As you go about setting up your online store, one question you’ll soon find yourself asking is, “what e-commerce hosting provider is right for me?” Making the right choice is critical because a poor web host can cost you revenue and customers.
But there are many considerations central to finding a hosting provider that meets your needs. The security of their infrastructure, load speeds, uptime, and dedicated E-Commerce features are just some of these. In addition, you should know what type of hosting you need and how this should scale as your E-Commerce platform grows.
If you’re not sure how any of this works or you need some extra help figuring things out, we’re here for you. In this article, we’ll explain all you need to know about picking the right E-Commerce web host and what a great host looks like.
What is E-Commerce hosting?
There’s no tool more important for E-Commerce stores than an attractive, functional website when it comes to selling online. This is especially the case if you choose not to sell from an established marketplace. Many factors contribute towards having a website that works for you, and E-Commerce hosting is one of them.
E-Commerce hosting is a service provided by certain companies that allow you to host your website on their servers. Essentially, these companies offer a physical space for your website and maintain the infrastructure that makes it accessible to your customers. The web host will store all of your files, including images, product catalogs, and other site information on the hosted server.
While it’s easy to think of websites as something that exists solely on the internet, the reality is that they need to be hosted physically somewhere. For some E-Commerce stores, this means buying their own servers and employing a stand-by IT team to run things. But for most, this means renting space on the servers of an E-Commerce hosting provider – usually a cheaper option for small-scale sellers.
In addition to hosting a website, E-Commerce web hosts also provide certain features that are unique to E-Commerce platforms. For instance, most basic hosting packages include integrated shopping carts, payment gateways, extra security, and provision for congestion during traffic spikes. Apart from this, many web hosts provide integration with popular E-Commerce website builders like Magento, Shopify, Open Cart, WordPress (WooCommerce), and more.
When do you need E-Commerce hosting?
To be clear, it’s not all online sellers that decide they need a web host for their E-Commerce platform. Like we already mentioned, if you intend to operate a significant e-commerce operation, you may consider setting up your own physical servers and building up from scratch.
Then again, a dedicated E-Commerce hosting setup is not even always required for you to run your online store. Certain web builders like Shopify, Wix, and Squarespace provide an all-in-one hosted solution, meaning the platform hosts your website as part of the package. If you’re using one of these website builders, there may be no need to go after dedicated E-Commerce hosting.
But if you’re using other website builders that do not offer web hosting, finding a quality web host will be a top priority. You may also consider using an E-Commerce web host to take advantage of specific features that some hosting companies provide. For example, A2 Hosting is popular for its breakneck speeds1, and other providers boast up to 99.99% uptime.
Regardless of what you decide, it will be critical to take the time to ensure you’re making the best choice for your business. Here’s why.
Why is it important to choose the right E-Commerce host?
As an E-Commerce store owner, your website is your most important resource. It not only operates as your virtual storefront; it also plays a significant role in how people perceive your brand. When things are ticking over nicely, as will be the case with a quality provider, people have a great perception of your brand.
But once customers experience challenges like slow page load speeds, frequent downtime, or patchy security, your business will suffer. And these are only some of the issues that can come from partnering with a poor web host. Here’s what these issues can cost you:
- High bounce rate: Bounce rate is a measure of how quickly people leave a website after landing on it. There are many reasons why customers will leave your website soon after they click through. Slow page load speeds are a common reason. Statistics indicate that 47% of customers expect web pages to load in two seconds or less2. Even worse, 80% of them will leave and never return if that expectation is not met3. The best E-Commerce hosting companies ensure they provide hosting infrastructure that meets your speed needs. This includes using Content Delivery Networks (CDN) and caching. A CDN is a network of servers that reduces page load times by presenting content through servers nearest to a web visitor. Caching increases site speed by storing webpages as HTML, thereby enabling page requests to be served quicker.
- Poor conversion rates: Conversion rates measure how often your site visitors take actions you want them to. This includes how often they click on product items, use their cart, and proceed to checkout. Conversion rates always suffer when visitors do not enjoy a pleasant experience on your website. This will often be the case when you have patchy security or when your website is too slow. First-rate hosting providers guarantee site security by providing Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificates using HTTPS technology. This protects any information your visitors type into your web pages and prevents that information from being ripped or stolen by hackers.
- Cart abandonment: The Baymard Institute reports that 70% of customers abandon their carts before checkout4. They do this for several reasons, including a complicated or long checkout process, site freezes, incompatible payment options, and more. You want your hosting provider to support you with a robust payments process that is not only optimized for seamless checkout but that also caters specifically to your target market.
- Unfavorable page ranking: An increasing number of potential customers find E-Commerce stores through search engines like Google. However, because search engines are invested in providing quality results to their users, they won’t serve up a website that has poor security, high unavailability, or other issues. In fact, Google uses factors like site speed to rank websites5. This means if your website is slow, you’re unlikely to feature high enough on search engine results pages for customers to find you.
- Loss of revenue: Eventually, these issues will not only create a poorer perception of your brand in the eyes of customers, but they will also cost you money. Some customers will leave your store and shop elsewhere, while others may not even be able to enter your website at all due to constant downtime and poor speeds.
Overall, it’s clear that you simply can’t skimp when it comes to picking an E-Commerce hosting provider. The right provider not only gives you peace of mind but protects your hard work and gives you a solid base from which to expand your business.
Types of E-Commerce hosting
There are several types of E-Commerce hosting that you can explore. Your choice will depend on how much control you require, your bandwidth needs, your budget, and your IT experience.
We’ll start with the more common options. Traditionally, there are three main types of hosting that online sellers have to choose from. These are shared hosting, VPS, and dedicated hosting.
Shared hosting is typically the most common hosting type E-Commerce stores use, especially smaller stores. With this type of hosting, sellers share a single server and other hosting infrastructure with many other websites. Under this arrangement, a single server can host hundreds of websites.
The obvious advantage of shared hosting is its affordability. It is a very economical option that gives store owners the minimum functionality of a good web host without breaking the bank. However, the downside is that online stores may experience relatively slower speeds compared with other hosting options since hosting resources are quite limited. This often becomes a problem when stores begin to experience higher traffic.
VPS hosting, which means Virtual Private Server hosting, is often used by store owners who have outgrown shared hosting. With VPS hosting, websites still share a single web server, but with fewer users and guaranteed allocation of hard drive space, processor power, and memory.
All users on VPS servers enjoy a virtual environment that simulates a private server, and this gives them greater resources and performance overall. The arrangement also provides users with greater customization options and much more bandwidth. Of course, while VPS hosting allows significantly more resources, it’s important that users still share server space to an extent. Also, this hosting arrangement is typically more expensive than shared hosting.
Dedicated hosting provides the maximum resources available when it comes to web hosting. Here, e-commerce stores do not need to share server space with any other website. They will have full control and access to server resources, making this a very compelling option for much larger online stores.
With dedicated hosting, the user essentially leases an entire physical server from a hosting provider. So they enjoy all the space and resources, but at a fixed monthly cost. That said, dedicated hosting doesn’t come cheap and will often come at a cost that is beyond the budget of most small-scale stores.
Other hosting types
Apart from the three major hosting types, you can also explore other options such as cloud hosting and self-hosting. Cloud hosting presents a great option for rapidly growing E-Commerce websites that want a flexible solution. Instead of the finite system resources that other hosting options provide, cloud hosting providers allow users to purchase as much space as they need, then slowly scale as their business demands.
Self-hosting is essentially buying your own physical server and employing an IT team to handle the installation and maintenance of the server. While this gives you absolute control over your data and hosting needs, this option only really makes sense for large corporations. It’s also worth noting that the hardware and labor costs involved here will be significantly higher than the cost of dedicated hosting.
Considerations when choosing a host
As you begin your search for the right hosting provider, it’s easy to get confused by the deluge of technical specs each candidate presents. Keeping these factors in mind will help you avoid confusion and quickly determine which of the options is right for you.
- Security: Due to the sensitive payments data they collect, E-Commerce websites are often a prime target for hackers. As a result, they typically need higher than average security features. The best E-Commerce hosting providers integrate high-end security components into their package. This includes free basic SSL certificates, HTTPS technology, and encryption. The best web hosts also provide PCI compliance which implements a set of industry standards that protect credit card data. They also take active measures to combat the threat of security breaches through 24/7 monitoring and scanning of your website, malware detection and removal, and protection against DDoS attacks6.
- Performance: As we have mentioned already, speed and performance are top priorities for E-Commerce sites. Great hosting providers ensure you enjoy reliable performance through reliable uptime guarantees. It is normal to see providers guarantee at least 99% uptime. Although some others go further to assure up to 99.99% availability meaning your website will be constantly available except for a few minutes of scheduled downtime yearly.
- File storage: Online stores are typically image-heavy. Your product images, catalogs, and other product information will take up a lot of space. Your hosting plan needs to come with sufficient bandwidth to host all of your files. Certain providers give users unlimited bandwidth to ensure that their files can be delivered promptly on request. In addition, you want a provider that uses CDNs so your website content can be presented rapidly to users from a convenient geographical location.
- Backups: As your E-Commerce business grows, so will your website and the data hosted on it. It’s critical that this data gets backed up periodically so you are never at risk of losing all of your files. While it’s possible to back this data up manually from time to time, it makes the most sense to choose a web host that provides automatic periodic backups as part of their package. Provision should also be made for storing these backups on a separate server from the one your website is hosted. This way, if your web server fails, you’ll know there’s an untainted backup nestled somewhere safe.
- E-Commerce features: You simply cannot settle for a hosting provider that doesn’t support E-Commerce-specific features. They should be able to provide you with a shopping cart, a payments gateway, integration for specific payments processors, and more. Look carefully at what they offer and determine if this meets your needs and that of your target market.
- Administrative interface: Your hosting solution should come with an intuitive, user-friendly backend interface. As the owner and administrator of your online store, you will have access to the backend of your website – essentially the backstory where the magic happens. The interface should not be too complex for you to understand, but it must be intuitive enough to let you find what you need quickly.
- Customer support: While it doesn’t directly affect the service your customers get, you should be able to access efficient, reliable support from your hosting provider. You don’t want a provider that takes several hours to address your support ticket, or that leaves you without help on weekends or holidays. The faster you can get help from them, the easier it’ll be to manage your website and deliver top service to your customers.
Now that you know all you should be looking for in an E-Commerce hosting provider, we’ll look next at some of the best web hosts around.
5 Best E-Commerce hosting providers in 2021
Depending on your specific hosting needs and preferences, you may find anywhere from tens to hundreds of providers to pick from. But some web hosts have consistently stood out as great options for website owners, especially in the E-Commerce industry. Here are five of the best in 2021.
A2 Hosting is primarily known for “blazing fast” site speeds powered by its Turbo Servers. The hosting provider is reputed to provide page load speeds up to twenty times faster than the average server.
A2 Hosting offers E-Commerce-specific plans for all hosting types, including shared, VPS, and dedicated hosting. They provide SSD storage and unmetered disk space, as well as a respectable uptime guarantee of at least 99.95%.
The web host also provides substantial support and security measures. Their support team is available 24/7 via live chat and phone. They also have an extensive, fully searchable knowledge base with all the DIY tips you may need. Every plan comes with a free SSL certificate, along with A2’s Perpetual Security initiative, which gives you DDoS protection, dual hosting firewall, and HackScan protection.
SiteGround goes above and beyond with its E-Commerce-specific features, which include free shopping carts, an E-Commerce Optimized Server, and free eShop transfer. In addition, the hosting company provides auto-installation and unmetered data transfer so you can start easy and grow at your pace.
The web host uses Cloudflare CDN backed by multiple server locations across three continents. And with an uptime guarantee of 99.98%, they assure almost perpetual website availability all year round.
Just like A2 Hosting, SiteGround provides free SSL certificates as well as advanced spam protection. In addition to this, SiteGround uses a monitoring system that scans your website and checks your server status once every half second to detect and automatically fix any issues that arise.
InMotion supports many E-Commerce web builders, including WooCommerce, OpenCart, PrestaShop, and Magento. All of the provider’s plans include free SSD storage and advertising credits worth up to $150.
Their support staff is highly trained, with each representative required to undertake 160 hours of training before serving customers. InMotion also provides automatic periodic backups, a free SSL certificate, and constant malware protection, so you know your website is always safe.
All plans also come with unlimited space and free domains, ensuring you can get started quickly and without space limitations.
BlueHost is one of the best E-Commerce providers in terms of uptime and availability, with an uptime guarantee of 99.99%. The web host provides great features on its mid-tier plans, which come with unmetered bandwidth, unlimited SSD storage, and unlimited domains.
If you are using a WordPress website, then BlueHost should provide a very compelling option. WordPress itself recommends using this web host, and considering the one-click installation and dedicated WooCommerce hosting plugin BlueHost provides; it’s easy to see why.
The hosting service also has a respectable security package with Spam Assassin protection, Secure Shell access (SSH), and hotlink protection, all forming a part of its package.
HostGator provides unlimited bandwidth and unlimited email accounts with its plans. In addition, users are given a free domain over the court of their first year, although you must pay to renew the domain name afterward.
The web host guarantees an uptime of 99.99%, which is the highest standard the industry has to offer. They provide 24/7 live chat and phone support as well as a comprehensive DIY knowledge base.
Sell on Alibaba.com
Once you have picked an E-Commerce host that meets all of your objectives, you’re in a great position to really push on in your business. All that’s left is to find your target customers and attract them to your website, and here’s where Alibaba.com can help.
Alibaba.com is the largest international marketplace where B2B buyers and sellers connect and conduct great business. Whether you’re just getting started in the E-Commerce industry or already have a thriving business, we can help you grow better. Learn how to get started on Alibaba.com today.