Successful online stores rely on their hosting to ensure the website stays online, that it can cope with all the visitors it receives and that it stays protected against cyber-attack. But that’s just the bare minimum you should expect from a good hosting provider. As a business owner, there are many other features you should be looking for to make sure your online store operates effectively. Here, we’ll look at what those features are and why you need them.
1. Easy to manage hosting
While you may be a wizard at online retail, you might not have all the technical skills to manage the back end of a website. Running a store will require you to carry out things like product updates, price changes and promotions, as well as the regular maintenance of the site itself.
The key to making website management easier and less technically challenging is to find hosting that comes with a high-quality control panel. Control panels are the interfaces where you find all the tools needed to manage your site. The best, like cPanel and Plesk, are easy to navigate, intuitive to use and come with a wide range of tools, many of which have wizards to help you carry out processes easily.
2. Space for everything
Online stores are much bigger than most business websites as you’ll need a separate page for each product you sell and each product will require at least one, but perhaps many, images. You’ll also have quite a lot of data to store, such as product descriptions, customer profiles and product reviews. You may also use quite a lot of plugins to add enhanced functionality to your site.
Every bit of data you keep will need to be stored on your server and as your business grows, the amount of storage space you require will increase. As a guide, look at how much space a typical photo takes up on your computer. Then consider that when you upload a photo to your website, it might create three or four copies of it, each of different sizes, to display on different pages or devices. Multiply this by the number of products you have and then again by the number of images for each product and you’ll start to get an idea of the storage space you’ll need.
For your online store to run effectively, ensure the storage capacity available on the package you choose is adequate for all your data – and with plenty of growing room.
3. Staying online
If your site goes offline, you are potentially losing money and customers. It is important, therefore, that your site remains available 24-hours a day and that any maintenance that requires downtime is kept to a minimum. Before purchasing a hosting package, check carefully that it guarantees minimum uptime. Shared hosting should offer at least 99.95% uptime, with VPS, cloud and dedicated server hosting offering between 99.99% and 100% uptime.
4. High speed, high-performance servers
High speed, high-performance servers provide two important functions. Firstly, they help your website to load faster on users’ browsers. This is important as many users will abandon a site if it loads slowly. And if it does, search engines will also downrank your site.
The second reason is that servers which perform better will be able to handle those busy periods when you have lots of visitors on your site at once. Poor performing servers will slow down and become sluggish if they have to carry out too many processes at the same time. Again, this can cause customers to leave and give your site a poor reputation.
5. Dedicated hosting solutions
There are a variety of different platforms you can use to build an online store. The most popular is WordPress which enables users to create professional online stores that are packed with great features for both customer and webmaster. Another highly recommended platform is Magento, which has been created specifically to build online shops.
These platforms have different demands, however, and perform best when servers are optimised for them. To get the most out of your chosen platform, therefore, the best solution is to opt for hosting that has been created specifically for them, such as dedicated WordPress hosting or Magento hosting.
6. Fort Knox security
All online stores are required to comply with data protection regulations in order to keep customer data safe. This will require you to collect, process and store data in ways which comply with GDPR and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS).
A hosting provider can play a key role in ensuring a site stays secure and that you stay compliant. Before making a choice, you should check that it offers such services as SSL certificates, firewalls, intrusion prevention, malware monitoring, email scanning and remote backups.
7. Help when you need it
Unlike bricks and mortar stores, online shops stay open 24/7. This means if something goes wrong, you’ll need to deal with it straight away. The best way to ensure help is always available is to choose a web host that offers 24/7 technical support as part of your package. Technical support provides expertise to deal with challenging website issues – whenever you need it.
Online stores are a special type of website that have their own hosting demands. Standard hosting packages are not always the best solution for them. Hopefully, the information provided here will give you a better understanding of the things you should be looking for in a hosting provider and why you need them.
If you are considering setting up an online store, take a look at our wide range of hosting packages.