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What Is Ecommerce Website Hosting?

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Ecommerce web site hostingThere really is no single type of hosting called “ecommerce website hosting”. What we mean is that ecommerce hosting is really any hosting plan that meets your traffic volume, bandwidth and storage needs. It also must have a very specific set of features that allow you to do business as an Internet retailer.

When people talk about ecommerce in general, they include any business on the Internet. To be more precise, we define ecommerce as selling physical goods on the Internet using your own merchant account to accept credit card payments.

A merchant account is different than a third-party payment processor like PayPal. With third-party services, you pay a percentage of the transaction for the service and they handle securityand billing of the customer’s credit card. Therefore, your customer’s credit card statement will show the third-party processor’s name for the purchase.

With a merchant account, you secure the transaction with an SSL Certificate and your customer’s credit card statement will show your business name for their purchase. You still pay a percentage of the transaction for the merchant account company (often a bank) to process the payment. However, if you are going into business selling physical goods on the Internet, it is one hundred times more professional to have your name show up on the customers’ credit card statements.

As an ecommerce business owner, you will need hosting that allows you to provide customers with the following:

  • A private SSL certificate to ensure credit card transactions are secure
  • A dedicated IP address so you can use the private SSL certificate
  • A shopping cart
  • The ability for customers to create accounts
  • A way to send emails to all of your customers (to notify them of sales or special offers)
  • Reliable and fast access to your website 24/7/365

Secure Transactions

web hosting shopping cartSSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer. Basically, it encrypts data (like a credit card number) that is transmitted over the Internet so nobody else can access it except its intended recipient (in this case your merchant account provider). This is in place so your customers’ credit card numbers won’t get stolen. You can tell when you are on a page that has an SSL certificate by looking for the little yellow padlock icon next to your browser address bar in Internet Explorer or by the blue or green highlight of the site name and icon (not just the icon!) in Firefox. Other browsers have similar indicators. Also, the web address should begin with https:// instead of plain http:// (the ‘s’ is for secure).

In order to have and use a private SSL certificate, you need a dedicated IP address. This is more of a concern when looking at shared or reseller hosting because VPS and dedicated server hosting typically have one or more dedicated IP addresses included. An IP (Internet protocol) address is basically a device’s address on a network (in this case, the Internet). It uniquely identifies that device.

A server can be set up to have multiple IP addresses that correspond to different sections or information on that server (individual web hosting accounts / web sites, for example). If you share IP addresses, as with some shared or reseller hosting environments, there is no address that uniquely identifies your site. In order to secure your customer’s transaction, there needs to be a way to tell that the communication is coming from where it says it’s coming from. Your unique IP address is part of that authentication process.

The Customer Experience

small business website hostingShopping cart software is typically included in the free script package that comes with most hosting accounts. The shopping cart software allows you to place “add to cart” links on your product pages. It also manages customer sessions (like when you add something to your cart, continue shopping, and you can see in the upper corner that you have an item in your cart), allows customers to create accounts and of course handles the checkout process. If you have the Fantastico script package, you get more than one shopping cart to choose from.

You want to make sure that you have some kind of mailing list capability in your hosting plan. This way you can notify all of your customers about sales, new items or special offers. PHPlist, a mailing list script that has the functions mentioned above, comes with many hosting accounts. Some shopping carts also integrate mailing list functionality. Just be sure you look at the amount of emails you are allowed to send per hour with shared and some VPS hosting accounts. If your list grows too big, you may need to prune it, use a 3rd party mailing list provider like AWeber or upgrade to a more powerful hosting account, like a dedicated server.

Multiple email accounts are important as well. You will likely want to conduct business through business emails, give your employees (if you have any) their own emails and provide customers with different email addresses for different aspects of customer service.

Depending on the type of business you set up, there are some other extras that you may need. If you want to offer support tickets to customers, a support ticket script is necessary. The same is true if you want to offer live chat support, a good FAQ, contact forms or surveys. Luckily, these are all included in the Fantastico script library for free with many hosting accounts.

What is the Best Ecommerce Hosting Solution?

best ecommerce website hostingChoosing the best ecommerce website hosting plan is based on what you need from it. If it has the features discussed above, you’re halfway there. Now, we have to look at bandwidth (how much traffic your account can handle), storage space and the speed of your site.

If you are just starting out with a small web store, a shared hosting account is fine. It will provide the storage, bandwidth and speed you need to get your business started. It has the added advantage of being the least expensive option, which is perfect for starting out. As you grow your business, you will upgrade your hosting to a VPS and eventually a dedicated server. Be sure to look for the features in our list because shared hosting plans often don’t include all of them, especially the dedicated IP address (though they may have it available to purchase at additional cost).

Private SSL certificates are usually something you have to purchase separately. However, there are a special few hosts that give you one as part of your hosting plan, namely Hostgator (Our Editor’s Choice for best shared hosting) and GlowHost. There is another way to get a free Private SSL certificate. Register your domain name with Namecheap, our recommended domain registrar, and you get a Free PositiveSSL Certificate from Comodo – 100% Free for 1 year. That’s a $49.95 value free with an industry leading $9.69 domain purchase. But that’s just the beginning of the benefits Namecheap provides for such a low price, that’s why we recommend them.

If you have a medium sized Internet retail website, or are starting a site that either requires a lot of disk space or you believe is going to be successful in a short amount of time, a VPS hosting plan may be necessary to accommodate your traffic volume, scripting (including your shopping cart), product images and/or videos and email volume. VPS hosting provides more storage space, bandwidth, speed and flexibility than shared hosting. It does cost more, but you are getting more.

Dedicated Server hosting is an ideal solution for ecommerce. It provides high bandwidth and storage capacities. Since you have a whole server dedicated to just you, all of its resources are yours as well. That means it has the power to keep your site running smoothly and quickly. Dedicated servers are also somewhat more secure than shared because there are no other web sites on them that might invite an attack on the server. For high-traffic ecommerce sites, dedicated server hosting is the way to go. If you are starting big or believe your store will grow its products and/or popularity extremely fast, you may want to start off with dedicated server hosting.

The Best Ecommerce Hosting Services

Below are the web hosts we have found to be the best for ecommerce hosting. They all provide the necessary features to run your ecommerce business and expand it easily. There is a top hosting plan for shared hosting, VPS hosting and dedicated server hosting. Our shared hosting best pick includes a dedicated IP address, free private SSL certificate and even a free toll-free 1-877 or 1-866 number.

The Best Ecommerce Website Hosting – Shared
Host Name Plan Unlimited Key Features Rating
Hostgator Ecommerce Website Hosting
Visit Hostgator: The Best Ecommerce Host
Business
$12.95/mo
yes Storage
yes Bandwidth
yes Domains
yes Email
yes FTP
yes Databases
– 45 Day Money-Back Guarantee
– 99.9% Uptime
– 24/7/365 Support
– Data Backups
– Free Toll-Free Number
– Free Dedicated IP Address
– Free Private SSL Certificate
– $100 Google Adwords Credit
– Free Fantastico Script Library
5 StarWeb Hosting Review
Click Here for All Shared Hosting Reviews

 

The Best Ecommerce Website Hosting – VPS
Host Name Plan Server Specs Plan Features Rating
IX Webhosting VPS
Visit: IX Web Hosting
X4
$69.95/mo
– 50 GB Storage
– 1500 GB Bandwidth
– 768 MB RAM
– 4092 MB Burstable RAM
– 4 Intel Xeon CPU Cores
– cPanel or Plesk Control Panel
– Unlimited Domains
– 2 Dedicated IP’s
– Full Root Access
– Free Shopping Cart
– Unlimited email
– $150 Advertising Credits
5 StarWeb Hosting Review
X8
$119.95/mo
– Unlimited Domains
– 100 GB Storage
– 2000 GB Bandwidth
– 2048 MB RAM
– 8192 MB Burstable RAM
– 8 Intel Xeon CPU Cores
– cPanel or Plesk Control Panel
Click Here for the VPS Hosting Page

 

The Best Ecommerce Website Hosting – Dedicated Server
Host Name Plan Server Specs Plan Features Rating
Hostgator Dedicated Hosting
Visit: Hostgator Dedicated Server Hosting
Basic
$174/mo
– 250 GB Storage
– 1500 GB Bandwidth
– 1 GB RAM
– Intel Xeon 1.86GHz Dual Core
– cPanel & WHM Control Panel
– Fully Managed
– 5 Dedicated IP’s
– Free WHMCS or WHM.AutoPilot
– Free Fantastico Script Library
5 StarWeb Hosting Review
Hostgator
Visit: Hostgator Dedicated Servers Hosting
Elite
$279/mo
– 1000 GB Storage
– 2500 GB Bandwidth
– 4 GB RAM
– Intel Xeon 2.4GHz Quad Core
– cPanel & WHM Control Panel
– Fully Managed
– 13 Dedicated IP’s
– Free WHMCS or WHM.AutoPilot
– Free Fantastico Script Library
5 StarWeb Hosting Review
Glowhost Decdicated Linux Hosting
Visit: GlowHost Dedicated Servers Hosting
Intel
Level II
$369/mo
– 750 GB Storage
– 4000 GB Bandwidth
– 6 GB RAM
– 2x Intel Xeon 5520 HT 2.26GHz Quad Core CPUs
– cPanel & WHM Control Panel
– Fully Managed
– 5 Dedicated IP’s
– Free Fantastico Script Library
– Unmanaged Hosting Available
5 StarWeb Hosting Review
Click Here for the Dedicated Server Hosting Page

Still not sure which ecommerce website hosting plan best fits your needs?
Try our HostSelector™ tool and leave the hard part to us!

 

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