, a critical requirement is that the host must establish an encrypted and secure tunnel in which payment information is exchanged.
The chief requirement for e-commerce is airtight security. You need to create an encrypted line of communication between the seller and the buyer. This prevents a so-called “man-in-the-middle” attack. A “man-in-the-middle” is a bad guy who is eavesdropping on the conversations between the buyers and the seller. This is very bad since a “man-in-the middle” can grab your customers’ credit card numbers and even impersonate you to them.
To block this, you need to obtain and install an SSL certificate. In practical terms, you need:
- A private SSL certificate, so that the buyers are able to verify that you are the legitimate merchant that you claim to be,
- A fixed IP address, a requirement for implementing a clean SSL connection that the buyers can verify in their browsers,
- Also, there’s a set of rules called PCI compliance (Payment Card Industry compliance). A host should be able to warrant that its servers are PCI compliant. This would mean that they’re solid from a security perspective.
The SSL certificate enables your customers to establish an encrypted and trusted connection using the https protocol (rather than the ordinary http protocol); https is the secure and encrypted version of http.
Typically, a Shared host that is robust enough for e-commerce comes with a fixed IP address, an SSL certificate, and the server is warranted for PCI compliance. If you want to use a Shared host then you should be careful that you are able to conduct encrypted transactions. Most Shared hosts are not designed with e-commerce in mind.
Another possibility is to purchase an SSL certificate separately and install it yourself. This may or may not be cheaper, depending on the type of deal that the hosting company offers for their business-oriented plans. We are recommending some low cost Shared hosting plans, so this may work for you!
Performance, Uptime, and Backups
Beyond that, it’s in your best interest to choose a fast and reliable host. Customers are turned off by slow and unresponsive sites. If your potential customers lose interest because your site loads too slowly, then you won’t be doing much business.
What can you do about all this? A few things:
- Choose a host with a datacenter close to your customers,
- Use a CDN (Content Delivery Network),
- Use a Cloud VPS or a deluxe shared host that does not overbook their servers.
- Use a provider that does automatic backups.
A first step is to check to see that the host has a datacenter relatively close to your customers. You usually can check to see where the host’s datacenters are. Also, the host should be a part of a content delivery network. A CDN makes your site available to a group of “relay” servers who can serve your content to your customers even if the main server goes down.
One thing you can do is join Cloudflare, a worldwide CDN that provides a number of important cloud-related services. It is a CDN that tries to keep your site up even if your server goes down. Its almost like joining an expensive Cloud VPS! Also, it provides some anti-spam and DDoS protection by crowdsourcing it.
Cloudflare is free and you can usually join it from your panel. If not, you can sign up at the Cloudflare site. Often, good hosting providers are part of their own CDN and their customers benefit from that service automatically. This is something to check.
For an active, high traffic site, you should consider a Cloud VPS instead of a Shared host. This is the safest way of avoiding performance and reliability problems.
Finally, you should take steps to ensure that your e-commerce site is fully backed up, with redundant copies. In addition to an automatic backup, it doesn’t hurt for you to maintain a local backup.
Here is our list of 5 best hosting services for MerchantTribe.
Winner. VPS.NET – From $27.50/month
While some prefer Rackspace or Amazon AWS, we prefer VPS.NET when it comes to cloud VPS hosting. They offer a line of elastic cloud VPS plans at affordable prices and backed by a network of 18 datacenters around the world. If your MerchantTribe site needs more horsepower than a Shared hosting solution can offer, then take a close look at VPS.net. They are the world’s VPS experts!
The extra care in providing only high performance services can be felt throughout your time with them. Since you can spin up their VPS servers in only 55 seconds, you can easily set up a cluster of servers for a high availability configuration. This is perfect for a high traffic e-commerce site. They also have an automatic scaling service called Elastic Cloud Hosting which essentially allows you to scale your system resources up and down.
This ability is often advertised as “auto-scaling”, “auto-healing”, “elastic service”, and so forth. Capacity expands to meet heavy demands and cloud servers can take over if your main server goes down. A cloud VPS provider is your best bet if you need to be online 24/7.
VPS.net claims 99.99% uptime, which ought to be realistic for a Cloud VPS host. The worldwide array of datacenters is important to any business who needs to conduct e-commerce around the clock.
VPS.net has an impressive network of datacenters all over the world. In combination with their cloud technology, it makes VPS.net a fantastic choice. Here is the complete list of their datacenters. You choose your server’s location when you sign up.
- Asia: Tokyo, Singapore, New Delhi
- Australia: Sydney
- UK: London, Manchester
- Europe:Amsterdam, Paris, Frankfurt
- South America:Sao Paulo
- Canada: Montreal
- US: Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, San Jose, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Washington, D. C.
VPS.net has a huge selection of plans; the unmanaged cloud VPS is is a great balance between cost and capability.
Unmanaged Cloud VPS Plans
Here are their plans in the $100/mo and below range:
1. Windows is a $7.50 option that is included in this table.
2. Full management is a $69/mo option.
The VPS.net plans are upgradable in units that they call “nodes”. You can add additional VPS nodes to scale up if you want. The additional system resources will be multiples of the basic node. You can scale up or down without any downtime.
VPS.net also has a strong line of managed VPS solutions, but an unmanaged cloud VPS is all you need to host an e-commerce app. Check out their managed plans if you wish.
2 – Arvixe – From $27/month
Arvixe is a great solution for people who love ASP.NET. Arvixe, unlike many companies, does not specialize in one platform. Their product line shows a balance between Windows and Linux, even though most of the internet runs Linux. Every type of plan can be ordered with either a Linux or Windows OS. Their plans really are parallel, except that the Windows versions cost extra to cover the Microsoft license.
Shared Hosting Plans
Arvixe offers two classes of plans for each platform: Personal Class is their entry-level category and Business Class is for e-commerce and more demanding applications. For MerchantTribe, you need Windows, so we’ll describe the Personal and Business ASP Class plans.
The Personal Class ASP plan is $5/mo while Personal Class ASP Pro is $8/mo. The former is restricted to six domains, while the latter supports an unlimited number of domains. Both give you unlimited storage and transfer. These are their bargain Shared hosting plans which may not have the power to serve an e-commerce site. If you want to try, you need to purchase an SSL certificate and a dedicated IP address.
Their Business Class ASP plan is $27/mo and $40/mo for Business Class ASP Pro. The cost differential between the Personal and Business plans is proportional to the number of accounts assigned to a server. You can expect much better responsiveness if you choose Business Class ASP. For MerchantTribe, we recommend Business Class Windows ASP hosting plans.
VPS Class Plans
The VPS Class and VPS Class ASP Pro are priced at $60/mo and $100/mo. Their prices reflect a $20 and $30 premium over the corresponding Linux plans but they give you slightly more resources. They are fully configured for secure e-commerce.
|VPS Class ASP||4||2GB||50GB||Unlimited||$60/mo|
|VPS Class Pro||8||4GB||100GB||Unlimited||$100/mo|
1. The server is Windows Server 2012.
2. These plans both include an SSL certificate for life.
3. Both plans are PCI Compliant.
4. Both plans provide root access.
5. The dedicated IP address is $2/mo.
6. SSD storage is $10/mo.
7. 1GB RAM is $20/mo.
3. myHosting – From $9.95/month
MyHosting is a Cloud VPS hosting company that specializes in Windows hosting. It is a subsidiary of Ingram Micro. Established in 1997 in Canada, the company is currently serving over 50,000 customers from 180 countries. It is also a sister company to Mail2Web, a well-known email service provider for businesses. Their Cloud VPS plan has a 100% uptime guarantee that is backed by their SLA! A true cloud VPS service can do this because it is based on redundant hardware with automatic failover. If you need to keep your store online 24/7, a Cloud with redundant hardware and automatic failover is the way to go.
MyHosting offers a diverse range of hosting services, from shared hosting, reseller, and VPS. They specialize in shared business hosting and their personal shared hosting plan starts from just $4.95 a month. The plan comes with unlimited storage and bandwidth plus a free domain if you go with yearly billing plan.
Shared Hosting Plans
Our interest here is in their Business hosting plan since we need ASP.NET to use MerchantTribe. myHosting’s Business plan costs only $9.95 a month. It offers “unlimited” disk space and bandwidth, and supports an unlimited number of domains.
The Business Plan runs MerchantTribe on Microsoft Internet Server IIS, but it is also bundled with a standard Linux hosting account! That is, you also get a parallel Linux account that runs a standard LAMP stack. This improves the quality of your life, since lots of other apps are open-source Linux apps. You no longer need to maintain a second account in order to access them. It is the best of both worlds.
VPS Hosting Plans
If the Business shared hosting plan does not meet your needs, you can check out their line of Windows VPS plans. They run Windows Server 2008 R2 or Windows Server 2012, Microsoft SQL Server 2008, and uses the Plesk panel. These are very reasonable prices for a Windows server with a panel.
As of this writing, they have a sale that prices the Custom and Developer plans identically. Go figure!
4. InterServer – Managed VPS – From $8/month
VPS.NET is all about scalability and amazing system resources, but it also comes with a proper price tag. Maybe you don’t need that level of scalability, and maybe you just want a VPS at an affordable price tag. If that sounds like you, InterServer will please you.
Interserver has been in the hosting industry for 14 years and has seen a lot of ups and downs within the industry. And they have pretty good VPS server plans along with other services like shared hosting, dedicated servers and cloud hosting. They have datacenters in Los Angeles and Secaucus, NJ. European and Asian datacenters are planned but not yet online.
Usually VPS plans cost more than shared hosting plans and managed VPS costs even more. Its because you get more computer resources with VPS and a managed service gives the staff more work.
InterServer’s prices are unusually low. The company set out to provide affordable VPS solutions and you can easily get a VPS at just $6 a month. Interestingly, they do not offer a money back guarantee or a trial period. A huge plus for .Net customers is that their prices for Windows hosting is the same as for Linux!
Managed Cloud VPS Plans
Interserver uses the arbitrary unit of the “slice” to price their plans. Each slice is 25GB storage, 1GB memory, and 1TB bandwidth. Each slice is only $6/mo for a VPS technology based on OpenVZ. It’s $8/slice for VPS technology based on KVM. Both prices are shown in the table but we recommend KVM. Even so, these are great prices for a generous amount of computer resources.
|1||1024MB||25GB||1TB||$6 – $8/mo|
|2||2048MB||50GB||2TB||$12 – $16/mo|
|3||3072MB||75GB||3TB||$18 – $24/mo|
|4||4096MB||100GB||4TB||$24 – $32/mo|
|5||5120MB||125GB||5TB||$32 – $40/mo|
1. There is a 10% discount for an annual payment.
2. This is for Windows Server 2008 R2.
3. Root access is included.
4. Backups are provided.
5. No panels are available for Windows, only Linux!
6. 1-4 slices use 1 core and 5-8 slices use 2 cores.
This great price doesn’t include some features that Shared hosting customers are used to having. For this price and amount of resources, there’s no panel and no installer. Neither are needed to support MerchantTribe, though. Still, their prices are great.
5. Omnis Network – From $7.95/month
Omnis Network, LLC was founded in 1999 with the simple goal of providing affordable, enterprise class web services. Omnis Network owns and operates its own data center in Tempe, Arizona.
Initially, Omnis Network provided web hosting and domain registration services. They have since expanded to offer a full array of web services to both individual and professional clients. This includes Shared, VPS, and Dedicated servers. They even offer colocation services. They offer the industry standard 30 day money back guarantee and advertise 99.9% uptime.
What’s of interest to us is that they have very affordably priced Windows Shared hosting service. Their Windows Cloud Shared hosting plan offers unlimited storage and bandwidth and costs only $7.95/mo.
Maybe you just want a simple and cheap Windows hosting server for your next MerchantTribe powered site. Then you should consider going with Omnis Network. The company is well known for for their Shared cloud hosting (which is similar to shared hosting in features, and in fact, it is just shared hosting with a different name and perhaps a bit more robust underlying technology), Omnis Network is pretty affordable for everyone.
You can get both Linux and Windows hosting at Omnis. But it’s not like myHosting though, since you are not going to get both platforms on one account. Instead, you will need two plans to get both platforms.
Omnis uses their own version of a control panel, simply called Account Manager, so you can’t really hope to get the Plesk level of advanced configuration to control your account. It’s just enough for smaller sites.
The Windows Cloud Hosting plan is only $7.95 a month. It comes with unlimited bandwidth and storage, and you will get one free domain name if you sign up for a year or more. That is good enough to run a small MerchantTribe site, but not really for bigger sites.
Windows VPS Plans
Omnis’s VPS plans give you root access. You have your choice of Windows Server 2008 or Windows Server 2012 operating systems. It is an unmanaged solution.
The highest tier plan, Premium, should give you enough resources to run a moderate size store, but we think that specialists in VPS offer better deals for the money. Their low cost Windows Shared solution is a winner for small e-commerce stores.
MerchantTribe is a powerful e-commerce solution that has its own social analytics engine. This powerhouse merits good web hosting. We’ve suggested some great cloud VPS hosts that will keep your site online 24/7. If you want to evaluate other options, then head on to our hosting services comparison tool and compare the plans in our database.