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We receive quite a bit of ecommerce inquiries from clients who are trying to compare different Ecommerce products and they have been influenced by articles that are majorly promoting Magento Ecommere.
In my opinion, you hear a lot of hype about Magento from writers who try to get some Search Engine traffic from their articles. They tend to copy each other’s articles for the sake of SEO rather than providing valuable information. What most of these writers don’t tell you is that although the Magento Community is free and Magento Enterprise is supposed to be an Enterprise level application, the customizations, support, and dealing with security, extensions and performance of this product can be costly and a lot of headache.
This article and information on Magento Ecommerce is my opinion and it is based on my experience in dealing with different Magento projects.
- Magento Enterprise (between $15K to $200K p/year) vs Community (free) and Security
Community version does not provide support for PCI Compliance or quick security fixes. When there are security vulnerabilities, you may have to wait weeks or even months to receive the security updates.
Here is an example of a security issue: "Bug in Magento puts hundreds of thousands of sites at risk of takeover”: http://arstechnica.com/security/2016/01/bug-in-magento-puts-millions-of-e-commerce-merchants-at-risk-of-takeover/
When a situation like the above arises, you will need to quickly find an expert Magento developer and pay a premium / rush rate to fix the issue. Hiring an expert Magento programmer on a rush basis is not going to be cheap. The rate can range from $150 - $300 p/hour.
Another issue is that once you upgrade, there is a chance that the upgrade may break some of the Magento extensions. In many cases the developer behind the Magento extension may not be able to quickly fix the issue and you have to wait weeks / months for the fix or you may need to hire a third party Magento developer to fix the issue. Once you change an extension using a third party developer rather than the developer of the extension, then you will not be able to upgrade the extension because you will loose all of the changes that were made to that extension by the third party developer.
So, in short, dealing with Magento security issues and third party extensions are usually a headache.
Magento Bugs / Extension Bugs that can take weeks / months to have a fix
Magento is not a bug free application. Below is the link to Magento's GitHub page. Some of the issues are not addressed for weeks or months.
The same goes with Magento extensions; in many cases, there are existing bugs with Magento extensions, and it will take weeks / months for the developers those extensions to address those issues. If you need those bugs to be fixed immediately, you will have to pay premium / rush rates to fix the bug quickly.
- Finding qualified / reliable support and maintenance for Magento is going to be expensive or you will have to deal with lots of headaches (the old saying applies here: “you get what you pay for")
Magento application is comprised of over 5.5 million lines of code, so to customize a basic Ecommerce function, you would need to find a developer who has years of experience in working with Magento, but even if you find such a programmer, customizing an Ecommerce function in Magento can be overwhelming and time consuming. For example, making an Ecommerce customization to show product categories instead of featured products on the home page can take on an average, ten times more hours than other well-written, simple Ecommerce applications.
So, not only you will be paying a premium rate for an expert programmer familiar with Magento, you will also be paying 10+ times for the number of hours that it would take to customize an Ecommerce function.
You also need to consider that there is a lot of demand for qualified Magento developers, so it would not be easy to find one because they are usually all hired and busy working for established companies and receiving high salaries. So, you w ould need to have deep pockets and be ready to pay for premium hourly rates if you want to receive quality development and reliable support.
- Magento’s Admin is not user friendly and confusing
Magento’s admin is not user friendly. There is a steep learning curve in learning and using Magento’s admin correctly. There are just too many tabs and sub-tabs with too many confusing configuration options. It is not easy to remember which admin tab controls which configurations. Some of the labels for configuration options are not clear and confusing.
If you really don’t need to use all of the unneeded functions, you still have to deal with them and know how to bypass them.
This can add another substantial monthly maintenance cost to your project, if you’re going to hire someone to manage your Magento store, he/she needs to have gone through Magento’s training and have some experience in using Magento’s admin, and those types of specialists will require higher salaries.
There are a lot of Ecommerce applications out there that have all of the features that you would need for your project, which have a simple admin.
- The hype about Magento and large community support
There is a not well thought out hype, that Magento is supported by a large community and you will always find a developer to work on your ecommerce application.
This is an unfounded argument; half of Magento’s customizations rely on extensions and themes that you purchase and those are developed by small businesses or a single developer (most of the time located outside the US).
So, if the developer for your extension decides to discontinue supporting his/her extension, you will need to start over, looking for a new developer or a new extension.
- Magento is a bloated, slow application
Magento is written on Zend PHP Framework which is one of the slowest Frameworks and to make things worse, Magento is comprised of over 5.5+ million lines of code where an average well-written Web Application has about 50K lines of code. So, the application runs really slow.
If you’re going to be using the community version of Magento, you will need to be aware that the application will be sluggish right out of the box, unless you can hire an expert that can make a few configuration changes and add extensions that help speed up Magento to a minimum acceptable speed.
But even with the configuration changes that are supposed to speed up Magento’s application, the application is going to still use a lot of server resources, so you will need a dedicated server with multiple CPU power and a lot of RAM so the application can at least meet the minimum acceptable speed requirements by today’s site speed standards.
- Magento’s monthly hosting cost is expensive
Managing a Magento server will require a hosting company that is specialized in hosting Magento and that can be costly. There are a lot of hardware resources required for hosting a Magento application. And there needs to be custom configurations done to the server software and the Magento application to provide the optimum performance for the application.
The hosting company needs to have the ability to provide a reliable hosting environment, deploy servers that are reliable and provide sufficient CPU and RAM resources, provide backups, provide managed security services and deal with the issues that can affect the security, reliability and performance of the Magento application such as dealing with security vulnerabilities, spammers, hackers and unwanted spiders, bots and crawlers.
Hosting companies that are specialized in hosting Magento such as Rackspace charge anywhere from $650 to $2000+ for hosting Magento Ecommerce applications.
- Extension Problems
It is nearly impossible to think that you can install Magento without needing to install Magneto extensions. You would need extensions for necessary improvements such as caching, extension for custom shipping calculations, extension for integration with a CRM, etc.. It sounds great on the surface that those extensions are cost effective, but many of Magento’s extensions have bugs and very little support from the developer of the extension. You may need to wait for weeks / months for the developer to fix a bug that affects the Magento application.
If you decide to hire a third party developer to fix the extension’s bug because you cannot go live because of the bug, it would be costly to fix the bug by the third party developer because he/she is more likely not familiar with the extension code. And once the extension has an upgrade, you cannot upgrade because all of the work that your third party developer did would be overwritten by the upgrade.
- Theme Problems
You would more likely need a theme for your Magento. Magento themes are not perfect; there will be responsive issues and you would need to hire a front-end developer to customize the theme’s color and possibly structure. This will be costly and you more likely won’t be able accomplish all of your design wishes.
- Magento’s Future
Ebay bought Magento for $2.4 billion in 2012 and sold it in July 2015 for $925 million - 61% loss.
At one point Magento was used by major retailers because of the Magento hype. However, most of the large retailers are now using different Ecommerce systems.
In my opinion, if Ebay knew that Magento was going to have a successful future, why did they sell that product at 61% loss?
There are a lot of other Ecommerce platforms out there that deliver all of the functionalities that most businesses need. So, don’t select Magento because of the hype or because a few writers decided to write articles promoting Magento for their own SEO benefits. Know what you’re getting into before spending a substantial amount of money on a product that is not worth the hype.
Bernard Kohan is a mobile app and web application development and technology analyst expert. He is available to discuss any issues or questions you have about web development and the best choices for your company or project.
Bernard can be reached at
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