by Tom Shackleton
The world of eCommerce hosting can often seem complex and packed with jargon. This jargon and complicated language can be a problem when you’re trying to choose the hosting provider and package that’s best for your eCommerce store.
So what are the key features and signs you should be looking out for? There are various different signs that a particular hosting package is the right choice for your business, and some will depend on the nature of your store.
Here are the key factors to consider when choosing your eCommerce hosting package:
How Fast Is It?
The speed of your chosen package is one of the first things you should consider. Having a slow hosting provider can damage your business before you’ve even started.
Your customers will expect a site that loads quickly and efficiently. This means your hosting needs to be able to quickly load web pages, rich media and images with ease, as well as handling plenty of users at once.
As well as putting off visitors, a slow site can also have a negative impact on your search ranking. Search engines like Google take site speed into account when ranking, so your sluggish store may end up further down the pile, behind competitors.
Page load times can vary for a number of reasons, including your platform choice. But if you can ensure your hosting package is efficient, you’re much more likely to secure a fast site. Finding a fast web host would be an article all of it’s own, but a priority should be to find a package that helps your site load quickly and provides a great customer experience.
How Scalable is the Package?
What suits your business well now may not be appropriate as your business grows. You’ll want an eCommerce hosting package that can scale with your store as it takes off.
As your sales and visitor numbers increase, you’ll want to be sure that you can scale up your hosting package to account for the added pressure. That’s why it’s important to consider scalability now, rather than face problems further down the line.
Think about the additional hosting costs for scaling up your package, and assess whether you could feasibly afford this. Your package should in theory become better value for money as it scales up.
You may also want to consider how flexible a certain hosting provider can be. For example, if you wanted to scale back down your package, is this a possibility? Scaling back may not be something you’ve thought of, but it may be financially beneficial if your store is prone to seasonality.
Is the Security Comprehensive?
Security should be a deal breaker when it comes to eCommerce hosting.
You have a responsibility to your customers to provide a safe, secure place to shop, so you must ensure that any hosting package is fully compliant with the latest standards. Look for packages that are PCI compliant. This should signify a safe environment for card transactions to take place.
An SSL certificate is also required for any eCommerce store (and is now recommended for any website in general). This will allow your customers to browse over a secure connection. Some packages may include an SSL certificate, but many won’t, so you’ll need to factor the cost of purchasing one into your hosting budget - or whether a free SSL service such as Let’s Encrypt is appropriate.
Look at the provider’s reputation and reviews. Are they reliably security compliant, or do customers have issues with the security they provide? Only select a hosting package and provider that you are absolutely sure can meet your security needs.
Are the Costs Manageable?
Opting for the cheapest package on the market can be tempting, but may not be wise. Many packages are not transparent, and you’ll have to carefully compare them to ensure everything is included.
If something important is missing from your chosen package, you’ll have to source it elsewhere. Conversely, some packages will bundle in extra features such as domain names and email accounts. These can be attractive, but focus on the needs of your business and core features of the package.
You’ll also need to look at how manageable the cost will be for your business. Is there a free trial time limited offer that will lead your hosting costs to increase in the future? Can you afford to pay for extra capacity to cope with demand?
Costing for hosting packages can be complex, so consider every option and included feature.
How Reliable is The Provider?
A great indicator of a provider’s quality is often their reliability. Look through customer reviews and ratings and assess the reliability of your chosen provider.
You should be looking for any down-time that has occurred and how this impacted on businesses using the provider. Is down-time a regular occurrence? Was the issue fixed quickly? Your business needs a stable and reliable hosting package in order to keep selling - and unreliable hosting can result in loss of sales.
Also, research the provider’s ability to cope with spikes in demand. Having a sudden lift in your sales is fantastically exciting for your business, and that positivity will be quickly quashed by your website going down.
Is It Easy to Use?
As you’ll be the one managing your hosting on a day to day basis, having a dashboard and interface such as cPanel, that’s easy to use, is essential.
You have to direct domain names to your hosting account, address any issues and manage your package. This means it’s important to consider the usability of your provider’s dashboard, especially if you have limited technical knowledge.
If you can’t quickly and easily make changes to your hosting account, you won’t be able to manage your site, back-up your database and keep everything running smoothly.
Is It Compatible with Your eCommerce Platform?
As an eCommerce merchant, this is a pretty key thing to consider. Research your chosen package and assess whether your eCommerce platform is fully compatible.
Some providers will offer eCommerce specific packages that include features such as automatic back-ups, making the process of managing your store a little easier.
Also, different packages will use different technologies, so be sure that your chosen platform is fully compatible. Getting in touch with the hosting provider’s support team is the simplest way to alleviate any worries you may have.
Would a Fully Managed Platform Be Better?
With so much to consider, from security and reliability to speed and ease of use, there’s one more option worth considering.
A fully managed eCommerce platform such as Shopify removes the need for worrying about any of the issues raised in this article. Hosting, security, maintenance and upgrades are all taken care of for you, letting you focus on running your business.
Shopify will easily adapt to changes in traffic volume, and there’s no need to scale up for higher demand. Not only that, but pricing is also simple and transparent, so no need for extensive research and analysis.
Before picking your hosting package, consider whether using a fully managed platform would save you significant time and money.
Navigating all of the different hosting providers and packages on the market can be complex and time consuming, so consider all of the factors on this list carefully and choose the provider that best suits your business’ needs.
Interested in finding out more about how Statement can help you identify the best solution for your business? Just get in touch and we’d be happy to help.