This article is part of a series created in partnership with SiteGround. Thank you for supporting the partners who make SitePoint possible.
So you’re ready to launch your online store. Can you just use your existing web hosting, or do you need something special?
While eCommerce hosting doesn’t need to cost a fortune, invest the time and money you need up front to make sure you have a solution that is going to work with you—not just now, but take future growth into account as well.
If you’re planning to use a hosted solution like Shopify, and embed it into WordPress, then your hosting requirements are less stringent, since the security and heavy lifting are being taken care of by Spotify.
But if you’ll be hosting your own shopping cart software, the choice of hosting is critical. It’s a key factor in ensuring your customers have a smooth and responsive online shopping experience.
What sort of hosting should you choose? A company experienced in hosting eCommerce, and a plan optimised for eCommerce. Here are some factors to take into consideration.
1. You Need a Hosting Plan with Sufficient Storage Space and Bandwidth
An eCommerce site will need to store shopping cart software, a product catalogue, and a customer database. You need to choose a hosting plan with enough space to store all of this, and enough bandwidth for your customers to access your products, including copy, images and other resources. Err on the side of caution—underestimating your needs may lead to financial penalties if you go over your limits.
Plans with at least 2 GB of disk space and 10 GB/month of bandwidth are common, and will give you more than enough resources for an online store with thousands of products. This is a good starting point for your online store.
2. You Need Hosting that Supports Your Shopping Cart Software
There’s quite a variety of eCommerce software available today. Choose the solution that best meets your needs, then choose a hosting solution that supports the system requirements of that software—or better still, can install it with a click of the mouse.
Two powerful and free shopping carts are Magento and PrestaShop. They are full-featured, and worthy of consideration. There are also plugins for WordPress and Joomla to turn your favorite CMS into an eCommerce platform. How do you choose?
SiteGround lets you choose between 18 popular eCommerce applications, and install them automatically. Their Shopping Cart Guide will help you decide on the right software for your store. Take your time making your decision—it will be a lot of work if you change your mind later on.
3. You Need Hosting that Enables Secure Credit Card Payments
Security is important for any website, but especially so for an eCommerce site. Taking payments online and storing confidential customer information require special care.
One security feature you need for secure financial and credit card transactions is SSL. An SSL certificate serves as a digital passport, allowing data to be transmitted over secure networks. It authenticates and encrypts all data transferred through the website.
Here are some benefits of SSL:
- It protects your site from spoofing.
- It gains visitors’ trust by displaying security padlock
- It bans data alteration and editing.
- It protect your visitors’ personal data from misuse.
SiteGround offer three different SSL solutions to match the size of your business:
- Let’s Encrypt SSL, suitable for small size websites, free
- Wildcard SSL, suitable for medium size websites, $70/year
- EV SSL, suitable for large business websites, $499/year.
That’s not the end of the story.
Many online banks and payment processors (including MasterCard, Visa and American Express) require that your hosting is PCI compliant. The PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) ensures a unified approach for safeguarding credit card holder information, preventing credit card fraud, and other security threats.
SiteGround’s GoGeek hosting plans are PCI compliant by default, and offer a safe and stable environment for your online store. Their higher-end dedicated hosting solutions can also be made PCI compliant on demand.
4. You Need Reliable Hosting with Friendly 24/7 Support
One great thing about an online store is you can keep it open 24/7. To achieve that, you need reliable hosting that is up 24/7. You’ll also need responsive 24/7 support.
Think of your hosting provider as a business partner. You need to choose someone you can trust and develop a long-term relationship with. So choose a company that is committed to reliability. Check that they put their money where their mouth is when investing in infrastructure, and proactively check that your server is up so problems are fixed with minimum delay.
When your website is down your shop is closed. Every minute is lost business. Don’t just take the hosting company’s word about their uptime, do some research, read customer reviews, and check out the company’s blog to see what they’re actually doing to ensure the reliability of your store.
But things can go wrong, and you’ll need help. When you’re setting up your eCommerce software, you may need technical assistance at midnight. The last thing you need is a two hour wait for an answer to your question. Or to be told that support can’t help you with your shopping cart problem, just with server issues.
So don’t just check that the company offers 24/7 support. Try to find out how quickly they respond with an answer, and the range of issues they are willing to give you support with.
Designbombs recently tested eight popular hosting providers to see how long they took to respond to a support request. Their conclusion: “SiteGround absolutely blew away the competition by responding in less than half a minute, and promptly answering our question.”
To run your eCommerce business successfully you need to partner with a hosting company who are as committed to the success of your website as you are. A company you can trust and work with for years to come.
In short, you need a reliable host that can run (and preferably install) the shopping cart software of your choice, is secure and PCI compliant, and respond promptly and helpfully every time you have a support request.
SiteGround’s GoGeek plan ticks all of the boxes, with a choice of 18 eCommerce apps, PCI compliance, a choice of SSL solutions, plenty of disk space and unmetered bandwidth, and the best support in the business.
Adrian Try is an Aussie writer, musician, cyclist, and tech geek.