You can’t start an online business without hosting. But how do you know which ecommerce hosting provider is best for you? Answer a few simple questions about your business needs and goals, and you’ll be on the right track.
With a seemingly endless variety of hosting providers available today, choosing the right one for your business can be hard. But with a few simple questions about your business, we can help you choose one that meets your needs and your budget.
What type of ecommerce software do you plan to use?
Before you can decide on the best ecommerce hosting plan, you’ll have to know which type of software you plan to use. There are three main types of ecommerce software: hosted solutions, licensed ecommerce software and open source ecommerce software.
Licensed ecommerce software is installed directly onto your computer. If you go this route, you’ll need to find hosting and servers to keep your site running.
Open source ecommerce solutions are typically free software downloads that you install on your computer. While they’re initially cheaper than licensed or hosted solutions, they require large amounts of custom coding and technical knowledge, in addition to third-party hosting and server maintenance.
Hosted Ecommerce Solutions (like Volusion) combine your web hosting, ecommerce software and website into one service with one fee. The software is hosted in the cloud along with your site, so you don’t have to find hosting or maintain servers. You can also access your store from any computer or device, offering greater flexibility.
Once you’ve established which kind of solution you need, you can begin assessing the strengths and qualities of individual hosting providers.
How do you plan to accept payments?
If you want to accept credit cards through your site, you’ll need to choose a hosting that follows the industry’s data security guidelines. But not all providers follow them in the same way.
The Payment Card Industry (PCI) is a joint creation of Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express. In response to the growing frequency and severity of credit card and identity theft, this organization created the PCI Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), with the overall goal of protecting credit card data wherever it may reside. As part of the PCI DSS, the Cardholder Information Security Program (CISP) helps to establish industry-wide standards for card security. To receive certification these standards must be followed by both merchants and providers.
But there’s a difference between PCI Compliant and PCI Certified. Being “compliant” indicates that a merchant follows the PCI DSS guidelines. And compliance is only measured once a year, so rapid-spreading malware and hacking innovations are not always addressed.
PCI/CISP Certification offers a higher degree of guaranteed security. In order to be certified, a provider must make major investments in their servers and hardware to meet higher security standards. When this has taken place, there is a rigorous screening process to be listed on Visa’s certification list.
Reliability: How stable is your hosting solution?
Stable, reliable ecommerce hosting means your store is always open. After all, if your customers can’t get to your store, they can’t buy your products. That means that the truly best ecommerce hosting solution should provide you with some sort of uptime guarantee, of at least 99% or higher. This type of guarantee ensures that the burden of performance falls to your hosting solution, as their profits are on the line if they don’t deliver.
Beyond uptime, don’t be afraid to ask a potential provider the hard questions, such as:
- Is your ecommerce hosting operated in-house or outsourced to a third party? And if it is a third party, who is it? Oftentimes, outsourced hosting can lead to delays in fixing a problem (they’re bound to happen in the wild world of technology), as the job to make repairs is delegated to the third-party hosting provider, not your ecommerce solution.
- What type of redundancy is in place? In a nutshell, “redundancy” means “backup,” which is important to understanding the total reliability of a network. For example, if a piece of hardware or a point within the network is to experience issues, having multiple layers of redundancy will prevent a total hosting collapse, helping to keep your site up.
- Is your ecommerce hosting scalable? Let’s say that you land a huge deal by appearing on a nationally televised morning show to talk about your product line. The second you share your domain name with a national audience, your site will experience a huge spike in traffic. If your ecommerce hosting solution isn’t able to prepare and adjust for this, it’s probable that your site will crash, costing you lots of hard-earned sales.
Speed: How fast does your website site load?
Online shoppers are notoriously impatient, with conversion rates dropping significantly for every second longer sites take to load. In fact, one study from KISSmetrics found that about 25% of users will abandon a site if it takes more than 4 seconds to load.
If you want your site to load faster, look for a hosting provider that uses a Content Delivery Network (CDN). A CDN consists of a network of servers typically located around the world, which allows visitors to pull your site from the server that’s closest to them.
Can your hosting grow with your store?
If you’re thinking long-term (and you should be), you also want to find a hosting solution that can grow with your business. Building a business is hard enough–you don’t want to move it over to a different provider after one or two years of growth. At the same time, there’s no reason to pay for a one-size-fits all hosting plan if you’re just running a small shop with a handful of products.
Look for an ecommerce hosting solution that offers several levels of service, allowing you to move up as your business grows.
Remember: The best ecommerce hosting solution is the one that best meets your needs.
The best advice we can give you when you’re shopping for a hosting provider is to do your homework. Think about your needs today and your goals for tomorrow. Then, take some time to learn about the security, reliability and scalability each provider offers. From there, the answer should be clear.
If you need any help, don’t hesitate to ask us!
Looking to find the best ecommerce hosting solution for your online business? Take a look at what Volusion has to offer. Our premium hosting includes a 99.9% uptime guarantee, full PCI/CISP certification, the highest levels of scalability and security, and a whole team of experts to ensure your site is performing at its best around the clock. To learn more, visit us at volusion.com or sign up for a free Volusion trial.