Choose a domain name that matches your brand, find an ecommerce platform, tinker with templates, upload your product catalog … the list goes on.
Web hosting—a service that makes it possible for customers to visit your new ecommerce site—is often forgotten about (or disregarded entirely). But it’s one of the most important elements of an online store.
The ecommerce hosting provider you choose impacts the experience an online shopper has with your site. Everything from page loading speeds to the security of information they’re submitting—particularly credit card information—is managed by your hosting provider.
In short: you need to pick a good one. Ecommerce purchases live and die by the experience a shopper has on a website. Your host has a huge responsibility.
So, what does a good ecommerce hosting provider look like? This guide shares the answers.
What is an ecommerce host?
An ecommerce host is a company that lends space on its server to power your online store.
A hosting company stores the text, images, and code used to make your website visible to online shoppers. It works with a browser to relay that information to anyone landing on your ecommerce website.
Shopify has the biggest market share of ecommerce platforms. More than one in four online businesses use it to power their stores—and for good reason.
Shopify hosting has 99.99% uptime, considered the gold standard in the industry. It also uses a content delivery network (CDN) with several servers to make sure global website visitors can access your ecommerce store as quickly as possible, no matter how fast you grow.
Get access to powerful and scalable features as part of Shopify’s ecommerce platform, including:
If that wasn’t good enough, Shopify hosting lets you focus on what you do best: run an online business. Any hosting updates will be done automatically—no need to deal with downtime, fix bugs, or spend hours on the phone to support.
We use Shopify and we recommend it very much. It has been nothing but a joy to use and is very easy to set up. Downtimes are minimal, and if they occur, the team resolves it within hours always.
: 4.4 out of 5 stars
Pricing: From $39/month as part of the ecommerce platform package. Start a free trial today.
IONOS, known previously as 1&1, offers a range of hosting packages. It recommends the Web Hosting Expert plan for business owners looking to host an online store, which includes features like:
IONOS’ most impressive feature is fast loading speeds. It reports faster loading times than other hosting providers, including Bluehost, GoDaddy, and Hostgator.
However, many customers report a steeper-than-usual learning curve with its control panel functionality. Expect to spend some time digging around the back end of its hosting management system should you need to make any changes.
: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Pricing: $8/month for 12 months; $16/month thereafter.
Bluehost is a good option for ecommerce sites using WordPress or WooCommerce. There’s an option for all budgets, from its shared hosting plan through to a VPS for growing ecommerce businesses.
Customers get access to various features in each of its hosting packages, including:
It’s worth noting that certain Bluehost features are reserved for premium packages, including domain name privacy and unmetered bandwidth. Packages can also get expensive after introductory offers expire.
: 3.6 out of 5 stars
Pricing: From $9.95 per month.
Siteground powers more than 2.8 million domains and boasts a customer satisfaction rate of 98%. Its hosting service is recommended by WordPress and gives ecommerce founders access to:
One thing to consider when adding Siteground to your hosting shortlist is that it’s no longer PCI compliant. You’ll need to pay extra for a compliant ecommerce platform, such as Shopify, to process payments through a Siteground-hosted website.
: 4.1 out of 5 stars
Pricing: From $4.99/month.
5. A2 Hosting
A2 Hosting offers a range of packages for ecommerce owners. Its shared ecommerce web hosting plans are a good starting point for new sites. As traffic grows, you’ll likely need to move to its managed VPS hosting plan for access to:
One of A2 Hosting’s biggest differentiators is its commitment to preventing climate change. Its green initiative plants trees in its headquarters city of Ann Arbor, Michigan, when customers pay for a new package. Add it to your shortlist if sustainability is one of your brand’s core values.
: 4.4 out of 5 stars
Pricing: From $11.99/month for shared hosting plans.
GoDaddy is a huge player in the hosting space, claiming 10.4% of the web hosting market share.
Mostly working with sites using WordPress, GoDaddy offers four different packages, depending on the storage, bandwidth, and processing power your ecommerce store needs. Each includes:
It’s worth noting that growing ecommerce businesses will need to change GoDaddy hosting plans as they scale. To get faster processing power and speed, alongside 100 GB of storage and free SSL certificates, you’d need to upgrade to an Ultimate or Maximum plan.
: 3.9 out of 5 stars
Pricing: From $9.99/month for the economy package.
HostGator is another option to consider when searching for an ecommerce hosting solution. More than two million websites use its hosting packages, though you’ll need a private VPS plan to access features like:
Much like any other self-hosting packages, expect your monthly fee to change as your ecommerce business grows. Also be aware that introductory deals are often much lower than full price. Prepare for costly renewal fees once your deal term expires.
: 3.6 out of 5 stars
Pricing: From $19.95 per month for private VPS hosting.
DreamHost is a popular web hosting service that guarantees 100% uptime. It’s one of the services recommended for a WordPress website.
DreamHost’s ecommerce plans include the WooCommerce plug-in. You’ll also get unlimited email, a minimum 30 GB of SSD storage, one-click staging, and free WordPress migrations.
Some features include:
: 3.7 out of 5 stars
Pricing: $2.59/month for shared starter plan.
9. InMotion Hosting
InMotion Hosting is a good option for any sized business looking to host an ecommerce store. It offers a variety of website hosting plans with a simple setup process and reliable customer support. One drawback is that you have storage limits on base plans.
Some features include:
: 4.0 out of 5 stars
Pricing: Plans start at $2.49 per month.
Types of ecommerce hosts
There are two options to consider when choosing a new ecommerce host.
SaaS hosting is provided by the website builder you use to create your ecommerce store. This is the easier and safest option for founders with limited technical knowledge. In many cases, the platform handles the connection between your host and domain name, no complex coding needed.
It’s also the cheapest option for many small business owners. You’ll get ecommerce web hosting bundled in with other important features like payment processing, inventory management, and point-of-sale (POS) tools, all for one monthly fee.
If you need more flexibility from your hosting provider, consider self-hosting. Providers have different tiers depending on the size and speed of your ecommerce site:
The downside to self-hosting is that it can get expensive—fast. Tiered pricing incentivizes small businesses to spend more for faster loading speeds, prioritized customer support, and increased bandwidth. That’s on top of the other website costs you’ll need to factor into your ecommerce operating expenses.
How to choose an ecommerce hosting provider
Google the phrase “ecommerce hosting provider” and you’ll see millions of results. How do you know which company should be trusted with the most important factor in running an ecommerce business: your website?
Here are five important things a beginner should consider when choosing a new hosting provider.
It makes sense to pay for a top-quality ecommerce host. A reliable one minimizes the chance of your website becoming unavailable for customers to access. But bear in mind that some options can be much cheaper than others in the long term, especially if you plan to scale.
Check for any limitations or hidden fees on the ecommerce hosting plans you’re comparing. With some self-hosted providers, some features are charged extra—such as analytics access, file storage, bandwidth overages, and branded email accounts.
Planning to keep costs down? Hosting from your ecommerce platform bundles those costs into one monthly fee. Shopify hosting, for example, starts at just $39 per month. That includes a domain name, unlimited bandwidth, inventory management, and PCI compliance in one dashboard. Paying for each of those ecommerce features separately would be much more expensive.
Speed and bandwidth
The experience a customer has with your website makes or breaks their decision to purchase something.
Just a one-second improvement in page load speeds can increase mobile conversions by up to 27%. You’ll also improve your ecommerce SEO; site speeds are a ranking factor in Google’s ranking algorithm. Search engines want to point users toward sites with pleasant experiences.
Offer that to visitors by prioritizing loading times on your online store. For each hosting provider on your shortlist, check the bandwidth—the maximum data a host can transfer between your website and a visitor within a given time period.
If you exceed your host’s bandwidth limit, your site will become unavailable for potential customers to access. The host can’t process data fast enough to cope with high demand. In this case, you’ll likely need to upgrade your plan—hence why limited bandwidth hosting providers can get more expensive as your ecommerce business scales.
Narrow your shortlist down to providers with unlimited bandwidth. When your ecommerce business begins to grow, unlimited bandwidth gives you enough processing power to serve thousands of website visitors at once.
You lose money every second your ecommerce store is offline. Prevent that from happening by selecting a hosting provider with a history of minimal downtime.
Tools like Uptime and Pindgom give unbiased reports for top hosting providers, including the issues each has and how long it takes for the host to respond to them. Ideally, uptime should be as close to 100% as possible.
Confirm with each provider whether your store is backed up if the worst does happen. Should something go wrong, you’ll have a file to reupload and get your store back online. The frequency of these depends on how often you update your site. Small businesses might only need weekly backups; larger stores with thousands of SKUs will need daily backups.
In addition, check the protection each hosting provider gives its data centers. Top providers have processes in place to prevent downtime—like on-site security, multiple sources of energy, and cooling systems to prevent the servers from overheating.
Privacy and security
Unfortunately, every website owner runs the risk of falling victim to an attack. Criminals can inject malicious code into your data and eavesdrop on information passed through. Distributed denial of service (DDoS) is also common. It happens when scammers overload your host and make your site unavailable.
Greatly minimize the risk of attacks tanking your site by choosing a host with antivirus features like:
Similarly, anybody can look up the information of a domain using a WHOIS lookup—including when the site was registered, when the domain expires, and details of who owns it. If you’d rather keep this information to yourself, choose a provider that offers WHOIS protection.
Free SSL certificates are another thing to look out for when evaluating different hosts. An ecommerce store will be marked “Not secure” without an SSL certificate, which encrypts the data being transmitted through a website.
Speaking of encrypting data, customers pass sensitive information through a website when making online purchases. Protect their name, mailing address, and credit card information by confirming each hosting provider is PCI compliant.
The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a security standard all businesses that process online payments need to follow. Designed to reduce fraud, your ecommerce hosting provider needs to be PCI compliant in order to take payments like Mastercard, American Express, Visa, and more.
For more protection, combine your cloud hosting provider with services like Cloudflare. It acts as the middleman between your host and a user’s browser for an added layer of security.
Hosting can be complex, especially as the volume of your website traffic increases. Make sure the ecommerce host you choose is easy to contact if you have questions.
“Many hosts offer 24/7 customer support, but the level of support can vary greatly,” says Dave Smyth, co-founder of Scruples. “Consider what options there are for contacting a support team. Phone or live chat can be great in an emergency, but sometimes you just need to send a quick ticket about a non-urgent task without waiting in a queue.”
That’s another important distinction between SaaS and self-hosted platforms. The latter, for which pricing is often tiered, incentivizes you to pay more for priority support.
Your choice of ecommerce host is important
The ecommerce host you choose for your online store is a big decision. Your provider is responsible for making your site accessible to potential customers wherever and whenever they want to shop.
Take some time to investigate the ecommerce hosting options we’ve recommended here—but don’t rush into it. Many providers offer 30-day money-back guarantees and free trials to test each package.
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