Whilst great hosting is important for all websites, if you run an eCommerce store, your entire business relies on it. What’s more, online stores have their own particular needs which can’t always be met by a regular hosting package. In this post, we’ll explain what hosting features an eCommerce website requires so that you can make a more informed choice for your business.
1. Hosting for your eCommerce platform
When you set up an eCommerce website, you’ll have a choice over the type of platform you use to create it. The two most popular platforms are WordPress and Magento. Both these come with a range of plugins and extensions that enable you to create attractive, feature-rich and high performing online shops.
However, platforms like these have their own quirks and hosting demands. The best way to ensure these are catered for is to choose a hosting package that has been designed especially for the platform. Dedicated WordPress hosting and Magento hosting packages provide the server configurations, computing resources and performance that these platforms need to run optimally.
2. Hosting which suits your technical skill
If you run an online store, you’ll need to maintain it and regularly update the range of products you are selling. This will require some element of technical skill on your part as you’ll need to do these things by accessing the control panel of your hosting account and your platform.
Once again, choosing the right platform with which to build your site is an important decision. One of the reasons WordPress and Magento are so popular is because they can be used to create websites fairly easily, without the need for coding skills.
Even if you are having the website built for you, both WordPress and Magento provide user-friendly admin panels from which it is easy to update your site. Adding new content and products, changing prices, etc., can be done easily and quickly.
In addition, you also want your hosting admin panel to be easy to navigate. The best choices for this are the cPanel and Plesk control panels, which are designed to make light work of administrative tasks such as updating software or backing up your website. So, whilst you’ll need to learn some basic technical aspects of running a site, the actual carrying out of the work is easy to do.
3. Make sure your package has adequate storage
eCommerce sites need more storage than the average business website. You’ll need a separate page for each product that you sell and for each of those products, you’ll need a product description, specification and possibly customer reviews. In addition, most products have several images and each of these images will have different sized copies: thumbnail, medium, large and full size. This means, if you sell 250 products, you could have 4,000 product images that need storing.
Add to this all the other information you need for each product; SKU, product identification numbers, prices, size options, delivery information, etc. and you can see why storage can be an issue.
When looking for a hosting package, make sure that it comes with the storage you need, not just for now but the future. You won’t want to be restricted in the number of products you can sell because your storage capacity is too small.
4. Look for high-performance servers
Choosing a host that provides high-performance servers can boost the speed at which your site loads on customers’ computers, tablets and smartphones. This can have two very important benefits. Firstly, faster websites rank higher in search engine results and, secondly, quick loading sites sell more. According to KissMetrics, slow loading sites cause people to leave before a page has even loaded. Just a one-second delay can shrink conversions by as much as 7%. If you sell £500 of products a day, that delay can cost you over £12,000 a year in lost business.
Check your hosting carefully to see that the servers are up to speed. Also make sure that your package provides adequate CPU, RAM and bandwidth and has other features that can speed up your site, such as caching.
5. Reliable uptime
If you sell on the internet, people around the world can access your site at any time of the day. It’s a 24-hour market. What you don’t need is a site that goes offline. Every time this happens, you potentially lose a sale. At the same time, if people search for your site and it isn’t available, it gives your brand a poor reputation.
This can happen with poor quality hosting. If you opt for shared hosting, you need a host who can guarantee you 99.9% uptime. If you use VPS, cloud or dedicated server hosting, look for high availability packages that guarantee 99.99% uptime or better. This way, you know your store will always be open for business.
6. Security for your customers’ data
The security of your customers’ data has to be a high priority for any eCommerce company and there are regulations you will need to comply with to ensure data is kept securely. For example, if you take credit card payments, you will need to comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).
Your web host can play a vital role in helping keep your site secure and in assisting with compliance. For example, they should be able to provide you with an SSL certificate so that payment details are encrypted when a customer buys from you. In addition, they should be able to offer intrusion and malware monitoring to prevent hackers breaking in or your site getting infected.
7. 24/7 technical support
When you operate 24 hours a day, it’s good to know that, should you need it, expert technical support is available 24/7. Things can go wrong for many reasons: you may install conflicting plugins, accidentally delete an essential file or get infected by ransomware.
Choosing a provider that provides 24/7 technical support is the best way to ensure that these issues are resolved quickly and your business gets back online. Most hosts will offer 24/7 customer service, but this doesn’t always mean technical support. Customer service may just be a call centre, not necessarily an expert who can help you there and then. There is a big difference, so, only use a web host that offers 24/7 technical support, 365 days a year, via telephone, email and online chat.
From reading this article you should now have a better understanding of the things an eCommerce business should be looking for in a web host and a hosting package. Hopefully, this will be useful in helping you find the right web host for your online store.
If you are intending to launch an eCommerce site or are seeking new hosting for an existing store, check out our range of hosting packages. We have something to suit eCommerce businesses of all sizes, from micro-stores to large enterprises.