The best way to answer this question is to first offer you a quick checklist of what you need to set up an e-commerce website. There are five (5) main parts that you will need to learn and incorporate in order to run an online store.
1. A Shopping Cart. In order to sell your products online, you will need to have some form of shopping cart software. This software will help you organize your products, upload pictures, and generally setup your online store. There are a number of options for a shopping cart. You can use predesigned buttons or merchant solutions from payment companies such as PayPal (http://www.paypal.com), you can purchase one of the many shopping cart software solutions available that are compatible with our servers.
IMPORTANT: dotCanada does not provide training or support on the use of these scripts. Please consult the website of the shopping cart you are going to use and download its user manuals.
2. Secure Socket Layer (SSL) Certificate: This is the lock and key system that you see in online stores. You know you are in a secure Internet Connection when you see the little lock on the bottom of your browser or when you are about to purchase products on the Internet. That online store has put in an SSL certificate that essentially is a secured communication channel, encrypting the information over the Internet so that information cannot be stolen or misused. This system provides a comfort level to your customers that there personal information such as credit card numbers are not at risk of being stolen. An SSL certificate also will change the browser from http:// to https://, indicating that the surfer is in a secure connection. If you are setting up an online store, you will require a dedicated (or shared) SSL certificate for your online store. dotCanada has SSL options available to suit your individual security needs. Details of these certificates can be found by sending a query to firstname.lastname@example.org
3. Dedicated IP address. When you sign up with dotCanada or any other shared hosting service, your website is put onto a server with a number of other websites. Each server has an Internet Protocol (IP) address that tells the world where that server is located, similar to your home address and postal/zip code. Having an IP address unique to your website is normally called a Dedicated IP address. This dedicated IP address is only used by your domain name and website so you can provide your customers a secure connection with a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate. dotCanada can provide you with your own dedicated IP address for your domain for a small fee. Details of these costs can be found by sending a query to email@example.com
4. A Payment Gateway. This is how your transactions work between your online store and your merchant number. The payment gateway is a software program that allows you the software between your shopping cart and the payment processing system. Getting a payment gateway will allow you to take credit cards and other payment options online. You will need a payment gateway to take credit cards. An easy option is to use PayPal that allows surfers to use credit cards or their PayPal funds to pay for your products. Furthermore, PayPal also provides you with a merchant account (see below). More helpful information on Payment Gateways can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Payment_gateway
5. A Merchant Account. A merchant account allows a business to accept credit cards, debit cards and other forms of electronic payment. This is also widely known as payment processing or credit card processing. The merchant account is the unique identifying number that tells VISA, M/C, AMEX, etc. that your store is performing the online transaction. If you already have a merchant account number from your bank, you can probably use that in your online store. Note that the merchant account is not your payment gateway. Please keep in mind that you will have to pay the credit cart transaction fees associated with your account, similar to what a store would pay for the usage of the merchant account.
The easiest option is to signup with PayPal, where you can get a payment gateway, shopping cart buttons and merchant account all in one. Your users will also be able to use funds available in their PayPal account to pay for your products or services. PayPal is owned by eBay and can be found at https://www.paypal.com/
IMPORTANT: The merchant account is the unique number associated with your online store and is arranged with the banks or other financial institution, while the payment gateway is the software that connects your store's shopping cart with the back end banking system.
More helpful information on Payment Gateways can be found athttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merchant_account