Website hosting can be a complex undertaking.
Determining how much space you need, how much transfer, finding
a reliable host, and getting everything online is no simple
task. Add ecommerce to the mix and things become even more
complex. This article will deal with some of those additional
complications to finding a host for an online store. All of
the same considerations to finding general hosting can be
applied to ecommerce hosting, there are simply a few additional
ones that need some attention.
Basics- Disk Space and Transfer
The core states of any kind of hosting, ecommerce or not,
remain space and transfer, or traffic. Generally measured
in monthly increments, your space and transfer will place
a crucial role in determining just what size plan you need.
Ecommerce sites will, generally speaking, require more space
and transfer than an equivilant sized site without ecommerce.
This is due to the presence of the shopping cart upon which
the online storefront is based. Shopping cart programs are
installed to the account on which they operate, requiring
space, and their scripts for running the store will require
additional transfer to handle customers as they browse, add
items to their cart, and check out. Will there be a tremendous
amount of extra transfer required by the cart? That depends
on how many use the cart and on the cart itself. This is why
its best to start small and having a clear upgrade path to
handle future popularity.
Prospective online merchants will generally have a good idea
how many products they'll be selling initially. This will
vary wildly from merchant to merchant, and many merchants
don't put their entire stocks online. It is wise to start
with a considered selection of products first, especially
if you wish to initially keep your hosting plan small and
upgrade as the store prospers. Those with a great deal of
products need to be aware they will probably be facing a bigger
monthly fee for a larger hosting plan. Once the decision is
made regarding the products, attention can be turned to finding
a suitable shopping cart program to contain them.
The choice of shopping cart can be a personal one. Those entirely
new to ecommerce will probably not have any experience with
any kind of shopping cart software. There are a number of
popular choices, and most hosting companies will provide one,
if not a variety, from which you can choose. It is important
to find a shopping cart that suits the individual user, as
attempting to change your shopping down the road can be a
long process that will, most likely, bring your store down
during a transitional period. Don't immediately jump at the
first cart a host offers. Ask if they have demos and try them
out. Be sure it's a program you can learn and use, as it is
the primary way you'll be doing your online business. Even
if you have a large business and have a design firm setting
up the cart, a rudimentary knowledge of the cart's processes
is highly recommended.
Learn as much about your prospective shopping cart software
as possible. Make sure it supports SSL, a common site security
protocol that will help keep your customer's credit card numbers
safe when ordering online. It will need to support your merchant
account and payment gateway. In many cases a host might bundle
these services, so compatibility isn't an issue. If you secured
your merchant services separately from hosting, be sure they
are compatible. Find out if the cart has a recommended maximum
product limit and, of course, try not to exceed it. The store
may slow down and perform poorly if there are too many products
Finally, make sure it will do everything you want it to do.
Some merchants sell services and downloadable items that don't
conform exactly to the order-product-ship-product flow. If
your cart doesn't support these features by default, there
may be 3rd party add-ons that will provide this functionality.
Miva Merchant is one such shopping cart with a very active
3rd party developer community providing a wide range of add-ons,
or "modules" to extend the feature set of the original program.
The merchant will have to buy these add-ons and have them
installed on their own initiative, though, and the hosting
company will not be able to support them.
Reliability and Support
Perhaps of greatest importance is reliability in your chosen
host. Think in terms of a "brick and mortar" storefront. If
someone locks the front door during business hours, then no
customers can come in and nothing is sold. Similarly, if an
online store is down at any hour, no customers can come in
and nothing is sold. You want the most reliable hosting for
such a mission-critical site. Never just take the word of
a hosting company's site in regards to their uptime. Do research
and look for customer reviews of your prospective host. Online
merchants should always be willing to pay more for a reliable
hosting company with good uptime and support. A good rule
of thumb is to stay away from free or "bargain basement" hosts,
since support and uptime are usually the first things to suffer
with this kind of hosting.
Finding the right ecommerce hosting company requires a few
additional considerations. Decide on your products, your shopping
cart, and then shop for your hosting company. You will need
more space and transfer than an equivalent site, but start
small with your product selection and you can still save money
on your hosting. Find a shopping cart that's easy for you
to use and understand, as switching at a later date can result
in downtime and a lot of work transferring your products.
Finally, make sure your host has solid uptime, as an online
store that's down isn't generating any sales.
About the author:
Mr. Lester has served for 4 years as the webmaster for http://www.apollohosting.comand
previously worked in the IT industry an additional 5 years,
acquiring knowledge of hosting, design, and search engine