Product review: Instant I-commerce for medium-size sites

Out in the real world, small and midsize companies are a growing market. They are voracious consumers of goods and services, and their clout has helped shape markets from the air travel to cellular phone arenas. But for some reason, these businesses are comparatively neglected when it comes to setting up shop on the Web. Most packaged internet-commerce solutions are built for big business with lots of products to sell and deep pockets to pay for site development. For smaller businesses looking to sell online, Miva Order, Version 1.11, may be a perfect fit.

At a software cost of about $US600 and with roughly an hour of setup time, you can create a secure product-ordering and payment site using Miva Order without having HTML, Perl, or scripting skills. All you need is a product list and a credit card merchant account. You can set up Miva Order on your own server, or you can host with a provider that offers Miva's solutions on its servers. Either way, it's unbelievably easy and inexpensive to set up an online ordering and payment system.

Miva Order is not built to handle a large number of products. There is no software-imposed limit on the number of products you can list on your order form. But because the form groups the entire product list and shipping/billing address forms on one page, there is a practical limit (about 15 to 25 items) imposed by the user's patience. No search function and no index are included.

Part of the setup process involves selecting a credit card processor. If you run your own credit card billing system, Miva Order will do a basic check on the card number and leave the rest to you. It can submit charges for you as long as you sign up with CyberCash, CyberSource, Cardservice or PaymentNet.

After configuration, all you need to do is pour in your product list. You can enter products one at a time using Miva Order's Web-based administrative interface or submit a whole batch of products as a delimited ASCII file. Miva Order doesn't try to be an online catalogue, but rather, it links to your existing one. Miva offers a more expensive product, Miva Merchant, for building robust electronic-commerce sites that include online catalogues.

Miva Order is ideal for small and midsize businesses, as well as for ISPs and application service providers. Whether you host your own site or outsource, Miva will have you ready to rack up e-sales in no time.

(Tom Yager (tyager@maxx.net) is an InfoWorld contributor who operates a private testing lab in Northern Texas.)The bottom line: excellentMiva Order, Version 1.11Summary: This internet-commerce solution takes orders, submits credit card charges, and sends e-mail confirmations without programming.

Business Case: Miva Order places online shopping and payment processing within the reach of small businesses. It requires no development or database server and runs on the most affordable PC hardware.

Pros:

+ Effortless installation and configuration+ Clean, intuitive site design+ Complete solution for simple needsCons:

- None apparent

Cost: $US99 per domain; Miva Empresa server: $495 per CPU; also available via Miva's Web-hosting partnersPlatform(s): Server: Windows 95/98, Windows NT, Sun Solaris, most Unix platforms. Web server: Apache, Microsoft Internet Information Server, Netscape Enterprise, Netscape FastTrackMiva Corp, San Diego; http://www.miva.com

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