Best eCommerce Hosting

In this post, let’s focus on how to choose a hosting service for an online store, focusing on recommendations mostly for small business. Why for them? The answer is very simple – even a medium-sized business, and certainly a large one, has enough experience in hosting and launching ecommerce websites and applications that they could write such recommendations themselves.

While small business owners are probably experts in their market niche, they may be inexperienced when it comes to hosting a website. An example of this is if they promoted their services or products only through social networks (e.g.,Instagram, Facebook/Meta, etc.), up to a certain point, and now they decide to start their online store for the first time.

How Cloud Hosting Works

While quite important technically, hosting is just one part of the online store-building process. Let's define the term hosting, and discuss where to buy the service.

What is eCommerce Hosting

To explain it in simple terms, hosting is a service provided by a hosting provider company in its data center. Within this service, the hosting provider installs the online store software on one of their servers and connects this server to the Internet so that the store becomes available to customers globally.

Other hosting options include buying a subscription for a server in a data center and installing any required software by yourself. In any case, after the ecommerce software is deployed on the server in the data center, you can add goods and services to the catalog and start your online business.

What is Cloud eCommerce Hosting

Cloud hosting is the deployment of ecommerce software on the server installed in the data center. There are hundreds or even thousands of such servers in the data center, and you don't even know which one your store is running on. Therefore, on the network diagram, all these servers are drawn as a cloud. This explains the origin of the term cloud in the context of hosting.

Is there non-cloud hosting anywhere today? Yes, if you have installed a server with web store software, which is physically located in your office or home and connected it to the Internet, then this type of installation is called an on-premises server. Now this is practical only in the case of software testing, because it is impossible to achieve such high reliability of the server and the internet connection on-premises as in certified a data center. This is ultimately not the best solution, because you need the store to work 24/7.

There is also a so-called colocation hosting option that is not usually considered cloud hosting, although it uses the infrastructure of a data center. This is when you bring your own server to the data center and ask to install and supply it with electricity, cooling, and the internet connection. But today it is rarely used for ecommerce, because you need to maintain such a server yourself either remotely or by visiting the data center, which is not convenient.

Types of Hosting According to Server Performance

When you were just starting your ecommerce business, in most cases you probably didn’t need a very powerful server for your online store. Also, while there is no order flow, you don’t want to pay a lot to the data center for this server. Later, however, as store traffic begins to increase, you will need a more powerful server to serve hundreds, then thousands of visitors. Therefore, hosting providers offer different types of hosting performance options to suit the customer needs of any server performance level.

two physical servers in the data centre

In this diagram, we have drawn two physical servers in the data center to illustrate how their resources are used by the hosting company to provide you with different subscription plans. Let’s say the lower server works entirely for a large online store and is called a “dedicated server” in a subscription plan. Usually, a dedicated server is used if the number of visitors to a website is more than 10,000-50,000 per day.

The second (top) server uses virtualization software such as Microsoft Hyper-V or VMware ESX to create virtual machines (VM) or, in other words, virtual servers. With the help of virtualization, the resources of a real physical server are divided into virtual servers (virtual private server or VPS, or a virtual dedicated server or VDS). Virtual servers work independently of each other and a crash of one virtual server does not affect the work of others. VPS and VDS are the same kind of virtual machines, only the terminology differs. For example, if you can run 10 VMs on one physical server, then each VM can be allocated to a medium-sized online store, which is visited by several thousand people a day.

When a hosting provider wants to further reduce the cost of the subscription, they use one of the VDS/VPS servers to host several small e-shops from different clients. This type of subscription is called “shared hosting” and is used if the number of visitors is no more than several hundred per day.

Shared Online Store Hosting

Shared ecommerce web hosting is the cheapest option. It means that your store is located on a virtual server (VM), where you share CPU power, memory, and data storage space with other websites and their software apps. The cost of the services provided with it is also shared, and this is the biggest advantage of shared hosting. Prices start at just $2 per month, but your website performance may suffer when you share the resources with a dozen other websites. The disadvantage of shared hosting is that, if one of the sites gets a lot of visitors, the others will run more slowly.

VPS/VDS Hosting (Virtual Private Server)

VPS or VDS hosting means that you have a virtual server or VM in a shared physical hosting environment with resources that are almost yours. Virtual private servers share resources without bringing down their neighboring sites’ traffic. You still have to maintain your server, but the cost is lower than managing a dedicated physical server on your own. VPS/VDS hosting prices can start from $10-20 per month depending on the amount of memory and CPU performance provided.

Dedicated eCommerce Web Hosting

With this option, you rent a physical server without any sharing. This gives you full control over your ecommerce host; however, the responsibilities of server installation, operation, system resources, security, backups, and other issues also fall on your shoulders. This hosting type usually implies hiring additional staff for server maintenance or paying the hosting provider for admin services. Dedicated ecommerce web hosting is a good choice for larger companies and is well suited for stores with high traffic.

Colocation eCommerce Website Hosting

Colocation of your web hosting is when you have your physical server hardware housed by the host’s facilities. The hosting provider supplies internet connection, power, and cooling. You have full control over the server and the responsibility for its hardware and software maintenance. Colocation hosting is very similar to a dedicated one; the difference is in who owns the server – you or the data center.

Choosing the Right eCommerce Web Host

In many reviews, you can find a list of requirements for hosting functionality, which you supposedly should know literally by heart before you start choosing the best ecommerce hosting provider for you.

For example, you will read that your site should be fast, have an encrypted connection to the internet using the HTTPS protocol, and not have long downtimes due to the fault of the hosting provider.

It’s true the features listed above are really important, but choosing a hosting provider based on these criteria has long been outdated. Reviews are written by copywriters, not data center technicians, so they just copy the same things from each other.

Customers will leave a slow site

You may read “customers will leave a slow site,” and this is true, but in the overwhelming number of cases, a slow site is not the fault of the hosting provider. The reason is more often in the slow content management system of the ecommerce site or the slow internet connection of the online store visitor. A user's client device delay most often occurs with mobile devices.

By the 2020s, hosting providers across the USA, Canada, and European countries provide essentially the same level of service for ecommerce hosting. Moreover, it is quite difficult to verify if the host is really to blame for the slow loading of the site. Download speeds vary over the course of the day, by user location, and a lot of other factors. Therefore, choosing a hosting provider based on the speed of the connection does not make sense in practice. Let's take a look at a couple of more common points that miss their mark.

Customers won't be able to access vulnerable sites

This is another outdated rule. Today you cannot find a hosting provider that would not offer to obtain a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) certificate for your ecommerce site. SSL certificates validate the use of encryption for data transmitted between your computer and a website server. If you have an SSL certificate, the connection will be encrypted with HTTPS protocol, and your site will be identified as “secure”.

In addition to your hosting provider, you can buy (or get for free) an SSL certificate from a global connection encryption service such as Cloudflare. In this case, all traffic to your site will be routed through this global service and visitors to your online store will see that the site is secure.

You can't afford downtime

It means your store should be available for visitors 24/7, but the hosting provider's fault is unlikely to happen here. Most likely a failure could occur in the ecommerce platform on which the store operates. Today, in the 2020s, data centers are certified in terms of reliability by the Uptime Institute. Most data centers are certified for the highest grade of reliability, as Redundant Capacity Tier III or Fault Tolerant Tier IV. This is why ecommerce platforms are better deployed in the cloud data center, rather than on-premises hosting, even for small businesses.

The Uptime Institute has created a tiered classification system to systematically evaluate various structures and equipment in a data center in terms of potential infrastructure performance or uptime. The system consists of four levels; each level includes the requirements of the lower levels (tiers). Since its inception in the mid-1990s, the certification has evolved from a generic industry terminology to a global standard for data centers as critical IT infrastructures.

What Factors Affect eCommerce Store Speed Other Than Hosting?

We said the slow loading of an ecommerce site is most often not associated with poor hosting, but with the long wait of web pages and the network speed between the hosting data center and the buyer's client device (PC, smartphone, tablet, smartwatch). Let's expand on this topic in more detail.

Page Weight

The number of pictures, text, and videos on an online store website have a huge impact on its performance. It also uses large JavaScript files, heavy CSS files, and other page formatting code that needs to be executed on the client device to make it look pretty. All this code slows down the loading of pages.

Additionally, for ecommerce, customers must wait for the current prices and availability of the product from the ERP system of the seller to load; these back-end operations significantly increase the loading time of the web page. Keeping code sizes small and page loading fast have become more difficult today as web technologies have empowered developers to add more functionality.

Network Speed

Even a superbly designed website on fast hosting may not load quickly in browsers due to slow network performance on the way to the end user. Another reason for a delay is the very large distance between the hosting data center and the user. An example is when a user in Chile is surfing for goods in an online store located in a data center in Canada. IP packets travel through many intermediate internet nodes and get a latency at each of them, and the accumulated latency leads to slow page loading on a user’s device.

CDN Service

To speed up the delivery of content to buyers in other countries, hosting providers offer a CDN (Content Delivery Network) service. A CDN is a global network of servers that have the content of millions of websites downloaded and updated constantly. As a result, when the user connects, the content is delivered from the closest server, which speeds up the loading of web pages.

How to Measure an eCommerce Website's Speed

There are a number of website speed tests on the Internet. One of the most well-known site load speed metrics is Google's tool called PageSpeed Insights. You can enter a website address and Google will show the loading score and provide some general recommendations to improve the results.

Virto Commerce website speed

The Google test provides a clear performance score on a dashboard and is able to identify individual elements of a webpage that are slowing the page down. It also provides separate scores for mobile and desktop client devices to help developers improve PageSpeed results for mobile devices.

According to network service provider Cloudflare, the importance of website loading speed is especially important for conversion rates.

The following statistics from Cloudflare describe the correlation of the page loading speed and conversion rate.

  • 64% of mobile users expect pages to load within 4 seconds.
  • 56% of customers abandon the website if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load.
  • 79% of customers are unlikely to return to the vendor site due to prior slow load speed.
  • 20% of customers will not return to the website at all if they were disappointed with the load speed.

The Key Features of eCommerce Hosting

When choosing a hosting provider, educate yourself about the features that should be provided for ecommerce sites. You may really like a hosting plan for its low price, but it's important to understand what is included. Often you have to pay extra for ecommerce options. In any case, many small business owners entrust this research to their technical people.

Security and Encryption

Security should be one of your top priorities when comparing hosting providers. For example, in a hacker attack on a store, some hosts simply disconnect the store from the internet. This, of course, radically stops the attack, but it is better to have a hosting provider with the ability to filter traffic, so that real customers can still visit your store.

Many hosting providers offer plans with one or more options for security features, and the full set can always be purchased for an additional fee.

· Firewalls

· Domain name privacy

· SSL certificates

· Spam filters

· DDoS protection

· Virus protection

Hacking isn't just big business that competitors can hire against you. Bookstores are full of books for aspiring hackers, such as The Web Application Hacker's Handbook or Linux Basics for Hackers: Getting Started. With this in mind, your online store should not be an easy target for students wishing to practice malicious skills.

PCI DSS Compliance

PCI DSS requirements apply to any merchants, banks, providers of all kinds of products and services, retail stores, and to other enterprises and organizations whose activities are related to the processing, transmission, and storage of data on cardholder payments.

PCI DSS compliance is a necessity for any ecommerce web hosting service. When you're dealing with a huge amount of personal data, including credit card numbers, hacking can result in lawsuits and the bankruptcy of your business.

One option to completely avoid responsibility for the leakage of bank card data is to use the bank’s payment gateways. When making a payment, the buyer goes to a secure bank webpage and makes the payment for your products or services there.

Storage Size and Backups

A modern online store is a website with a lot of images, animations, and videos. Different hosting plans provide file storage limits. No servers and commerce platforms are completely reliable, and failure can occur suddenly. Failures during software updates are especially common. In such cases, a backup copy comes to the rescue, which will help return the site to its last working state.

Not all hosting plans have automatic backups – some provide this for an additional fee or even make it the client’s responsibility. Creating backups irregularly can result in the significant loss of data about customers, orders, and goods. Therefore, choose a hosting provider that includes backups in the plan; in other words, the provider supports the entire ecommerce platform, and you don't need to do it for your store.

Domains, SSL Certificates, and Dedicated IP Addresses

Any site needs a domain name, which is usually chosen in accordance with the name of the company or the main product. In addition to the traditional domain zones, such as .com, you can purchase a domain in thematic zones that emphasize the scope of your business or the level of professionalism of the company. For example, it could be .pro, .guru or .shop, .store, .photo, .art, etc.

Many hosting providers offer to register a domain name for you for free if you buy a hosting service plan. Often these bonuses include an SSL certificate for the first year of domain registration.

If, apart from the web server, you want to deploy VPN or corporate remote access systems, you will need a dedicated IP address that no one else can use. It is also an ideal solution for accessing private servers securely.

SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS and How They Relate to eCommerce Hosting

You've probably heard terms like SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS and would like to know how they relate to cloud hosting of an online store. The differences between these terms are whether you will install the server OS and ecommerce software yourself or if the provider will do this job for you.

This diagram shows different options for which software is served by the provider and which are done in house. Let’s go over what SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS mean below.

This diagram shows different options for which software is served by the provider and which are done in house. Let’s go over what SaaS, PaaS, and IaaS mean below.

IaaS (Infrastructure-as-a-Service) means that the data center provides you with server hardware, as well as disk storage and multigigabit network connectivity to the internet backbone. You install the operating system for the server and the store software yourself. Next, you follow the updates to be sure it all works as it should.

IaaS looks very complicated, but it’s not so bad. To ensure that customers have minimal problems, the hosting provider can help you and do this work for you for an additional fee. The provider’s staff can even maintain your server, and this is called a managed service. A managed service, which is usually paid on a per-hour rate, is quite expensive.

The advantage of IaaS is that you can choose the server performance, the operating system, and the ecommerce software for the online store from the market – you can even reinstall it every day if you wish to try various ecommerce software solutions.

In the PaaS (Platform-as-a-Service) model, you are provided with server hardware and preinstalled operating systems of your choice, with tools for creating, testing, and launching applications. PaaS is more suitable for companies that want to make changes to the code of the ecommerce software – for example, add some new features not available “out of the box.” We should stress that PaaS is not for newbies; it is for companies with strong IT teams and experience in ecommerce software customization.

SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) is a cloud model in which the vendor takes over all the tasks of deploying and maintaining applications required for running an ecommerce platform. This includes cloud hosting of servers, operating system installation, virtualization and backup tools, middleware, and the online store app. This is a huge convenience for small and medium-sized businesses that want to go to market faster with their products and services and can afford the ecommerce software from the vendor as-is.

Although SaaS is very popular, you sometimes have a conflict between the perfect usability and the inability to change the code of the platform for more advanced functionality and customize it for your business processes.

FaaS, PaaS, SaaS, and IaaS Cloud Models – Choose the Best One for Your Business

Which eCommerce Hosting Fits You Best?

When you start looking for the best solution with optimal feature sets, one of the most important factors is the ecommerce platform. Reliable and powerful infrastructure must be the foundation of your online store.

Typically, a web hosting provider offers you a bundle of common features. An ecommerce solution, on the other hand, is designed for the needs of your business from its inception.

All ecommerce platforms fall under either the self-hosted (IaaS) or hosted (SaaS) category. A self-hosted version (for example, Magento) means you take care of your own hosting and use the provided ecommerce platform. Hosted platforms (for example, Shopify or Volution) come with full support for your website. Some ecommerce platforms (for example, Virto Commerce) can provide you with both hosted and self-hosted options among other customization features.

Considering a variety of popular offerings available on the market, you should pay attention to such a critical factor as performance. The loading speed of your website impacts everything from search engine ranking to visitors’ loyalty and satisfaction.

shopify speed
magento speed

As we already mentioned previously, you can check the ecommerce platform speed with the Google PageSpeed Insight tool. Keep in mind that, when assessing the page load speed by PageSpeed Insight or any other tool, it is necessary to take measurements at different times of the day and through different internet providers in order to obtain an average result.

When choosing a platform, make sure it is scalable enough to account for your business’s growth. A quality shopping cart is also vital for your store. Multi-language support, automatically calculated currency and tax rates, integrated payment gateways, and convenient design of the shopping cart itself are very important to managing a professional online store. Doing business online shouldn't be complicated. Making the right choice when it comes to your ecommerce hosting and platform lets you run your store easily.

Top 5 eCommerce Hosting Solutions

There are many ratings touting which companies are the best at hosting globally. We at Virto Commerce like the techradar.com rating for an independent, professional look at this niche. We borrowed from the ranking of the first three hosting companies.

Bluehost

At the very top of the techradar.com rating, you can find Bluehost web hosting provider. Arguably one of the largest website hosting providers in the world, Bluehost powers over two million websites globally. It offers a broad range of web hosting choices.

Bluehost features easy, integrated UI and excellent uptime during testing. If your priority is to create rich, colorful, and attractive pages for your website, while still being reliable and functional, then this hosting platform is the way to go. You get a good set of ecommerce features, including SSL Secure Server, Shopping Carts from OS Commerce, Agora, Cube Cart, Zen Cart, Password Protected Directories, and OpenPGP/GPG encryption.

  • Rich variety of templates
  • Personal domain
  • Great UX with integrated website builder
bluehost

HostGator Web Hosting

Outstanding and reliable plans for every single customer have earned HostGator its place in the spotlight. It is valued for an easy, yet robust array of functions and add-ons and is considered to be the best choice for new players in web hosting. Its gold-standard customer service leaves you without any worries of doing something wrong. However, there are certain areas in which HostGator loses to its competitors, such as limited VPS and dedicated server configuration options.

  • Robust apps and functions
  • Great user experience
  • Reliable plans
  • Outstanding customer service
HostGator

InMotion Web Hosting

InMotion Hosting is a popular web host that has been in business for over 15 years and has an impressive array of plans in the world of web hosting platforms. It is packed with many useful features, including shared hosting, VPS hosting, dedicated hosting, and tremendous 24/7/365 customer support that is always eager to solve any of your problems. However, despite good uptime and easy-to-use website building software, it lacks plans with a monthly billing option.

  • Customer support priority
  • Shared hosting
  • VPS hosting
  • Great uptime
  • Easy-to-handle building software
InMotion Web Hosting

1&1 IONOS Web Hosting

Now is the time to move from the U.S. to the European continent and name 1&1 IONOS the largest hosting provider in Europe. It offers an affordable solution to its clients while at the same time providing them with rich website-creation tools that leave you satisfied. You may use it on Windows or even Linux-based servers, incorporating their easy-to-use website creation tools and templates. No setup fee is required while choosing 1&1 hosting; however, be aware of the short-term money-back guarantee periods.

  • Top choice in value
  • Rock-solid uptime
  • Easy-to-use tools for website creation
1&1 IONOS Web Hosting

GoDaddy

GoDaddy is a long-time solid player in the market of web hosting that is packed with multiple useful features, including Linux and Windows-based hosting, outstanding customer support, email integration, and secure WordPress import. This is a great option for those who want a reliable host with a good tool for website building.

  • Excellent uptime
  • Customer support is second to none
  • Linux and Microsoft-based hosting servers
  • Microsoft app integration
  • Personal domain transfer
  • Quick installation
GoDaddy

eCommerce Hosting Solutions

What recommendations can we give when it comes to choosing a host for your store? Check for the cheapest SaaS model subscription plans from ecommerce vendors. If you find there is one that suits your budget, go with them. If you want to build a store website on your own, based on WordPress, for example, then choose a hosting provider based on the IaaS model and rent shared hosting.

Image source: g2.com

Image source: g2.com

To help small businesses navigate the sea of ecommerce offerings, you can view analytical reports. We recommend visiting the G2 website and its small business commerce section at https://www.g2.com/categories/e-commerce-platforms/small-business to choose the ecommerce software with SaaS or IaaS hosting options that best meet your requirements.

As your business grows and you gain experience, you will be able to continue to make smart hosting decisions. The ecommerce hosting segment is evolving and growing year after year, so you have a vast array of options these days.

FAQ

Are developers necessary for cloud-hosted ecommerce sites?

For most suppliers and retailers, the out-of-the-box functionality provided by ecommerce vendors is enough. Developers are needed if you want to customize ecommerce for some kind of non-standard business processes. In general, it does not matter whether the software is installed on the server in the data center (i.e., in the cloud) or on-premises. It should be noted that the software provided according to the SaaS model cannot be modified by developers on the client's side. The SaaS vendor does not provide third-party developers with access to the code for such an application.

How do I build a cheap ecommerce website?

The easiest way to try your hand at ecommerce is to find the cheapest subscription plan from SaaS vendors. For example, you can use the overview at https://www.g2.com/categories/e-commerce-platforms to get a list of dozens of ecommerce vendors. The advantage of the platforms is that all the software is ready-to-run and configured already. There is also a way to build an ecommerce site on your own — for example, on WordPress — but it requires a bit of IT competence.

How much does it cost to have an online store hosted?

Shared hosting plans start at $2 per month, but you also need to pay for ecommerce software. Expect to pay at least $50 per month to get a reliable online store site with fast hosting. You will have other expenses as well, because, for example, the bank will take a commission from payment transactions.

Is hosting an e-commerce site expensive?

Hosting prices depend on what hardware resources you need for your online store. If the traffic is low — for example, no more than 200-300 visitors per day — then shared hosting is suitable, which can cost as little as $2 per month. With more traffic, the cost of hosting grows rapidly and can reach thousands of dollars per month or more.

Is shared hosting good for ecommerce?

In shared hosting, you use the resources of the hosting server among many clients. This is not necessarily all stores; there may be sites on other topics — for example, the site of a beauty salon or a shoe repair workshop. The disadvantage of shared hosting is that if one of the sites suddenly gets a lot of visitors, then all other sites on this server will work slowly. To avoid this disadvantage, it is better to use entry-level VPS server hosting, which is usually not much more expensive than shared hosting.

Should I choose a self-hosted or hosted website builder?

In most cases, a hosted website builder is preferred by startups and small businesses that do not want to delve into server hosting and other IT technologies. Do not forget, however, that the hosted site builder has a tremendous advantage now that you are tied to their service and will not be able to easily migrate the site to another host. Such is the price for the convenience of an integral solution that a hosted site builder provides.

What features should an ecommerce host have?

The ideal hosting provider offers a set of subscription plans that allows you to add server performance and storage space as your online store grows. In other words, there are plans from 100 visitors per day to 1 million visitors or more. Many hosting providers offer plans with one or more options for security features, such as SSL certificates, spam filters, and virus protection for free while other options can be purchased for an additional fee.

What is the cheapest website builder in the market?

The cheapest website builders are free service, i.e., no price at all. Many hosting providers offer free website builder subscription plans, but their functionality is poor. But with this free tool, you can practice creating websites and understand what functions you definitely need when switching to a paid version of a website builder.

Which ecommerce hosting provider is the most popular?

The rankings of the most popular ecommerce hosting providers show new leaders every year. The long-term leaders in the rankings include Shopify, Magento, PrestaShop, and others. When you are looking for the best hosting provider, always specify which segment of ecommerce you want to look for, how large of a store should be hosted, and indicate other specifics of your business.

Which type of hosting is best for ecommerce?

Consider virtual servers (virtual private server or VPS, or a virtual dedicated server or VDS) as the most balanced type of hosting. A low-end virtual server will serve a store with 1,000 visitors per day, while the most advanced ones see 50,000 visitors a day. When your business outgrows a VPS/VDS server, your knowledge and experience in ecommerce infrastructure will be so high that you will be able to easily choose a powerful dedicated server or even cluster from such servers.

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Sergey Berezin
Marketing writer