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Magento Guides Part 1 – Getting Started

Stefan Posted by

Over time, we’ve published quite a lot of information on our site on the Magento eCommerce platform. We’ve been hosting and advising users of Magento for several years now, and many of our new Magento clients come to us with very similar queries, particularly during the first few weeks while they set up their first store.

So we’ve decided to collate several of our most useful forum and blog posts into a few handy guides, along with our reasoning for using these guides.  This will be in the form of three articles – this first article, which will cover some common issues when setting up a Magento store; the second article will touch on cleaning and optimising your store, and the final article will detail moving, renaming and migrating Magento stores.

So without further ado – Getting Started!

Magento ‘One-click’ Installer

To view the full guide click here.

When we first started hosting Magento, all the way back in 2008, we used to offer a free installation of Magento for new clients.  That was when we used to install Magento manually – and although it was a nice introduction to the company and a good way to start to understand how Magento works, eventually we found the amount of installs we were doing became a burden!  At the same time, we felt that the Application Installers available at the time (scripts that integrate to your control panel, allowing you to install a choice of web applications) were not of a sufficiently high standard.  So, we made a Magento specific installer ourselves.

This guide walks you through using the installer to install a copy of Magento.  Almost all of our clients have access to this installer for free – it’s on all of the Shared Hosting by default, and almost all of the VPS and Dedicated servers (unless we know the client doesn’t want Magento).  Like all One Click installers, it really takes more like 40 clicks to install Magento – but it is a lot easier!

One limitation of the installer is the lack of ability to pick more than one version of Magento at a time.  Our clients don’t normally mind this, but we do occasionally find that it can make the installer appear to be out of date (for instance, we were until recently still providing 1.4.x installs after 1.5.x had been released).  We didn’t roll out a 1.5 version until we were happy that it was a stable release – for instance, Release Candidate (RC) 1 was released on 27/01/11; the second RC was released on 03/02/11 – this was then patched on 09/02/11… and there have since been a beta and a RC release in March.  So we do tend to wait for the new releases to ‘calm down’ before we ‘roll out’ the new version change across the installers – which is where the ability to select from a multitude of versions would be very useful.

Long term, our installer was created to fulfil a need, and there are some stellar Application Installers out there.  We are investigating alternatives to the long-serving NuBlue One Click Installer, but until that date (and quite possibly after it as well) – we’re quite proud of the installer, and it continues to be used each and every day across all of our servers.

Using Robots.txt (and why!)

To view the full guide click here.

Robots are the collective term for scripts that are commonly used to search the content of the internet, for beneficial or nefarious purposes depending on who is responsible for the robot!  Google, for instance, utilise robots to ‘crawl’ the Internet, gathering data on the websites to build up their search results.

Sometimes (and the article goes into far greater detail!) robots can be stuck in loops on your website.  This can sometimes cause performance issues, and it will also lead to very high bandwidth usage for your site.  This is particularly a problem for clients of ours using Shared Hosting, who have a 10 GB per month bandwidth limit.

Handily, robots can be passed a set of instructions that can stop these loops from occurring, and you can also make sure that they are not crawling parts of your site that you don’t need to be indexed by Google (such as the admin area of your store).  It’ll save you bandwidth, make your traffic figures more accurate, save resources for visitors to your site and generally make your site a tidier space on the server!

Setting up your Cron

To view the full guide click here.

Cron jobs are scheduled tasks, and are very useful for a variety of reasons.  Using a cron, you can schedule a script to run at particular times of particular days without having to manually start or call the script yourself.

Magento can make extensive use of scheduled tasks; by setting a cron to use this facility, you can have your store checked every five minutes to see if there are any tasks waiting to be processed.  This can be useful for stock checks, imports, newsletters, customer alerts, updating currency rates, cleaning logs… anything you want to happen on a regular, automated basis can be helped by use of the cron.

It’s a simple task to setup the cronjob itself in your hosting panel. The guide doesn’t cover what you might want to be using once you’ve started these scheduled calls!  That’s for you to discover!

In our next series of guides, we will cover using the cron to call a script that will clean up your database and cached content of your store, to stop your Magento site becoming a large, bloated beast (very easy for Magento stores!).

And so finishes our first series of guides, covering some initial setup queries for Magento stores. In our next series of guides, we’ll look at some things you can try to clean up and optimise your Magento store.

NuBlue are a Magento specialist. If you have a Magento design and development project or a hosting requirement please get in touch and we will be happy to discuss your requirements.


Author Stefan

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