Although Volusion is decent software, there are a few complaints I hear from customers, and one is the cost. Volusion's pricing is based on number of individual product codes in a store's database, (see chart below).
In addition to the monthly fees, there is an initial setup fee... and then you have the typical merchant account fees you'd pay no matter which ecommerce software you use, (even if you use "free" software, you still pay transaction fees, discount rate and statement fees when you make a sale -- that is a "given" cost of online sales).
The pricing is all explained, and there are no hidden costs -- but on large sites that have a lot of image files, videos, or other media that uses a lot of bandwidth, you can get a surprise bill from Volusion for excess bandwidth, (yes, they tell you about it when you sign up, but most people never do the math or consider how much bandwidth modern websites actually use).
A month or two of these bills, and you start thinking of ways to cut down on costs. While some stores can either reduce the number of images, or make them physically smaller, (in pixels), or apply greater .JPG compression to reduce the file sizes, at some point you start thinking there has to be a better way.
Volusion charges "$0.01 per MB" for excess bandwidth. (Which reminds me of how carpet stores now list prices by the square foot -- carpet used to always be sold, advertised and quoted by the yard... but saying "Only $3.89 per square foot!" sounds a lot cheaper than saying "$35 per yard")...
There are 1024 Megabytes in a Gigabyte. At a penny per MB, that's $10.24 per excess GB of bandwidth. Considering the paltry amount of included bandwidth in the volusion packages, many store owners go over every month.
The chart below shows Volusion's hosting plans and the amount of disk space, SQL data storage and bandwidth included with each package.
|Number of Products||20||100||250||1000||unlimited|
|Hard Disk Storage||50MB||100MB||200MB||300MB||1000MB|
|SQL Data Storage||25MB||50MB||100MB||150MB||250MB|
I use Westhost for hosting any non-ecommerce websites, and their $10/month hosting plan includes 1000 GB of bandwidth... If I were to actually use all that bandwidth at Volusion's rates, it would cost $10,000.00 per month... something has to be wrong -- and it is... Volusion has always charged far in excess of industry standards for bandwidth.
So, what's the answer?
It's simple: setup your own image server, (on Westhost or another economical hosting provider).
The trick to making it manageable is to mimic Volusion's directory structure on the file server site.
Typically, images on Volusion, (version 5), are stored in one of many different folders depending on what the image is used for and how it got uploaded into the store. Images uploaded with the Easy Editor end up in the /vspfiles/assets/images folder. Images used as category headings, manufacturer logos, color or size option related swatches and photos, and other types of images are in other folders. The product photos themselves are in the /vspfiles/photos/ folder.
Once your store is built and you have uploaded all the product photos and designed your store, you can use an FTP program like FileZilla and download the entire /vspfiles/ folder with all it's subdirectories with a single click. You can then drag and drop the folder onto your new file server.
Let's say you run a store at www.mystore.xyz and you setup a file hosting site on Westhost named www.myserver.xyz, now what you need to do is go through your Volusion store's HTML and edit the (absolute AND relative) URL's in the image tags -- replacing the domain name, or in the case of relative URL's adding http://www.myserver.xyz/ before path if any, and filename.
If you find a tag like:
You would edit it to read:
If you find a tag like:
You would edit it to read:
Done! Those images will now be pulled from your file server, and not count towards your Volusion bandwidth.
Since you do get some bandwidth included in all hosting plans, you may decide it's easier to have only some of the images served by your file server - and leave others to Volusion. If you're frequently changing certain images, it may be better to leave those on Volusion. You can use the Smarter Stats program (on my.volusion.com), and run a report on the image files your store serves. Be sure to specify a bandwidth column as the primary sort, and you can get a list of the worst bandwidth hogs and move them off first.
If you have large .SWF / .FLV video files, you could setup IFRAME tags to pull the video content into the Volusion page. The user would never know the difference, and you could do all the setup as if the file were being viewed on the file server domain, (this way you would not have edit the paths for the SWF player in the embed code or end up having half the solution on one domain and half on the other).
While this article speaks mostly of image files and video, you can't forget about any type of file; sample MP3 audio tracks, large .PDF documents, downloadable software and other files that use a lot of bandwidth. You can use the same method for hosting them on your own low cost server and save a tidy sum. How much? Let's say you;ve been using 40GB per month of excess bandwidth --- In a year's time that translates into roughly $5000.00 in excess bandwidth fees --- isn't that a good enough reason to do this sooner than later?
If you would like me to setup an image server for you, let me know. If you can do it yourself and don't have a good host in mind, I'd appreciate if you'd use the link below and setup a hosting account at WestHost, (I get a commission, and it's doesn't cost you anything). The WestHost Business plans are only about $10 to $15/mo and will give you plenty of Disk Space and Bandwidth! They also have very good 24/7 Toll Free 100% U.S. Based support, (which you'll rarely need because everything works the way it's supposed to!)
If you do sign up at Westhost, please enter my name, (Randy Harris), and my website, (lexipixel.com), in the referred by section of the sign-up form. (It helps me afford to be able to help people like, say -- someone who might be reading this article right now!
*** BE SURE TO READ THE COMMENT BELOW -- I HAVE POSTED MORE HELP AND ANSWERED SEVERAL QUESTIONS --- QUESTIONS YOU MAY HAVE TOO! ****