If you’re in the market for a new hosting provider for your growing ecommerce website, there’s a good chance you’ll come across a myriad of providers promising speed and performance with solutions described as “ecommerce hosting” or “ecommerce-optimised hosting”.
However, there’s no one definition of what constitutes ecommerce hosting and the term may cover an array of different solutions or applications, from bare-bones server hosting to an all-in-one solution that can help businesses sell their products online.
So is ecommerce hosting the answer to your problems, or is just another marketing ploy?
While looking at ecommerce-specific hosting is a good place to start your journey, before you decide on a solution, it’s important to spend time reviewing the features on offer from each provider to understand if and how these features might really improve the performance of your website.
Here are four important features you should consider when choosing a hosting provider for ecommerce, regardless of how they choose to label their solutions:
1. Minimum ecommerce hosting requirements
Before you decide whether you need a specialist ecommerce hosting solution, your first port of call should be to look at the stated system requirements of your ecommerce platform and work out whether they would be met by a generalist one.
Here are some examples of common system requirements for two popular ecommerce platforms:
- Magento - Magento is one of the world’s most robust and popular ecommerce platforms, powering over $50 billion in transactions every year. If you're considering the Magento route, we recommend that you look at a hosting solution with at least 2GB of RAM to ensure decent baseline performance. It's also worth your while checking Magento's system requirements, as part of your research process.
- Woocommerce - This platform powers 30% of all online stores and is great if you’re comfortable with the WordPress platform. However, they do ask that you have PHP version 7 or greater and a WordPress memory limit of 128MB or greater, among other recommendations.
As you can see, there’s nothing much out of the ordinary here, so there’s no absolute requirement to invest in specialist ecommerce hosting to use one of these platforms.
2. Ecommerce hosting value-adds
Some specialist ecommerce hosting solutions are described as such because of value-adds such as:
- Pre-installed software licences (for your ecommerce platform of choice)
- SSL certificates - essential for ecommerce security (if your hosting provider can’t provide one, you’ll need to buy one from a third party). Additionally, with a SSL certificate, you’ll gain a valid HTTPS which gets a small ranking boost from Google and is an important trust signal to customers looking for a safe and secure shopping experience.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether this is a deal-breaker for your business, but many of these value-adds actually provide “must-have” functionality, as opposed to “nice-to-haves” for your website, so it’s definitely something to consider.
3. Infrastructure readiness
Sometimes, the term “ecommerce hosting” is used in reference to the actual infrastructure the solution is built on, i.e. cloud or dedicated server hosting. Some providers will argue an ecommerce website should be hosted in the cloud for scalability and resilience; others claim a dedicated hardware environment is best for security and performance.
We recommend that you review this carefully, as it can have a major impact on whether the solution will actually solve the unique pains of a growing ecommerce business. For example, if you experience performance issues as a result of unpredictable traffic volumes, above all else, you should look for a hosting provider that uses the cloud to allow on-demand scalability.
4. Tailored support
Finally, look at whether the provider’s support is tailored to the ecommerce industry. An outage at any time of the day can be disastrous for an ecommerce business and can damage your business’ revenue and reputation if customers aren’t able to complete purchases and go to your competitors instead. Therefore, it would be incredibly beneficial for your ecommerce business if you can get easily accessible, round-the-clock support.
That said, even if a hosting provider claims to provide 24/7 support, quality matters too. Check for any industry track record and references from other ecommerce firms, especially those whose requirements are similar - or greater - than yours (such as agencies running multiple websites for difference clients).
If you want to find out more about cloud hosting options for your ecommerce business, download our insightful guide to learn more.