E-commerce web hosts are all over the place these days, but they are not created equal. While they generally provide the standard support for shopping cart processes, payment gateways, website security, SSL certificates, and other important online shopping functions – some are definitely better than others.
How then should you choose the perfect host for your e-commerce site? The main goal here is to ensure that you can maximize website traffic, sales volume, and customer experience. To make sure that your online shop operates excellently well into the future, here are some crucial criteria to consider when choosing a web host.
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1. Security and Encryption
One of your topmost concerns when choosing an e-commerce web host should be the security provided. After all, operating an online shop requires your business to handle customers’ sensitive information, such as their credit card details, addresses, emails, and phone numbers.
Without tough security protocols implemented, your website will have a higher risk of getting hacked. With sensitive data falling into the wrong hands, the risk of phishing, identity theft, and spam skyrockets. Therefore, it is imperative that you protect your e-commerce site as well as your customers.
Look for a web host that, at the least, offer the following security and encryption services:
- Virus protection
- Spam filtering
- SSL certificates
- DDoS protection
- Domain name privacy
The more safeguards you can get, the better. This is especially true if you are expecting massive traffic to your website or if you want to grow your online shop with greater peace of mind.
By preventing virus attacks and other fraudulent activities, not only will your site and business operate more smoothly, but you can also improve your reputation in the eyes of your customers.
2. Uptime Guarantee
This is another important consideration when choosing a web host for an e-commerce website. Long downtimes can have a massively negative impact on any webshop. Gremlin, a company that focuses on preventing downtimes before they happen, have published research data that looks into the e-commerce cost of downtime.
According to statistics published by Gremlin, Amazon loses over $220 million for every minute that the site is down or inaccessible. Walmart’s revenue loss per downtime minute is about $40 million while Home Depot’s is around $14 million. Clearly, the loss of sales and growth opportunities that a business suffers during downtimes should be minimized as much as possible.
With that in mind, make sure to check for a web host’s guaranteed uptime before purchasing any of its packages. Also, check customer reviews to have a better idea if a host can indeed keep its word regarding their uptime promises. You can visit comparison websites like Hosting Foundry to further look into a host’s uptime guarantee and other features. Look into the frequency of scheduled maintenance and updates as well. The rarer the downtimes, the better.
3. Package Limitations
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It is normal for web hosts to offer different types of packages to cater to various budgets. Before you go for the cheapest option though, it is important to thoroughly check what you can gain from that package and whether its limitations are tolerable or can limit the growth of your business.
While it is understandable to want to make the most of your budget, the cheapest package may not give you the best value. The limitations they have may just end up costing you more down the line.
What exactly are these limitations that you should watch out for? Here are some of the most common:
- Not enough file storage – e-commerce sites handle a ton of information. Images, specification charts, marketing text, and other data need to be uploaded regularly. The more your business grows and the more products you need to make available, the more your site will require storage space. Limited file storage can quickly hamper the growth of your business.
- Bandwidth limits – consider the immediate and long-term amount of traffic your website will be getting. If you are confident in attracting more website visitors, then go for higher bandwidth to allow more people to browse your shop without worries. This way, you won’t be hit with expensive overage fees.
- Customization difficulties – if you are fine with using pre-made templates for your e-commerce site’s design, then choosing hosting packages on the cheaper end will pose no problems. However, if you wish to have more control over how your site will look, then make sure to select a package that allows for more customization. Only this way can you carefully craft the visuals and back-end processes of your site to perfectly suit your operations, branding, and other marketing goals.
- Sales volume limits – yes, hosting packages often impose a limitation to a site’s monthly sales volume. This can be a headache for any online business that wishes to expand quickly or those that have trending or time-sensitive product offers.
- Inability to use third-party payment processors – check if the hosting package you’re about to choose allows you to use a third-party payment software. Many hosts will require you to utilize their own gateways only, but these may not work perfectly for your business.
Overall, you have to carefully go through your e-commerce strategies and ensure that the hosting limitations imposed by your provider won’t dampen your plans.
4. Backup Availability
In the course of running an e-commerce website, it is normal to come across hacks and other malicious attempts. Aside from making sure that your site has the necessary security protocols, it should have backups as well just in case something bad happens. Backups can help as well when website updates that are done by your team somehow fail. After all, web programmers and designers are not perfect and mistakes do happen.
Choose a hosting plan that provides reliable backup services. Aside from offering enough backup storage, the hosting solution you choose should also have a backup scheduling and automation feature. Backup security is even more important. It is best that the backup data is stored in another well-protected server.
5. Cost Efficiency
Of course, budget is important. However, choosing the right e-commerce web host is not as straightforward as going for the cheapest plan. The best approach is to analyze cost efficiency.
Check if the package you have your sights on won’t lead to additional expenses and overage fees. Limited hosting plans will, most often, require you to purchase extraneous software as well. Others will force you to spend more on better security and functionality.
Considering all these, mid-range or even premium packages can be the better choice, especially if your team is already swamped with running your business. Higher-tier hosting packages will not only be more cost-effective, but they can also provide more peace of mind.
It is also advisable to look into all-in-one packages because standalone plans can be a headache to manage. You’ll have to research the cost of each service and that can take a long time. To avoid frustration, finding an affordable yet powerful well-rounded hosting plan will save you time and money.
6. Web Development Experience
Web development knowledge and experience also matter a lot when selecting an e-commerce web host. If you or your team have the knowledge and experience to develop your website, then a hosting package that provides you better customization and control is best.
Your web design team can implement any functionality that is needed and updates can be done whenever you want. Your website’s features can be tweaked to perfection as well depending on the behavior of your customers and your other sales and marketing plans.
However, if you do not have web development experience or the time to do all those non-standard programming, then an all-in-one hosting platform is the better choice. You will have more time to focus on your business and can leave the backend processes to the web host.
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Go for a web hosting plan that provides ample customer support. Whether you have questions regarding the functionality of the built-in website builder or other troubleshooting issues, the host should be able to provide sufficient answers and assistance. Stay away from hosts that take a long time to respond or solve your queries. Reading customer reviews will help you a lot in determining a host’s support capability.
Ideal customer support features include 24/7 chat features, tech personnel who can properly explain the issues in layman terms, and timely responses.
Investing in an e-commerce web hosting plan should be done carefully. Through the criteria listed here, you can properly look into your options and make smart decisions.
Ultimately, a hosting provider is like a business partner. They need to be trustworthy and capable enough to help your business achieve success and weather future challenges. The right hosting plan should serve as one of the strong foundations of your business, something that can support your shop in facing various challenges.
By choosing the best-fit hosting provider, you can definitely help your e-commerce shop reach more milestones.