Top Ecommerce Web Hosting for April 2020
Ecommerce web hosting is invisible to your customers, but it’s really important for their experience. Bad ecommerce web hosting can even affect your chances of securing the sale – a fractionally slower page can frustrate buyers and will alienate a percentage. Below we have reviewed in our opinion the best ecommerce web hosting services to ensure your ecommerce stores uptime is fantastic.
- Tested by an independent web hosting expert
- Impartially reviewed and rated
- Only the top ecommerce hosting companies featured
Ecommerce Guide is a free resource offering Ecommerce content and comparison. Some of the Ecommerce products listed are from partners who pay us advertising referral fees. This may impact how, where and in what order products appear. Our Scores are determined by independent experts and are subject to change. We do not include or compare every Ecommerce product available in the market.
- Really powerful machines
- Web host optimized for Magento
- 24x7x365 support
- Data centers in US, Europe, Asia & Australia
- Great security
- Optimized WordPress environment
- Offers managed hosting plans
- Data centers in the US, Europe & Asia
- Serve content to visitors dynamically
- 24/7 phone support
- Bespoke WordPress/WooCommerce Platform
- 24/7 Live Chat Support
- Free SSL Certificate
- CDN Provided
- Excellent WordPress hosting
- Easy site installation
- Good server parameters
- Priority support
- Good reputation
- Cheapest shared hosting on the market
- 24x7 support
- Up to 4-core CPUs on VPS plans
- Dedicated IPs included
- SSD drives for the higher-tier
- Multiple installers for e-commerce platforms
- Optimized for performance
- Fast SSD drives
- 24x7x365 support
- 2+ dedicated IP addresses on the VPS plans
Ecommerce Web Hosting
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.
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.
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.
Share Hosting vs VPS vs Dedicated Servers
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 a Web Host
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:
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 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).
Magento is the golden child of Ecommerce platforms, starting as an Open Source project and escalating into an Enterprise-grade platform that was acquired by eBay and then Adobe. Despite these credentials, Magento powers roughly half the number of online stores to WooCommerce and a quarter compared to Shopify. That’s because Magento isn’t designed for your small side-hustle or Mom & Pop business. There’s a steep learning curve and lengthy set-up time, but the end result is a very powerful ecommerce platform. Ecommerce stores powered by Magento include Warby Parker, Helly Hansen, Olympus, Nike and Nespresso. Once your website is live, you’ll never outgrow Magento, only your servers.
Websites using Magento include Oliver Bonas (hosted on Google Cloud), Bulk Powders (hosted on Magento 2 Commerce Cloud), Micro Scooters (hosted by Peer1) and Conran Shop (hosted by Sonassi).
- Budget Choice – Siteground offers a one-click install service for Magento 2, making a tricky installation process a lot more simple. They also keep on top of upgrades for you and help to prevent your shop from getting hacked. With prices ranging from $3.95 up to $11.95, even their beefiest package can suit the smallest of budgets.
- Safest Choice – Nexcess is a cloud hosting provider that offers specialist Magento hosting. Their key selling point is the ability to scale as your website grows. Packages start from $25/month, which supports up to 25 concurrent shoppers. As your website gets more popular, this price can rocket up to $849/month for 150 active shoppers. Once your online store becomes popular enough to have over 100 visitors actively shopping at any one time, you’ve probably Hit The Big Time anyhow (see below).
- Hit The Big Time – If you’ve really hit the big time, Magento will host your store for you, with prices rumoured to start at $40,000/year. If you’re not quite at that level yet, Rackspace will help you to configure a bespoke “stack” that handles high loads and Black Friday events.
Ecommerce Image Web Hosting Solutions
Product images sell – they are, in fact, the most significant sales factor alongside price. This point is missed by so many online retailers, who make-do with a single low-resolution photo, supplied by the manufacturer or wholesaler. But if you want to convert your browsers into buyers, investing in professional photography, even videos, offers an incredible return on investment.
Invest in Original Imagery
You don’t need to hire celebrity models and well-known photographers, to get an edge over your competitors.
Universities are full of photography, fashion and art students, who would love to take your photos, perfect your lighting, airbrush your pics and model your products. They are cheap, enthusiastic, freshly educated in the latest techniques and often own professional-grade kit.
Take photos from every conceivable angle. Some buyers want to see the sole/tread of a shoe, the bottom of a plate, the inside collar of a shirt, the buttons on a gadget and the small-print on a box. If the item has multiple parts, consider taking “Flat Lay” photos, with the parts beautifully laid out.
You can even get a robot to take your product photos for you! Ecommerce and POS giant, Square, recently launched their Photo Studio where robotic cameras take the perfect product snaps. Shopify and Amazon are both rumoured to be launching product photography services as well.
360-degree rotating images can also help to bring the offline buying experience, online. Apps such as Magic360 provide your store with fully rotatable product images, but you must get the required photo angles first.
Video is becoming more widespread in Ecommerce, as internet speeds continue to improve. Clothing retailers such as ASOS set-up catwalk shows, so that customers can see models walking up and down in clothes before they buy. Outside of fashion, Home Improvement retailers have found success in filming infomercials for their products – showing people how to use them and what benefits they bring.
Even if you dropship or resell another company’s product, ordering one of each SKU to take photos and videos, can really give your website an edge.
Image & Video Hosting Services
Outside of uploading product photos to your web hosting provider, there are several specialist image hosting services. Most of these are designed to tackle the complicated task of image sizing, compressing, colouring, adjustments, cropping and editing.
Cloudinary is a popular service used by Whole Foods, Stitch Fix, Neiman Marcus and Jane.com. You can upload your raw images to them and use their tools to manipulate, enhance, resize, rotate and crop the pictures. The finished images are then compressed and optimised for fast loading times.
Kraken is a similar service, used by Hallmark, Dell and Tesla on their retail sites. Both services have plugins to work with most major Ecommerce platforms, so the choice is down to personal preference and price.
Pixelz is an image editing service specifically for Ecommerce websites. Their clients include FOSSIL, Jack & Jones, Lowe’s and Asics. The photo editing is mostly automated, but with the ability to flag-up any mistakes/issues, to have them corrected. By being ecommerce focussed, Pixelz can offer niche editing options such as Background Removal, Product Shadows and Invisible Mannequins.
If you’re simply looking for a place to store all of your images, the logical choice is Amazon S3 . S3 is what Netflix stores all of its video content on and where Airbnb stores all of its accommodation images. It is cheap, infinitely scalable and pay-as-you-go. Storing 1,000GB of images will cost you just $23/month, although bandwidth (image views) can be expensive. To reduce bandwidth costs and increase speed, you’ll want to use a “CDN” (see below).
Video Hosting is a whole different animal that requires a specialist service of its own.
The easy choice for video is YouTube , which can also drive traffic to your store from their website and apps. Brands choosing to host on YouTube include Raspberry Pi , Redsbaby and Native Union . The downside of YouTube is a lack of control and the possibility of losing visitors, who could click-out into the YouTube site or onto related videos.
One of the most exciting new video players on the market is Cloudflare Stream . Stream accepts your raw video file, encodes, compresses and serves it in a custom video player. It’s fully customisable, embeddable, cheap ($1 per 1,000 minutes viewed, $5 for 1,000 minutes stored) and there’s no leakage of traffic onto other platforms or videos. What’s more, one of the customers planning to migrate over to Steam is Raspberry Pi, a former advocate of YouTube.
Making Images Faster with a CDN
Choosing the right CDN is one of the most important technical decisions you can make, for your ecommerce store. A CDN will take copies of your website’s images, photos and digital assets, storing them on servers that are physically located closer to your customer. Even if your website is hosted in the US and all of your customers are American, the difference in page and image loading times for someone in LA vs. New York can be staggering. Akamai (a CDN) reports that every hundred milliseconds of extra loading time can cause your conversion rate to drop by 7%!
Cloudflare is a simple CDN solution, with one of the largest networks and pricing plans that start from free. As well as serving all of your images, they also protect your website from attacks and compress your data. It’s the obvious choice for most, with American Apparel, AO.com and Touch of Modern, all using them. Cloudflare requires you to use their DNS and point your domain name at them though, which may not be an option for some companies.
Fastly is another popular CDN, that can be easier to implement and use than Cloudflare. Websites using them include Nordstrom Rack, Ticketmaster, Rakuten, Boots and Wayfair. They have excellent coverage across the US and Western Europe, but may not be the best choice if your customers come from Canada, Africa, Eastern Europe, Russia or the Middle East.
The Verizon and Akamai CDNs were historically reserved for the biggest websites in the world, with six-figure minimum spends. Microsoft became an unlikely giant slayer though, reselling access to the CDNs (as well as Microsoft’s own) via their Azure cloud computing service. Azure requires a significant amount of technical knowledge to use it, but does give you access to, arguably, the only two CDNs that can match Cloudflare on size and speed.
Finally, if your digital content is already stored on Amazon S3, Amazon’s own CDN, Cloudfront , could be the best option for your ecommerce store. Cloudfront has much lower bandwidth fees, compared to loading content directly from S3, plus puts your content in over 120 locations worldwide. Ecommerce stores using Cloudfront include Instacart, Artfinder and of course, Amazon themselves. Cloudfront is a natural choice if you already use AWS (Amazon Web Services), but could be more expensive than Fastly or Cloudflare – so make sure that you calculate and compare costs.
Lastly, if you use a hosted ecommerce platform such as Shopify , you may already have a CDN built-in. Shopify serves your images via Fastly’s CDN automatically and at no additional cost. BigCommerce operates their own CDN, but from only eight locations worldwide, so you may still want to invest in a CDN to get true global performance.