One thing that I find a lot of books don’t cover (so I figured I might as well), is what type of hosting to use with your Drupal and Ubercart Install. My personal recommendation is to use GoDaddy, and you can find some great coupons for GoDaddy hosting services here and save yourself a bunch of money. But let’s look at what you need at the bare bones level.
Both Drupal and Ubercart are open source software written in PHP, so you need to find hosting that can handle that. Most web hosts offer you either Linux (possibly being called LAMP: Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP) or Windows hosting and while you can run PHP on a windows server I really wouldn’t recommend it. PHP was written to be used on Linux and in my opinion it definitely handles better on a Linux server, but I’m also just not as familiar with the setup of Windows servers and how to configure them. You might be in the opposite situation.
Shared, VPS, or Dedicated?
Unless you are running an online retail store for a major brand (in which case you should not be Googling ‘beginner guides for Drupal & Ubercart’, go hire some professionals!) it’s unlikely that you will need the power and customization of a dedicated server. Nor the expense, they usually start at around $250/month. A shared hosting plan is definitely your most economical option, but it can be rife with security issues as you are more vulnerable to XSS attacks. HOWEVER, if you are a very small business or hobbyist and really don’t have the budget to go up to something like a VPS, this is a good option but PLEASE keep on top of updating all software and installed modules to their latest versions, as updates are often to fix vulnerabilities in the software. There is nothing worse than waking up one day to find that your homepage has been replaced with some stupid graphic and a message along the lines of “~*~*~*~HAXXORED BY L33TN00BPWN3R~*~*~*~”.
VPS is a good middle ground if you are running a business and expect a fair amount of traffic. VPS are also highly flexible, so if you have a product that suddenly goes viral after being featured on Oprah your server will be able to handle the spike in incoming traffic. If you were on a shared plan you’d probably get throttled pretty quickly and then your site wouldn’t load up at all. They do cost a bit more than the shared hosting, but I consider it a good business investment and if you use the coupon link at the beginning of the article you can save yourself a pretty significant amount of money.
This is my top pick for books on using Ubercart with Drupal. Although this book is 2 years old now, it focuses on Drupal 7 and Ubercart 3. Drupal 8 is apparently going to be out soon, but for now 7 is the most up to date and secure version. The description of the book says that it will guide you through the process of installing and setting up both Drupal and Ubercart, including database setup, to create a functional e-commerce site for both tangible and intangible goods (files, music downloads, memberships, etc).
My Top Pick
Overall, I think this is a great book with lots of useful and current information. The breakdown on the technical aspects is decent, however if you don’t have any training in web development there may be some things that you need to look up. It also assumes that you will have access to a cPanel which most, but not all hosts provide. If you use one of our recommended hosts then you will definitely have access. Even if you don’t have cPanel Drupal installation tutorials are plentiful, so it shouldn’t be too hard to get it set up.
Author David Ipswich has created a great introduction to using Ubercart with Drupal here, and I think this is great buy for people looking to create their first e-commerce website.
There are a few typos, spelling, and grammatical errors, but nothing so terrible that you can’t follow what the author is saying. The only payment type that is covered is PayPal which is fine, but I imagine that a lot of people looking to sell online would like to use a credit card payment gateway as well. There is a lot of information on that subject online, and most people recommend using Authorize.net.
The book also offers a lot more information on intangible (downloadable) products than it did on physical products, which might be a bit frustrating if you sell physical goods. However as a counter point it did include some info that can be hard to find, like how to calculate shipping and taxes.
Overall, very helpful book that I would absolutely recommend.
Unfortunately, this books is on my ‘not recommended’ list. It was published in 2010 so it’s quite out of date now, you really don’t want to be working with outdated versions of Drupal and Ubercart, and I’m actually not sure if you can still download them.
The Good News
Well, I don’t like to say anything at all if I can’t find at least one positive thing to say. Although outdated, for it’s time this book was actually quite thorough and did a good job of breaking the really technical aspects into a step-by-step process that I found pretty easy to follow. We have newer versions of both Drupal and Ubercart now, but not everything will have changed so a lot of this book is probably still relevant and might serve to cover some gaps you are finding in other books and online documentation.
The other nice part about this book is it’s coverage of other supporting modules that relate to Ubercart and can really take your e-commerce site to the next level. They talk about some popular modules that can handle things like building wish lists, offering coupon codes, and user product recommendations. Again, this book is a few years old now so some of the recommended modules might not be available anymore or the instructions might be slightly out of date but I think it’s worth a look.
The Bad News
Well, as we’ve already stated a couple times, this book is 4 years old which is like 100 in computer years. It was also written by two Greek Drupal developers, and while they definitely know their stuff when it comes to Drupal and Ubercart, sometimes their English is a bit off. To be fair, I used to teach English and it’s a confusing and muddled language. It’s not unintelligible by any means, just a bit funny sounding and superfluous at times.
It seems like this was not the be-all, end-all book for Drupal and Ubercart 4 years ago, and it still isn’t but unfortunately we have rather slim pickings on the subject.