Page speed is a critical factor in ecommerce success. According to Google, a one-second delay in mobile page load time can lead to a 20% drop in conversion rates. Slow-loading pages not only harm user experience but directly impact sales and revenue.
- Excellent WordPress hosting
- Easy site installation
- Good server parameters
- Priority support
- Good reputation
- Multiple installers for e-commerce platforms
- Optimized for performance
- Fast SSD drives
- 24x7x365 support
- 2+ dedicated IP addresses on the VPS plans
- Bespoke WordPress/WooCommerce Platform
- 24/7 Live Chat Support
- Free SSL Certificate
- CDN Provided
- WordPress optimized
- Recommended by WordPress.org
- 24×7 support
- Good server specs
- Dedicated IP addresses and SSL certificates
- Really powerful machines
- Web host optimized for Magento
- 24x7x365 support
- Data centers in US, Europe, Asia & Australia
- Great security
- Cheapest shared hosting on the market
- 24×7 support
- Up to 4-core CPUs on VPS plans
- Dedicated IPs included
- SSD drives for the higher-tier
Factors to consider when reviewing ecommerce web hosting providers
Self-hosting ecommerce stores can be a difficult challenge, which is why 1 in 10 online retailers choose to use Shopify’s hosted solution. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t self-host though, as it does give you much more independence and an ability to adapt your site as you wish.
Below are the key areas to consider when self-hosting an ecommerce store:
1. Performance and Speed
- Server Response Time: How quickly the server responds to a request.
- Content Delivery Network (CDN): Availability and effectiveness of a CDN for faster content delivery.
2. Reliability and Uptime
- Uptime Guarantee: Look for providers that offer at least 99.9% uptime.
- Redundancy: Backup systems in place to handle server failures.
- SSL Certificates: Necessary for secure transactions.
- Firewalls and DDoS Protection: To guard against malicious attacks.
- Regular Backups: Frequency and ease of backups.
- Resource Limits: CPU, RAM, and storage limits.
- Upgrade Options: Ease and cost of upgrading to a more robust package.
5. Customer Support
- Availability: 24/7 support availability through multiple channels (chat, email, phone).
- Expertise: Level of specialized knowledge in ecommerce.
- Initial Costs: Setup and monthly or annual hosting fees.
- Hidden Costs: Extra fees for backups, SSL certificates, or other services.
7. Features and Software
- CMS Compatibility: Compatibility with ecommerce platforms like Shopify, Magento, or WooCommerce.
- Email Hosting: Whether email hosting is included.
8. Data Center Locations
- Proximity to Target Audience: Data centers closer to your target audience can reduce latency.
9. Reviews and Testimonials
- Customer Reviews: Look for reviews or testimonials that specifically address ecommerce needs.
10. Technical Support and Maintenance
- Managed Services: Whether they offer managed hosting, which includes technical maintenance.
By carefully evaluating these factors, you can select a web hosting provider that aligns with your ecommerce needs, thereby ensuring a smoother, more efficient online retail operation.
CDNs (Content Distribution Network)
The cheapest and easiest CDN option is to use Cloudflare, which is free for the entry-level package. As well as making your website faster, they also protect you against attacks.
Similar to Cloudflare, Stackpath offers a CDN with DDoS protection, starting from $20/month. The advantage of Stackpath is that you do not have to change your domain’s “Nameservers” or “DNS” and can just point a subdomain, e.g. “cdn.example.com” to Stackpath. They also offer a custom Web Application Firewall at a lower price point to Cloudflare and can save the entire page (including HTML) on their CDN – saving your server from even more work.
Our third recommendation would be Fastly, who also offer a full-site CDN (caching HTML) but do not offer the extra WAF and DDoS functionality of Stackpath. Fastly packages start from $50/month, and they offer a one-month free trial.
Caching Your Pages
Caching is when your server stores a temporary copy of a page (or part of a page) that doesn’t change very often. It then uses this cache to serve future requests, until you tell it to expire. This saves significant server resources and helps you to serve more pages, to more people, faster.
If ecommerce stores were simple, a web page would load instantly, using a single database query and very little code. That’s not the case with any modern ecommerce platform though, with some parts of an online store making dozens of database requests and hundreds (if not thousands) of calculations on each page load. This gets worse with each extension/plugin you install and any complicated page features such as personalisation, “People also bought” and “Similar Products” features.
Most ecommerce platforms support caching, either as a built-in feature or using an extension. These will either store a HTML snippet in a file or use the server’s RAM (very fast memory). The most popular technology for this is Redis, which is mostly found on the more expensive and enterprise-level hosting packages.
Caching is essential for all but the smallest of online stores. Even a modest spike in traffic to your website could otherwise take it offline. So ask your hosting provider if they can help with Caching.
Some budget hosting providers will limit the number of concurrent database requests per website. A typical figure for this is 10 active requests at a time. Database requests should only take a few milliseconds to complete, making 10 active requests relatively hard to achieve. The slower your database requests are though (such as importing a product feed or calculating which products a person may also like), the more likely it is for a clash to occur. Before signing up, make sure to ask your host about any database limiting or throttling.
Ecommerce Hosting Server Location
If most of your customer base is located in a different country to where your server is located, you’re making the shopping experience unnecessarily slow for them. Data travels near the speed of light down fibre-optic cables, but it’s still slow if your customer is in London and your website is in Las Vegas. Sometimes a hosting company will pretend to be in your country, but actually host your website in the US or Netherlands, where the biggest datacenters are. Make sure you ask which country it will be hosted in, even which city. A bike shop focused on New York City will be a lot faster if it’s hosted in NYC rather than San Francisco, despite being in the same country.
The variety of hosting available can sometimes be daunting. Here’s a good rule of thumb on each hosting type:
- Shared Hosting – Your website will share a server (or servers) with many other sites. This makes the hosting cheap, but very popular or broken websites on the same server could severely affect your own website. This has gotten better recently though, with the bigger hosts spreading websites across multiple servers and limiting the damage that one site could do to another.
- VPS (Virtual Private Server) – A VPS is a Dedicated Server that has been split up into multiple “Virtual Servers”. This gives you the security of not being on the same stack as other sites, at a cheaper price point than a Dedicated Server. Don’t always assume that your website will run faster on a VPS, though. While you do have isolated server power just for your site, the overall power might be less than you’d get on a well-configured shared hosting platform. A good example is that WP Engine runs on so many servers and is so well-tuned, that your WooCommerce store would run faster with them, than on any VPS.
- Cloud Hosting (AWS / Google Cloud) – Cloud Providers offer virtual servers similar to a VPS, but you can pay for them hourly rather than monthly/yearly. This allows you to automatically boot up 100 servers when your website gets featured on Reddit or Oprah, then scale back down to 5 when then the peak is over. It saves a lot of expense in having servers running all the time, just in case a surge in traffic happens. They also offer value-added products on top of this, such as managed databases and file storage. Web hosts such as WP Engine and Kinsta use AWS and Google Cloud, giving you the benefits without the very complicated configuration.
- Dedicated Servers – This is when only your website is hosted on a physical machine. You get to use the full power of the hardware, without any other site bringing you down. This will suit larger stores, as you’ll also need someone to configure and maintain the server for you. Another step up from this is a Server Cluster, where multiple servers run your site – each with a different purpose.
Choosing an Ecommerce Web Hosting Provider
Choosing the right web host largely depends on which self-hosted ecommerce platform you want to use. Here are the Top 3 most popular self-hosted platforms:
WooCommerce Ecommerce Web Hosting
Almost half a million ecommerce stores run on WooCommerce, making it the second most popular platform after Shopify. Unlike most other ecommerce software, WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin rather than a standalone app. The best hosting providers are therefore WordPress specialists, with servers correctly configured to run WordPress at scale.
Websites using WooCommerce include GolfClubs.com (hosting with JustHost), AeroPress (hosted on Google Cloud), PersonalDefenceNetwork (using AWS) and Minipop.fr (hosted with OVH).
- Budget Choice – SiteGround offers an excellent entry-level hosting option, starting at $3.95/month and boasting WooCommerce specific features on its platform. At this price point, you shouldn’t expect the best uptime and load speed, though, as there will be thousands of websites sharing the same resources. We would recommend using them to get up and running or to test your business case. Once the revenue starts rolling in, moving to a more premium WordPress host will be relatively simple.
- Safest Choice – The most well-known WordPress host is WP Engine, hosting over 300,000 websites for companies such as Walmart, Microsoft, Pottery Barn and Yelp. Their packages start at $35/month, and there are no extra charges for using the rather resource-intensive WooCommerce plugin. Your website is hosted on a shared infrastructure, so other websites on the server could cause your website to slow down or go offline if they’re popular or under attack.
- A Good Alternative – A competitor of WP Engine is Flywheel, which is also a WordPress specialist hosting platform. They do not seem to offer any special caching or functionality for WooCommerce (unlike WP Engine) but do have an excellent customer service record. If you feel that a more personal service with lots of support is what you need, Flywheel could be the best fit for you.
- Hit The Big Time – When your ecommerce store becomes a runaway success, you’ll soon realise that WooCommerce can struggle to cope on standard hosting solutions. Because the software is shoehorned into a blogging platform, the database queries and code aren’t as streamlined as dedicated apps such as Magento. You will most likely need a cluster of dedicated servers (Rackspace are the best at this) or DigitalOcean (cheaper “Cloud/VPS” hosting). Requests will need to be load-balanced across multiple web servers, as PHP will get slower and take more resources to serve a page. Your MySQL server will also struggle with dozens of queries per page, due to the convoluted table structure – requiring a MySQL Master/Slave set-up. Caching will become your lifeline, allowing you to save similar page requests rather than checking the database or making calculations from scratch. You’ll likely invest in Redis and Varnish servers for this, with a total infrastructure cost likely to add up to $500 to $1,000 a month.
OpenCart Ecommerce Web Hosting
OpenCart could be the best fit for you if you want a dedicated Ecommerce platform without blogging at its core, that’s simpler to configure and use than Magento. It is the third most popular Ecommerce software on the web, with over 380,000 active stores. Unlike WooCommerce, OpenCart is a dedicated ecommerce platform that runs independently of any other software. Coded in PHP and capable of being run on almost any web hosting, OpenCart has powerful features and countless plugins to add extra functionality. Its popularity comes from early adoption by web designers and website builders, using it to build online stores for their clients. They’re relatively unknown outside of these circles, with very little active publicity and a website that has barely changed since 2016.
Websites using OpenCart include the British Red Cross (hosted on LiquidWeb), Bottom Paint Store (hosted by HostDime) and Kids Wheels (hosted by GoDaddy).
- Budget Choice – Bluehost is one of the largest hosting companies around, powering over two million websites worldwide. Their packages start from $3.95/month and include a free SSL certificate. This will be powerful enough to run OpenCart with a few hundred visitors a day, and they offer VPS (Virtual Private Server) and Dedicated Server packages when you outgrow this.
- Safest Choice – Siteground offer OpenCart support and have a one-click install solution. Even with ~100,000 website visits a month, this hosting can handle the load with their “GoGeek” OpenCart package starting at $11.95/month.
- A Good Alternative – A2 Hosting is another shared hosting provider that offers OpenCart specific hosting packages. Their “Turbo” package is currently discounted to 63% off, with a budget-friendly month cost of just over $7. The Turbo package includes website caching and places fewer websites on a single server.
- Hit The Big Time – When your website takes off, it’s time to invest in some dedicated hosting. You’ll no longer be affected by the popularity or issues of other people’s websites and also receive a greater level of customer support. The leaders in Dedicated Servers are Rackspace, who will take your website requirements and traffic needs, then design a custom server configuration for you. This can cost $500+ a month but is well worth the cost for successful stores (don’t forget to haggle hard on price with them).