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      Guidelines and Netiquette   03/28/2017

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Digital file distribution

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Hi. I'm really hoping I can get some feedback/help. Sorry if this is in the wrong area. I see that someone else was asking about PayPal here.


I sell a handful of digital download files online, using a third-party e-commerce service, but have recently been looking for alternatives.


It's been a very frustrating battle, researching the various options, finding/trying them, only to find many are confusing, lack proper documentation, lack needed features, or assume knowledge regarding requirements/setup is 'common sense'. I've looked at things like OpenCart, AbanteCart, etc... but didn't get far with them.


I seem to have the 'paying' part of the process currently covered... using PayPal single purchase buttons (and having defined the button/product details and the tax rates in PayPal). So, that's all good.


Where I'm still battling is the actual distribution of the files. With my current intended setup (as an alternate to the one I've been using up to now), I would receive the PayPal notification email, and then send each customer a direct link to the ordered files, hosted on my own webspace.


That's one of the more simple solutions, but involves a lot of manual work, and requires me to be at the computer all the time, (so to speak). I'm also not sure of the security and efficiency of it.


Any pre-made e-commerce solution I've tried so far (ex. OpenCart) has far too many bells and whistles (wishlists, newletter subscriptions, slideshows, etc) for what I need, and it seems removing them often requires modification of several files. AbanteCart seems to allow you to easily select what is and isn't on a page, but completely lacks any kind of documentation on how to set things up (and only seems to explain what all the buttons do... not what to DO with them). OpenCart has a huge number of premade templates(?), but searching through them, and knowing exactly what they do (and what their requirements are) is very frustrating (and again, seems to assume the knowledge of many things is common sense/knowledge).


I need the transactions to be done outside of my (non-SSL) webspace, on a secure system (...like Standard PayPal transactions do). Again, I currently have set up an alternate product page (currently offline, waiting to replace my current one, which uses the third party e-commerce service), set up with standard PayPal buttons... So, the payment/tax part seems covered. I'm just trying to sort out a SIMPLE method of automatically providing customers with a time/attempt/IP limited link to the product (ideally). Obviously, I'm concerned about link sharing, and hacking into my webspace.... but I'm not familiar enough with the methods used, nor the available solutions.


Any research I have been doing towards this in the last few weeks has been really confusing, as I don't know the overall requirements and assumptions. With many cart solutions, I'm unclear if they assume a secure SSL site... or if other elements are required, etc.


1) Can anyone point me to an idiot proof file distribution system (or simple cart solution that caters to controlled digital download links), that utilizes a standard (not on my site) PayPal business account transaction?


2) If I end up going the manual route, simply sending direct links to customers to the product files on my webspace, what methods can I use to make the distribution system a bit more secure? I'm applying password protection on the folders, unique for each customer, and will have the user/password access time-limited. But, what else can/should I do? I was looking into using tinyurl to hide the true path of the download link, but am unfamiliar with it, and am not sure if it's a good idea or not. I'm also not sure if investing in things like SSL are relevant in my case, or worth the trouble/money.


Sorry, it's a huge, complicated subject... but that's half the problem, is learning it all, and understanding what is all required. I have no idea where to look, as all videos I've found have either been way too simplified (the traditional cartoon sequence telling the story of 'joe who wanted to sell things online...'), or too specific (covers a very specific task in a specific software), or shows setup, but assumes certain things that aren't mentioned (ex. site has SSL, other plugins/elements installed, etc).


At this point, I can either go full manual (...PayPal buttons on my site, but I manualy send direct links to the locally hosted files on my webspace).... or set up some sort of cart (that uses the PayPal standard business account I've set up).... assuming I can ever figure it out, and be sure that what is set up is secure and functioning properly....which, so far, doesn't seem likely.

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What's your background? Are you a programmer? There's no such thing as idiot-proof. Once someone creates something that is idiot-proof, someone goes and creates a better idiot.

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