Ecommerce Hosting: Recommended Criteria For Choosing a Host Based on Your Specific Needs

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Ecommerce hosting pertains to a web hosting platform that serves an electronic commerce website, which includes features such as payment processing services, security initiatives, SSL, shopping cart software and more. 

There are many ecommerce web hosts to choose from. The right one depends on your sales volume, traffic, site size, budget and experience with web development. When you rely on your website to deliver your income, you need to start by selecting the right host.

Why It’s Important to Choose the Right Ecommerce Host

Your website content files need to be stored somewhere. Website owners pay rent to hosting companies, but the hosting companies’ capabilities vary greatly. If you don’t choose the best host, you could experience the following issues.

1. Customers will leave a slow site.

We live in an age of instant gratification. Today, 47% of consumers expect a page load speed of two seconds or less.

Aside from the customer experience, Google uses site speed as a ranking factor. That’s because search engines take longer to produce results if they can’t discover and index websites quickly.

To find pages, Google branches out from your homepage or sitemap and “crawls” the links. If your site has slow load speeds then your pages may not be included in Google’s index.

The best ecommerce hosting company will make sure that it can manage the volume you expect. This includes traffic spikes and other factors that can interfere with performance, such as caching and Content Delivery Networks.

Caching makes web pages faster by storing page data as a normal HTML page, removing calls to the database and enabling future requests to be served faster.

A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a widespread group of servers that hold your website’s available resources, such as images and media files, and work in tandem to reduce your site’s load time. A CDN ensures faster load times by automatically routing visitors to the server closest to their geographic location.

2. Customers won’t be able to access vulnerable sites.

Although just about anyone can start an ecommerce site, a business needs to implement the proper security measures before customers can make purchases.

Every browser is different, and some offer more security features than others. Chrome’s mission is to keep consumers safe as they surf the web. This helps make it the most popular browser.

If your site isn’t encrypted with HTTPS, your site will be identified as “not secure” when your audience is using Chrome. Seeing this in the URL bar doesn’t boost consumer confidence in your brand.

Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificates are small files stored on a server that encrypt the data transferred between your computer and a website’s server.

They also provide a digital signature to verify the website being used. They are ideal for securing data transfer, credit card transactions, and are even being used to secure the browsing of various social media websites.

If you don’t have an SSL certificate, Chrome will warn viewers before they have a chance to view the page that they’re trying to open. Additionally, an SSL certificate may even speed up your website.

While some ecommerce website owners are afraid that adding an SSL certificate is expensive or complicated, a good web host will offer encryption as part of their package.

Plus, keeping your security updated can be a full-time job. Your ecommerce solution should be able to upgrade your software, add patches, and keep their own server software secure. The company's support team should also be able to take care of the situation if your site is hacked.

3. You can’t afford downtime.

If your customers can’t access your site, they can’t buy. The amount of revenue lost during one hour of downtime depends on the time of day, your sales volume, traffic and the number of people impacted.

According to Gremlin, Amazon would lose $220,318.80 per minute of downtime while Costco.com would lose $11,082.00.

If this happens frequently enough, you’ll get a bad reputation. In fact, downtime could even sink your business.

Sometimes, web hosting services schedule planned maintenance, which could cause your site to go down. Unplanned downtime is more of a threat because it can take longer to remediate.

Ecommerce web host services will often guarantee a certain amount of uptime. Don’t just take their word for it, though. Look for customer reviews, and find out if anyone monitors your website so that you know immediately if a problem arises.

Considerations When Choosing a Host for Your Store

Although you might be lured into an affordable plan that meets some of your criteria, it’s important to do some research before committing. You should also consider a web host that can grow with you.

You can change hosts at any time, but migrating your site can be a hassle for you and your customers. It’s a better idea to choose the best web host upfront so that you can familiarize yourself with them as you scale up.

1. Encryption.

Security should be one of your top concerns when comparing web hosting companies. However, a single factor won’t make one ecommerce host better than another.

Many hosting plans offer the following security features:

  • Firewalls.
  • SSL certificates.
  • DDoS protection.
  • Spam filters.
  • Domain name privacy.
  • Virus protection.

Hacking is big business. Some hackers want to destroy websites for fun. Others want to collect valuable information or profit from your website.

They may inject code into your website that puts viruses on your visitors’ computers or hijacks advertising space. They can steal passwords or encrypt all of your files and require a ransom payment to decrypt them.

Any kind of fraud involving your website could put your shop and reputation at risk. A secure hosted ecommerce platform should offer a variety of safeguards, including the ones in the list above, to give you peace of mind.

2. PCI Compliance.

PCI compliance should be offered by any ecommerce web host. When you’re dealing with an enormous amount of personal data, including credit card numbers, a breach could be catastrophic. If you think that this won’t happen to you, think again.

Many companies have experienced data breaches. In 2019:

Up to 90% of the logins to ecommerce websites may be fraudulent. Approximately 20% of people who learn about a breach stop shopping at a particular retailer altogether. About 30% stop purchasing from that company temporarily.

Retailers are required to abide by PCI DSS, standards that protect customer information. When you choose the right web host, they’ll ensure PCI compliance so that you don’t have to worry about it.

3. File sizes.

If you have an online store, you probably have an image-heavy website. With so many files stored on your site, you don’t want customers to experience slow load times.

Some of the biggest culprits that cause site delays are videos, high-resolution photos and PDFs.

Your hosting plan needs enough bandwidth to support all of your files. The best hosting platform will also guide you toward creating the best image sizes to optimise your site.

4. Backups.

Your online shop might be easy to build and manage, but what happens when things go wrong? If your website gets hacked or doesn’t work properly after an update, a backup could save your hide.

Without an easy way to back up your site, you could lose customer, order and product data. If you paid an agency to put together your website, you could lose all of that work and money.

You should back up as much data as possible regularly; daily backups aren't out-of-the-question. The backups should be stored on a separate server from your website and be easy to access if you need to restore your site. If you use a hosting solution that backs up its entire platform, you don’t have to do it individually.

5. Account Limitations.

You probably want to get the most bang for your buck from your web hosting platform. When you’re doing your research, make sure to read the fine print.

Find out what you get with each plan. Learn whether or not you can upgrade if you need more scalability options. Make sure you know exactly what each package includes.

Here are some account limitations that you might encounter when you're comparing ecommerce hosting plans:

  • Free ecommerce software that requires you to pay separately for SSL certificates or hosting.
  • Limited file storage.
  • Only a few free website templates; you might have to pay extra for the most desirable ones.
  • Additional charges if you don’t use the hosting service’s payment processors.
  • Limits on sales volumes.
  • No access to customer service representatives.
  • Hefty overage fees if you exceed the bandwidth limits.
  • Poor reporting options and analytics.
  • Difficulty customizing your website without developer knowledge.

Ecommerce Hosting Types

There are a few different types of hosting options. Most retailers, especially small businesses, don’t host their own sites. That’s because web hosting solutions offer so many benefits and affordability.

1. SaaS Hosting.

Software-as-a-service, or SaaS, is one type of cloud-based hosting. SaaS uses third-party, cloud-based software that’s accessible via the internet. Using a SaaS host frees you up to grow your business without worrying about IT issues that you would have to take care of if you were self-hosting. 

Your host manages:

  • Applications.
  • Data.
  • Runtime.
  • Servers.
  • Storage.
  • Networking.

As long as you have an internet connection, you can use the software, which usually includes shopping carts, hosting infrastructure, software licenses and apps that allow you to integrate the system with financial and reporting software.

You don’t have to download anything to your own computer. In exchange for your software access, you usually pay a fixed monthly fee.

Therefore, you don’t have to worry about hidden surprises. Your subscription covers everything from maintenance to security. SaaS platforms require minimal input from you.

2. Self-Hosted (On Premise).

To host your website yourself, you need to have your own physical servers. While larger corporations may store these in a large room or data center, this option doesn’t make sense for most online retailers.

Self-hosting gives you complete control over what you do with your servers. However, if you don’t have IT knowledge, you won’t be able to take advantage of that flexibility.

You’re responsible for everything from hardware malfunctions to software glitches. What do you do when the power goes out? 

By the time you purchase the equipment and hire a team to manage your servers, you’ll probably end up shelling out more money than you would if you used another hosting option.

3. Other Cloud hosting options.

Infrastructure-as-a-service, or IaaS, is another cloud-based computing option that typically operates via a pay-as-you-use structure. It’s more reliable and safer than purchasing your own hardware. You can scale up as you grow.

However, with IaaS, a merchant usually pays one company to license the software. Another party may host the website.

As an IaaS client, you have total control over the infrastructure. But to choose the right options, you have to understand what ecommerce features you need.

You manage the runtime, applications operating systems, middleware and data. The provider takes care of the servers, virtualization and networking.

Although this may be the most flexible cloud computing model, it isn’t the easiest to understand. Because everything is billed based on usage, you might experience sticker shock if you’re not sure what capabilities you need up front.

An IaaS provider may also experience performance issues when workloads are high.

The other type of cloud-based computing is platform-as-a-service, or PaaS. This also delivers software and hardware tools over the internet, but users log into a specific platform and control panel to build applications. It’s not an out-of-the-box service, though.

PaaS is most commonly used by developers. You don’t have to write a unique application from scratch or deal with extensive coding. The developer retains complete control over the applications, while the provider manages storage, servers and networking.

3 Criteria for Choosing an Ecommerce Host

Choosing the wrong ecommerce host can cost you money, time and headaches.

Because migrating your website can be frustrating, it’s important to find a host that strikes a balance between your budget, website development needs, support requirements and growth potential.

1. How big is your budget?

You could pay $10 or $10,000 to build and host your ecommerce site. Even though ecommerce hosts offer competitive packages, you have to understand what you’re getting to decide whether or not they’re actually cost-efficient.

Paying more doesn’t always give you the best experience. However, choosing the cheapest option will usually leave you looking for add-on capabilities from somewhere else. Piecing together fees from various providers is usually the most expensive way to go.

Before you choose an ecommerce host, decide on your budget for:

  • Web design.
  • Programming and functionality.
  • Security.
  • Monthly hosting.
  • Maintenance.
  • Licensing.
  • Custom app creation.

If you choose a standalone web host, you’ll have to research the costs of these services from other providers. But if you look at all-in-one hosts, you’ll often find that you can select a premium package that includes all of these powerful features and stays within your budget.

2. How much development experience do you have?

Regardless of the size of your budget, you can choose to purchase your hosting, ecommerce platform and extensions separately if you have a lot of web development experience. Depending on your needs, this can be a cheaper option.

However, you’ll probably break even when it comes to your time. Moreover, building and maintaining your website can distract you from your primary business, which is selling your products or services.

If you do have web development experience, the decision may come down to a matter of control.

Do you want to customise your website with a lot of non-standard enhancements? Do you have a non-standard business model? Can you afford the time and capital that you need to completely customise your site?

If you answered yes to these questions, then you might want to look for a platform with the most capabilities regardless of cost. You could also select a standalone hosting plan and build your online store from scratch.

3. How much support will you need?

This question is related to your IT knowledge. If you have no idea what you’re doing, you probably want to choose the ecommerce host with a user-friendly interface and resources — such as a website builder — to help you create your site.

You may also need a high level of support to maintain your site and troubleshoot issues.

Look for services that have great reviews for their customer support. Some have 24/7 chat features, while others require you to open a ticket and wait for an answer if you experience issues after hours.

Your hosting provider is ultimately a business partner. Select a trustworthy company with which you can develop a long-term relationship.

Hosting Options For Your Ecommerce Platform

Ecommerce platforms come with varying hosting options. Understanding the key differences from platform to platform is essential to your online business strategy.

1. Hosted ecommerce platform.

BigCommerce leads the pack with the best uptime at 99.99%. Thanks to the Google Cloud platform infrastructure, you can expect features like fast load times, uncompromising security, DDOS protection, ISO/IEC 27001:2013 certified, HTTPS, and Level 1 PCI Compliant hosting. To make it sweeter, you’ll have access to these industry leading features:

  • Unlimited bandwidth.
  • Fast content delivery network.
  • Buy new domain names.
  • Use an existing domain name.
  • Shared SSL certificate included.
  • Buy or transfer dedicated SSL certificates.

Wix also offers in-house hosting. Squarespace and Shopify are also popular hosted ecommerce platforms with one-click checkout.

2. Nexcess.

Nexcess is a web hosting service provider that provides clients with a hosting environment to meet business needs. Nexcess has a variety of plans geared toward individuals or businesses owners, including small companies and large ecommerce stores.

Platforms such as Magento, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, Drupal and Wordpress are compatible with Nexcess. Over the years, Nexcess has made a name for itself because of its 24/7 customer service, along with other features including:

  • Nexcess Cloud Auto Scaling and Accelerator.
  • Domain registration services. 
  • PCI-compliant data services. 
  • SSAE-18 compliance. 
  • Enterprise-level application stack.

Nexcess also offers free site migrations with all hosting solutions.

3. BlueHost.

BlueHost is a web solutions company that’s committed to powering WordPress sites. 

Bluehost is ideal for beginning bloggers, but also serves ecommerce sites for small businesses. All of its WordPress hosting plans include:

  • Automatic WordPress installation.
  • Microsoft 365 access.
  • Free domain for one year.
  • Automatic WordPress updates.
  • Secure login credential configuration.
  • Google My Business verification.

It also offers shared hosting plans, VPS hosting with SSD storage or dedicated hosting.

4. SiteGround.

SiteGround is a web hosting platform that specializes in website building and management. It provides solutions for individuals and small businesses. 

SiteGround is compatible with WordPress and WooCommerce, and it offers managed cloud hosting. Some of its features include:

  • Smart AI system to block malicious traffic.
  • Daily site backup for easy restore. 
  • Free SSL for every site created.
  • Regular server status checks.
  • NGINX Direct Delivery for improved browser caching.

Free Cloudflare CDN with Railgun is included in all plans.

5. Rackspace.

Rackspace is a managed cloud solution that is often used with mid-size businesses and internet retailers. Rackspace works with Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, Google Cloud and Oracle. Some of its web hosting services include:

  • 100% Production Platform Uptime Guarantee. 
  • CDN for fast page loading. 
  • Flexibility to scale your website. 
  • 24x7x365 access to experts. 
  • Dedicated servers for rapid deployment. 

Rackspace offers deployment and infrastructure options to manage and optimise infrastructure, applications and security.

6. A2 Hosting.

A2 Hosting offers “blazing fast” solutions for individuals and businesses of all levels, including beginning bloggers and professional developers. A2 Hosting works with WordPress and PHP-based platforms such as Magento, Drupal, Joomla and OpenCart. Available features include:

  • Turbo Server for fast hosting.
  • Free account migration.
  • 99.9% uptime commitment. 
  • Automatic backups. 
  • Unlimited SSD space. 

It offers shared hosting, VPS hosting, WordPress hosting, reseller hosting and dedicated hosting.

7. WP Engine.

WP Engine offers solutions for agencies along with small, medium and enterprise-level businesses. It uses WordPress to create a digital platform experience and works with platforms, such as Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, New Relic, Cloud Flare and Hubspot. 

WP Engine features include:

  • Auto migration. 
  • Geotargeting for increased engagement. 
  • Automated backups. 
  • Multisite conversion. 
  • WordPress plugins for a personalized experience.

WP Engine has servers across the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and in the Asia-Pacific region.

8. WordPress.com.

Wordpress.com provides hosting solutions for bloggers, small businesses and Fortune 500 companies. Some of Wordpress.com’s features include:

  • Ability to own your content. 
  • Get in-depth statistics. 
  • Utilise built-in SEO tools.
  • Create a robust, custom website. 
  • Get discovered through WordPress Reader.

9. Liquid Web.

Liquid Web provides fully-managed hosting to mid-market and enterprise-level businesses. It’s compatible with WordPress, WooCommerce and Magento. Available Liquid Web features include:

  • Multi server hosting solutions.
  • Single-tenant, on-demand dedicated infrastructure.
  • HIPAA/PCI certifications to ensure privacy.
  • Protection against vulnerabilities.
  • 24/7 onsite staff for hardware replacement.

Liquid Web has a 100% uptime guarantee on their network and power.

Executive Summary: What’s the Bottom Line?

If you’re launching or upgrading your ecommerce store, you have to find a suitable ecommerce host. There are many hosting options available for different budgets and consumer needs.

Before you choose the one that’s best for you, it’s important to consider your level of knowledge, capital and time constraints.

If you’re a web developer, have unlimited funds or have incredibly unique needs, you might be able to use a standalone host and tailor the rest of your website services to your specific requirements.

The best option for an out-of-the-box hosting package that can get you up and running in hours is an all-in-one hosting solution, though.

FAQs About Ecommerce Hosting

What is ecommerce hosting?

Ecommerce hosting is a business that involves a web hosting platform providing services to host an electronic commerce website. Ecommerce hosting provides everything required to effectively and efficiently run an ecommerce business. 

It accommodates many functions required to operate a commercial website, including payment processing, security, SSL and shopping cart software.

How do I host an ecommerce website?

To host an ecommerce website, you need to have your own physical servers. While larger corporations may store these in a large room or data center, this option doesn’t make sense for most online retailers.

Self-hosting gives you complete control over what you do with your servers. However, if you don’t have IT knowledge, you won’t be able to take advantage of that flexibility.

You’re responsible for everything from hardware malfunctions to software glitches. By the time you purchase the equipment and hire a team to manage your servers, you’ll probably end up spending more money than you would if you used another hosting option.

Which type of hosting is best for ecommerce?

The type of hosting that’s best for ecommerce depends on many factors. When you’re figuring out what type of hosting to use, consider your budget, your level of development experience, and the amount of IT support you’ll need. It’s also a good idea to think about:

  • How much traffic you expect on your site.
  • The level of security your site content will require.
  • The size of the files you’ll house on the site. 
  • How much space you’ll need to backup your data. 

Review what comes with the plans from each ecommerce host and find one that will scale with your needs.

Why would I want a cloud-hosted ecommerce site?

You may want a cloud-hosted ecommerce site because having someone else host your site frees you up to grow your business without worrying about IT issues. 

Cloud-hosted ecommerce sites usually offer smooth upgrades, specialized data services, and automated backups, among other services.

Are there disadvantages to a cloud-hosted site?

The disadvantages to having a cloud-hosted site including having your data stored in a remote location and limited control. Cost could be seen as a disadvantage to cloud-hosting as well, but self-hosting also comes with costs.

How much does it cost to have an online store hosted?

It could cost $10 or $10,000 to build and host your online store. Even though ecommerce hosts offer competitive packages, you have to understand what you’re getting to decide whether they’re actually cost-efficient.

Paying more doesn’t always give you the best experience. However, choosing the cheapest option will usually leave you looking for add-on capabilities from somewhere else. Piecing together fees from various providers is usually the most expensive way to go.

Does my ecommerce store need to be hosted?

Yes, an ecommerce store needs to be hosted. Whether it’s hosted by a web hosting company or self-hosted, an ecommerce store must house the functions required to operate a commercial website, including payment processing, security, SSL and shopping cart software.

How many ecommerce hosting options are there?

There are many ecommerce hosting solutions available to meet the needs of any online store.

What features should an ecommerce host have?

Features an ecommerce host should have include the capability to keep up with traffic on the site and enough bandwidth to house all of your files. An ecommerce host should also have security features such as:

  • Firewalls.
  • SSL security certificate.
  • DDoS protection.
  • Spam filters.
  • Domain name privacy.
  • Virus protection.

PCI compliance should also be offered by any ecommerce web host.

Do I need a developer for a self-hosted online store?

Running an ecommerce website using self-hosted ecommerce software requires developers to maintain and update the website, which can become quite costly and time-consuming.

Are developers necessary for cloud-hosted ecommerce sites?

You can create a cloud-hosted ecommerce site without hiring a developer. However, you might consider working with a developer if you want your ecommerce site to have several custom elements. Developers can also help if you don’t have the time to dedicate to creating a website.

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