Setting up an e-commerce OpenCart system

Documentation

OpenCart sorely lacks technical documentation. While there is plenty of user documentation on the project site [9], actual instructions for building your extensions and understanding how to tweak the application are sparse. Thankfully, OpenCart comes with many preloaded extensions that you can analyze in order to figure out how things work.

In particular, there is no documentation hinting at how to host an instance in a High Availability configuration. This means there are no instructions nor provisions for configuring a set of redundant servers so your website will keep running if one of your servers dies.

Additional Features

OpenCart comes with some extra features that merchants might find handy.

Out-of-the-box support for affiliate programs allows you to pay other people for linking to your shop and directing traffic to you.

An included review system lets users leave their opinions about your products.

Anti-spam measures are available by default, but beware that the included Basic Captcha extension distributed with OpenCart is severely lacking. It may cause you more headaches than it avoids.

The OpenCart Security HTTP Headers extension is available as a free download, and it is highly recommended if you don't have other measures in place to harden your HTTP stack. It is a quick way of mitigating the risk of Cross-Site Scripting (CSS) attacks and other malicious activities.

Conclusion

OpenCart is far from perfect. Out of the box, it is only capable of powering the most basic sites, and it lacks proper developer documentation. However, it is very quick to install and allows you to quickly put your business on the Internet – if you are willing to purchase the extensions to provide the functionality missing in the core system. You should expect to spend around EUR140 (~$152) if you want a fully functional site and don't have the time or knowledge to build your own extensions.

Keep in mind that OpenCart needs an email service in order to send emails to customers (e.g., order confirmation messages). You will need to build one separately or hire a dedicated provider.

Finally, a website is not capable of gathering users by itself. Once your site is up and running, you will need to invest in a good marketing plan so customers can find your online store.

Infos

  1. OpenCart: https://www.opencart.com/
  2. OpenCart distributed as a Bitnami stack: https://bitnami.com/stack/opencart/installer
  3. "An Alternative to Docker, Snap, and Company" by Erik Bärwaldt, Linux Magazine, issue 223, June 2019: https://www.linux-magazine.com/Issues/2019/223/Bitnami
  4. Create and install a self-signed certificate: https://tecadmin.net/create-and-install-self-signed-certificate-in-apache/
  5. Installing an SSL certificate on Ubuntu: https://cheapsslsecurity.com/blog/install-ssl-certificate-ubuntu-server-using-apache/
  6. Let's Encrypt: https://letsencrypt.org/getting-started/
  7. OpenCart Basic Security Practices: http://docs.opencart.com/en-gb/administration/security/
  8. OpenCart marketplace: https://www.opencart.com/index.php?route=marketplace/extension
  9. OpenCart documentation: http://docs.opencart.com/

The Author

Rubén Llorente is a mechanical engineer whose job is to ensure that the security measures for the IT infrastructure of a small clinic are law compliant and safe. He is also an OpenBSD enthusiast and a weapon collector.

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