How To Choose the Best Web Hosting for Your Online Business
While establishing your online store, choosing the best hosting for e-commerce is arguably the most important decision you must make. Do you go with shared hosting, or do you choose a VPS (virtual private server)? What about all the free options out there? Should you go with the usual e-commerce hosting, or one that offers pre-optimized servers for Prestashop, OpenCart or WooCommerce?
Having so many options available online can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t know what to look for in online shop hosting. Making the wrong choice can have serious ramifications, like regular downtime, poor speed, low SEO ranking, increased risk of getting hacked, and an unpleasant visitor experience.
On the other hand, the right choice can make you stand out from your competition. Lightning-fast speed, high availability, robust security, and ease of customization, will help you build a formidable competitive advantage.
In the following sections, we will walk you through all that you need to know to choose the best hosting for your online store.
A web host can make or break your business
You are about to build your brand’s online identity. Your goal is to attract visitors and then convert those visitors into leads and customers. A good web hosting company can pave the way for that, while a bad one can make it virtually impossible.
Here’s how a web hosting company can make or break your business:
Downtime vs. high availability:
Poor web hosts typically use unreliable servers, which make your online shop prone to downtime. This will be detrimental to your brand’s reputation. On the other hand, the best hosting for e-commerce websites guarantees up to 99.99% uptime, ensuring that your customers always have access to your offerings.
In today’s world, security should be #1 on every website owner’s priority list. Despite that, not all web hosting services take it seriously. Good e-commerce web hosting companies offer features like 24/7 monitoring, SSL certificates, and automated backups. Sub-standard hosts will put your website on insecure servers and expect you to manage security yourself.
Bad or non-existent customer service:
The best online store hosting companies are known for their exemplary customer service and are usually available 24/7. Conversely, cheaper web hosts will either offer customer service on select days or not at all.
Google considers website speed and uptime as two important factors while ranking websites. If your website goes down regularly, and/or is slow to load, it will not do well in the SEO department. This is why there’s often a direct relation between a bad host and bad SEO. On the other hand, a good host will go to great lengths to ensure that the servers hosting your website are fast and don’t experience downtime.
What to look for in a hosting service?
Here’s a list of factors you need to consider when choosing a web host:
Nothing matters more than uptime. After all, if your website doesn’t stay online for long, what good is it? You will see plenty of e-commerce website hosting services claiming high uptimes. However, don’t just take their word for it. Go through testimonials and any other customer reviews to corroborate their claims.
Uptime is usually quantified as a percentage. Strive to go for a host that provides uptime as close to 100% as possible. As a golden rule, don’t consider any provider that doesn’t guarantee over 99% uptime.
To host your website on a server, you need storage space. If you have a huge website, with thousands of files, you may need more storage space than usual. Conversely, if you have a smaller website, you can make do with the bare minimum storage space. Make sure that the host can cater to your low-or-high storage needs, without costing you a lot of money. Additionally, ensure that if ever you need to increase storage space, your host can accommodate you.
Some hosts may also put limits on the incoming traffic for your website. This should be an instant red flag, as it can prevent your website from freely growing, and welcoming new visitors. Some hosting providers demand extra charges to allow traffic after the monthly limit is breached. To avoid situations like these, it’s always recommended to choose hosts that offer unlimited traffic.
People and Google both don’t like websites that are slow to load. Ideally, a website should load within 1-2 seconds. A good way to check the load speed of a host is to browse the websites of some of their existing customers. You will often find case studies, testimonials, and/or clientele lists on a company website. Use these resources to find names of their customers’ companies, and then visit their websites to see how fast they load.
Answer questions like: Do they offer SSL certificates? Do they regularly patch and monitor their servers? Do they have an automated, incremental backup solution? What about firewalls and anti-malware? Remember, you can somehow justify compromising on any of the aforementioned factors, but trading-off security for anything else should never be an option.
Ideally, you should go for a host that offers 24/7/365 support via multiple channels like chat, email, and phone calls. Once again, customer reviews and testimonials are your best friends. Go through them and try to gauge the common sentiment regarding the company’s customer support.
Things to avoid while choosing a hosting
Here’s a list of things to avoid, as they can cost you a lot over time:
Choosing a free hosting service
Free hosting services are usually laden with pop-ups, ads, and hidden clauses. They are also known to be unreliable in terms of uptime, speed, and security. As a golden rule, you should never choose a free hosting service for a professional website.
Choosing shared hosting when you need a dedicated server (or vice versa)
Shared hosting allows multiple websites to run on the same server. It’s usually considered the most economical option, simply because the cost of ownership and maintenance is distributed across different customers. Shared hosting is a good choice for small websites that don’t expect to grow too much.
However, if yours is a large e-commerce website that is constantly growing, you should go with a dedicated server or VPS. This will be more expensive but will give your online store the room it needs to grow.
Consider your personalized needs and expectations to make the right choice between shared hosting and dedicated server options.
Going for the cheapest option
Yes, you may have a limited budget. And yes, the cheap offerings may look irresistible. But remember, price shouldn’t be your only consideration. In fact, it should be very low on your checklist. Paying a bit extra for greater security, speed, and uptime will prove to be a viable investment in the long term.
Not doing enough research
If a company’s subscription plan sounds too good to be true, it probably is. One common mistake most people make is they sign a contract as soon as they see an enticing offer. However, at times, there are certain hidden clauses and restrictions that they miss, which cost them a lot over time.
Be sure to read through reviews, terms and conditions and ask questions before signing up. Also, most good hosting companies do not lock you into any contracts and provide month to month billing options as well.
As a website owner, it’s imperative that you properly weigh your options while choosing the best hosting for your e-commerce website. We hope that this article will help you in this regard.
What are the consequences of choosing the wrong e-commerce hosting platform?
- Your online shop will be prone to regularly go offline. Sub-standard hosting platforms can’t guarantee high uptime.
- Your website will load very slowly. Poor hosting providers can’t guarantee fast loading times for your website. They just don’t have the right tools or resources for it.
- Your brand’s reputation will get seriously hampered. Customers will complain that your website is down a lot, and even when it’s online, it takes ages to load.
- You run the risk of getting hacked. Bad hosting services don’t offer any security features like SSL certificates, 24/7 monitoring, or automated backups.
- You will not have anyone to turn to, in times of distress. Sub-par e-commerce web hosting providers only offer customer support 2-3 days a week if that.
- Slow speed, high downtime, and poor security etc. will prevent you from ranking high on Google. Even if you write high-quality, informative content, and follow other SEO guidelines religiously.
What features should the right hosting platform offer?
- It should guarantee uptime as close to 100%, as possible. As a golden rule, don’t even consider a host that claims less than 99% uptime.
- It should offer various pricing tiers and limits for storage space and resources. One of the pricing tiers should have the ideal set of specifications for your needs. If not, there should be an option to order a customized plan.
- It should have no limits on traffic. This will ensure that your website keeps accommodating visitors, even if it’s under severe load.
- It should take security very seriously. Ideally, it should provide features like SSL certificates, incremental, automated backups, regular patching and malware scans, and preconfigured firewalls etc.
- It should offer customer support 24/7/365, via various options like chat, email, or phone calls. Not only that, the staff should be friendly, responsive, and technically trained.
- It should give you the flexibility to scale at will. E.g. if your customer base is rapidly growing, and you want more resources, you should be able to upgrade your plan seamlessly.