Review Snapshot
Pros

Greater control, highly rated design flexibility and ease of use at a moderate price.

Cons

you need to know what you're doing to work with any licensed shopping cart software. SaaS is easier overall.

Verdict

If you're sold on licensed software you'll love CS-Cart.

Reviewed by:
Casey Dalton : I write reviews of products I deem worthy of review. Generally if I'm reviewing...Member Reputation 335 • 69 active Krits
CS-Cart shopping cart software from www.cs-cart.com
CS Cart Building Supplies To Make A Cart
Casey Dalton rates this 4/5
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CS-Cart shopping cart software detailed information
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CS-Cart Review - Building supplies to make a cart

Is CS-Cart the best shopping cart to build your business?

You've probably landed here because you're a web store designer/developer and/or a small to medium sized business owner. You're ready to start selling online and you're investigating the possibility of licensing shopping cart software over buying it. Maybe you'd just like to get a clearer picture of what advantages licensing software holds over hosted solutions. I'll get into that, as well as looking at one of the most popular licensed software products, CS-Cart, so you can figure out an ideal solution for your online business.

The Basics:

First, just so we're clear, here's the basic difference between licensed shopping cart software (commonly referred to as software as product) and hosted solutions (commonly referred to as SaaS or software as a service). When you license software, you are purchasing it for use on your pre-existing website or the one you are currently building. Your "building supplies" consist of the pre-existing foundation you purchase for use. You generally make a one time payment for the software license although some companies have yearly renewals. The fee can be pretty hefty up front but could also be more cost effective over time, depending on the volume of business you're doing and whether you have your own developer/designer on staff. You can use the software on whatever web server your website is using. You are responsible for  design modifications and implementation of the basic template, site maintenance, software upgrades, PCI DSS compliance, SSL certificate, etc. 

On the other hand, hosted software, as the name implies, is parked on the software provider's web server. You are renting it monthly and your rent increases or decreases depending on what features you need (for example, increased bandwidth, more storage space, etc.) Hosted software generally provides a wide range of  templates which are designed to be easily customizable so if you have a preexisting website you can seamlessly integrate the shopping cart. If you already have a website you can choose to migrate it to the shopping cart host or you can keep them separate and create the illusion of continuity through design. With hosted solutions, the service provider is responsible for maintenance and upgrades, PCI compliance and in some cases will provide SSL as part of the package. The down side to hosted solutions is that you are dependent on their servers and ultimately, your site is on rented property which makes you more dependent on the service provider.

The Specifics: How is CS-Cart?

So in taking a look at CS-Cart there are a few areas where they really shine and a few areas where users have run into trouble. Let's start with the weak spots. In CS-Cart's defense the trouble spots are sometimes the result of problems outside of their control. A repeated reviewer complaint is how slow CS-Cart is. Of course the danger of a slow cart is that it leads to an abandoned cart and a lost sale! However, you get the sense that this issue may have more to do with the server they choose to run their store on and that server's compatibility with the software. Those running CS-Cart on their own VPS server and/or who are properly set up for high volume sales have uniformly positive things to say about the cart. So a word of warning: if you're hosting your own store for the autonomy, have your own VPS! I recommend checking out Arvixe for affordable VPS and top rated business class hosting.

Another complaint is with tech support. CS-Cart offers initial tech support of 30 days or 20 credits for their newly purchased product license. Credits are assessed based on the problem's level of complexity. You can purchase further tech support for a monthly fee or on an as needed basis. Some reviewers complain about this system. They feel skeptical that tech support is not providing adequate service and instead designed to get you to purchase more tech support. This speaks to the greatest weakness of any licensed shopping cart software. Sometimes people purchase a product which is above their level of skill to maintain. Because the license cost of CS-Cart is extremely reasonable for what you get ($295) people sometimes don't take into consideration the way other costs can add up. Someone needs to maintain the store whether it's you or someone else and that someone better have great facility with the software or it will begin to drain your time and/or wallet.

So where does CS-Cart really shine?

Uniformly, CS-Cart is sited as the best bang for your shopping cart software buck. Repeatedly endorsed for ease of use and incredible design flexibility, users of this software love the block editing (you don't need to know code, just drop and drag), ability to run an international store and intuitive back office. Users especially love all the freebie add-ons that come with the package, which may need to be purchased with other software. Licensed software definitely holds the advantage that you can fully customize design to reflect your brand and create a unique and memorable shopper experience.

My recommend:

If you're convinced licensed software is the way you'd like to go, CS-Cart is a great option! I definitely recommend taking CS-Cart for a 30 day risk free test run. This is a must, especially to be sure the software functions well on your server and to be sure you are able to navigate it easily. If you've realized that a hosted solution would be more cost effective for you at this point, but you would still like to maintain design flexibility, I highly recommend MagentoGo, Magento's SaaS option. MagentoGo elegantly balances the beauty of design flexibility with the convenience and ease of a hosted solution.

Date Reviewed: February 24, 2012, 4:45 pm
Reviewed by Casey Dalton
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Research Sources
http://www.pragmaticmarketing.com/publications/magazine/6/5/...
comparative study concluding SaaS is optimal
http://www.syberworks.com/articles/licensevshost.htm
comparative study concluding licensed software is optimal
Legal Info
Reviewer has: Never Tested
Reviewer has never tested this product, all content in this review is purely based on speculation and should be treated as entertainment only.

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