If you have an online store, it’s more important to choose a good ecommerce hosting provider than you might think. Too many businesses fail due to terrible loading speeds, poor security, and improperly managed web servers.
But what makes a great ecommerce host? We’ve put together a list of the key qualities you should always look for in a hosting provider to support your research and make a better-informed decision.
Ready to start? Let’s dive in!
What is Ecommerce Hosting?
Every website and online store needs one key thing to get online: a web host. Hosting provides a server for your site to reside on, giving it the ability to connect to the internet and let people visit it.
Basically, you’re purchasing the right to someone else’s unused server space and getting service from a company that knows how to secure and optimize their servers.
Hosting comes in a variety of different forms and specializations. Some hosting types are named after the hardware they’re based on, while others have specialized plans with unique features.
That’s what ecommerce hosting is.
A quality ecommerce hosting package is a bundle of special features tailored towards this type of business. These might include free SSL encryption, help setting up payment gateways, extra security, or scaling during periods of high traffic.
There’s also WooCommerce hosting, which could be considered a sub-type of ecommerce hosting. WooCommerce hosting has all the features of ecommerce hosting and more, with server environments optimized to run the WooCommerce plugin.
Types of Ecommerce Hosting
There are several different types of hosting you’ll need to know about, which determine your server’s hardware and setup. Traditionally, there are three main types: shared, VPS, and dedicated hosting.
Shared hosting is the lowest tier, suitable for startups and individuals who just want to get online. It’s usually very cheap, but that comes at the cost of slower speed and having to share server space with several other websites. This type of hosting isn’t suitable for ecommerce sites unless you can’t afford anything else.
VPS stands for “virtual private server”. Your server shares a machine with other websites, but its resources are isolated, eliminating many of the problems associated with shared hosting. Then, dedicated hosting is the top tier, giving you your own private, physical server. Of course, this doesn’t come cheap. Both of these hosting types work well for ecommerce, but there’s a better solution.
Cloud hosting is a popular solution to a common issue of ecommerce sites: quickly outgrowing their server environment. Cloud hosting is completely scalable. You can add or remove resources at any time. And it’s very affordable for startups too!
For growing ecommerce sites, the cloud is almost certainly the infrastructure you want.
There’s also another layer to hosting types: managed vs. unmanaged hosting.
Unmanaged hosting is usually cheaper, but there’s a big downside. You have to do all the server setup and configuration yourself, as well as ongoing security and maintenance. You’re basically just purchasing the right to an empty server.
With managed hosting, everything is covered. Setup, configuration, security, maintenance, support, and updates. A managed ecommerce host will help you get your store running and make sure it stays that way.
In short, cloud hosting is likely the best solution for an ecommerce website.
8 Aspects You Need to Look for in an Ecommerce Hosting Provider
There are some features that every ecommerce host should have. When you’re searching for an ecommerce host that will be a good fit for your online store, look out for these key features.
1. High Performance
As an ecommerce site, your first priority should be finding a host that’s fast and reliable. 57% of consumers will leave your site if load times are longer than 3 seconds, and 80% of them will never return. That’s a lot of lost potential.
The problem with shared hosting is that it’s slow and has frequent downtime, which is unacceptable for any online store. You also have to be careful with who you choose, as some hosts have unreliable infrastructure that will cause slowdowns or crashes.
Every web hosting company is going to advertise itself as the best and fastest around, so doing research is necessary. Sites like Hosting Facts can give you solid uptime and ping data to help you make the right decision (btw Hosting Facts runs on Kinsta!) You can find their WordPress hosting comparison there.
A CDN is a must-have, ideally included within your hosting plan. CDNs are a network of servers distributed across a wide area, globally in the case of popular ones like Cloudflare. When a user far from your main server tries to connect to your site, they’ll be routed to a nearby CDN server instead, making load times much faster for everyone.
Your ecommerce host should also include performance and uptime monitoring that immediately alerts you both when something goes wrong. Should a server go down or everything slow to a crawl, you need to be able to take action immediately.
For example, here at Kinsta, we check sites every three minutes for uptime with Sentry and send an alert if anything isn’t acting as it should. Any managed hosting you choose should include this crucial feature.
We’ve also recently boosted the performance of every site on our network by up to 200%. Thanks to Google Cloud Platform’s new C2 virtual machines, which massively speed up both frontend and backend WordPress. We tested out the new machines with several different parameters. On our best-performing test with the cache bypassed on a WooCommerce site, we found that the new servers were nearly 4x faster.
And just look at how migrating to the new machines impacted one of our clients, who got an instant 100% increase in performance! We measured several other clients too, and all of them got a significant boost to their site speeds.
If you need a host that’s able to offer superior performance no matter the size of your site, we’ve certainly got room for you here.
2. Bandwidth and File Storage
Ecommerce sites take up a lot of file space and they’re also the type of website that usually pulls in the most traffic. You’re going to need a host that has enough resources for you unless you want to end up paying hefty overage fees.
Images are a key part of any site’s design and you’re going to need a lot of them no matter what you’re designing. Ecommerce sites, in particular, tend to eat up storage fast. Every product you upload is going to need multiple high-resolution images, and when your store gets big enough, it’s easy to wonder where all your file space has gone.
At Kinsta, we don’t have limits on bandwidth. We only have caps on monthly visits and disk space.
3. Scalable Hosting
Unlike other types of websites, which grow steadily and predictably over time, an ecommerce store’s traffic can be quite variable. Holidays often trigger an intense surge of traffic, customers come out of nowhere, and growth tends to be sudden and exponential. In a managed ecommerce host, you should look for scalable resources that can grow alongside your business.
At Kinsta, all of our plans from Starter to Enterprise 4 have are able to maximize CPU usage as needed. In situations where your site may require additional resources, you can quickly scale up to a more powerful plan with zero downtime. For sites that are expecting a huge influx of traffic – think Super Bowl ad-level numbers – we have a high-performance dedicated server solution as well.
You’ll also want a host that won’t lock you in, one that lets you add on CPU, RAM, and other resources at any time, as you need them. Cloud hosting is the best solution for this since you can just upgrade your plan or request more power whenever you want and get it added instantly.
With physical VPS or dedicated hosting, an upgrade requires moving you to a different server, or manually installing more powerful hardware, which can be costly. Upgrading on cloud hosting is cheap.
4. Proactive Support
Issues and errors are bound to crop up in your new site. If your host doesn’t have a good support team that’s ready to help when you reach out, your site could be down for hours. Support should be friendly, helpful, fast, and able to work with you when there’s a problem in a proactive manner.
Behind every support team should be a group of experienced developers. If the web host’s infrastructure and servers are built well and experience little downtime, it’s a good sign that their development team will be able to assist you with even the most unexpected issues.
You won’t usually get help for problems that happen within your site itself, but when it’s on their end of the server, the issue will be taken care of. At Kinsta, while we can’t fix all errors within your code, we can help you identify the issue so you can quickly get it resolved. Many hosts won’t even do that much!
Look for 24/7 support, since server issues can happen at any time, even in the middle of the night. If you’re woken up by an alert that your site is down, you’ll need to get that resolved. You don’t want to lose any traffic at all or, worse, you won’t need to wake up at odd hours just to get your site fixed.
5. Full Security
Ecommerce sites are often targeted by hackers, due to the sensitive data they protect: credit card numbers, Paypal and bank passwords, and often the full names and addresses of users.
It’s very lucrative to hack a poorly secured online store — and brand new startups often don’t know how to keep this important data safe — so you need to secure your website now.
Securing your own code is up to you and your developers, but many hacks happen due to poor security on part of your web host. Flaws in the server code allow malicious actors to easily infiltrate your website, gaining access to user data, recording passwords as they’re sent through the server, or even placing malware on your website that targets users.
That’s why you need to choose a host that knows what they’re doing. If they don’t have a hack-free policy, beware. They may have very poor security, and if you do get hacked, they’ll likely do nothing to help undo the damage.
At Kinsta, we take security very seriously and take active measures to prevent attacks from happening. Our firewalls are tightly secured and restricted to prevent any unauthorized software from slipping through the cracks, and we also block access to XML-RPC for unknown services and disable code execution in sensitive areas like wp-content/uploads.
24/7 monitoring and scanning services should be a must-have in your ecommerce host to identify any malware that makes its way into your site. Even if something does get through, Kinsta provides free malware detection and removal services. Chances are, we’ll notice that your site has been infected before you do and get right on repairing it.
DDoS attacks are also a common problem for ecommerce sites. These attacks, perpetrated by thousands of computers at once, can take down a site fast. A good host will detect DDoS attacks and stop them in their tracks.
As an online store owner, you’re required to have an SSL certificate to encrypt incoming and outcoming sensitive user inputs. Without it, attackers can see anything that passes from your website to your server, such as user data put into forms. Look for a host that offers SSL for free.
6. WooCommerce Integration
If you’re starting your store in WordPress, chances are, you’re using WooCommerce. Not all web hosts work well with that plugin right off the bat. You might not run into issues at first, but your site may not run as well as it could lack advanced functionality like WooCommerce-specific caching (and more).
Another overlooked aspect you should require from your ecommerce hosting provider is PCI compliance. PCI stands for “payment card industry” and it’s a set of security standards meant to keep user data from being leaked due to poor website security. Every website that accepts credit card data must be PCI compliant.
It’s impossible for a host to guarantee PCI compliance since you need to do a lot of work yourself to get your site secure. But it’s certainly possible for them to make the process easier for you by offering SSL certificates, securing their servers with a firewall, and using strong server infrastructure.
Doing a PCI audit is up to you, but a good ecommerce host will work with you to help secure your site and do any tweaks necessary to make your website PCI compliant.
7. Automatic Backups
We couldn’t stress enough how important backups are for ecommerce sites. Automatic data backups are an absolute must. Daily, weekly, or even hourly in some cases: a solid backup system needs to be in place to protect your crucial store and database files.
Especially if you’re working in WordPress where it’s easy to accidentally change sensitive settings, you could make a mistake that results in your site going down or database being corrupted.
If you don’t have a recent backup, you’re going to lose a lot of time and effort trying to get everything back to normal. You might even end up losing everything. That’s why you need a host with backups built-in, so you can run your business with peace of mind.
An additional and useful feature Kinsta customers love is you can download a backup of your site once per week if you like to keep a manual backup around as well. And if all that’s not enough, the hourly backups addon ensures the absolute maximum security and minimum loss, should disasters strike.
Data safety in general should be one of your host’s top concerns. Good infrastructure, automatic backups, and constant monitoring will prevent disaster and keep your site safe.
8. Developer-Friendly Environment
If you’re a developer and want to dive into the advanced hosting options, it can be hard to find a host that supports you. Web hosts understandably don’t want beginner users tinkering with critical files and bringing their whole website crashing down.
At Kinsta, we trust our users to know what they’re doing, and everyone has full developer access to a variety of advanced features should they need to use them.
Create staging environments, clone your site, use WP-CLI, set up Git, access SSH… whatever you need to do. And here’s the best part: you don’t need to reach out to Kinsta support to activate any of this!
And if you’re interested in the fine details of our infrastructure setup, you can find plenty of information on the features page.
Too many brand new websites fall victim to the common problem: slow loading speed, poor security, and lack of support due to a bad web host. Starting out with a run-of-the-mill shared host might seem cheap, but it’s not worth the negative effect on your bottom line.
When looking for an ecommerce hosting provider you should pick one that’s ready to scale according to your business needs and offers top-notch quality as well as affordable plans.
Managed hosting, although it might seem a pricier solution initially, provides plenty of tools and specs that make your life easier by taking care of all the critical aspects for you.
Business-wise, it’s an investment worth making if you’re serious about your online store. On that note, you should check out our managed cloud hosting solutions: we offer a variety of plans that will make getting an ecommerce site off the ground a breeze.
Now your turn: what’s the most important thing for you when it comes to ecommerce hosting?