One of the most critical decisions that you’ll need to make is choosing the best web hosting service for your e-commerce business. Your web hosting service operates as your partner in your online venture. If your web hosting fails, then your business fails; so be sure to research and choose your host carefully.
1. Check For Integrated Virtual Shopping Cart
Some plans offer virtual shopping carts as part of their e-commerce solutions. Using one of these you can organize products by category, add product attributes, assign inventory levels and enable fluid customer purchase process. With a dedicated, VPS or business class server with Perl, PHP and MySQL support, you can easily install carts such as Zen Cart, Magneto, X-Cart, Cube, AgoraCart, CartLite Commerce, OS Commerce, Ubercart or ShopSite.
2. Check For The Right Merchant Aids
With the right merchant aids, you can integrate merchant accounts such as Authorize.Net, PayPal or 2checkout.com with the shopping process. These merchant aids can help with the online payment gateway, process credit card payments and manage customer and merchant bank transactions.
3. Check For An Easy To Use Control Panel
Some web hosts offer well known control panels to enable easy management of your e-commerce site. Control panels such as Parallel’s Plesk and cPanel are recommended. You can easily configure these easy to use and user-friendly control panels to establish anytime full access to your e-commerce business.
4. Evaluate Pricing Advantages
When you’re able to procure a shared hosting plan for $5 to $10 a month, why opt to pay more than $20 a month just for some additional features you may not need? Just because a service is priced higher does not mean it is better. It’s the features, the reputation and the references that count.
5. Evaluate Storage Space
Evaluate the amount of storage space you need on your web hosting service provider’s server for your business needs. Be generous with your estimation; even if your site is simple today and doesn’t need much space, you might add rich content later. Extra space is always a good idea.
6. Check For FTP Access
You’ll need fast and easy FTP access to upload new pages quickly. If you’re a new business, you can use your hosting’s personal web builder to build web pages. As your business grows, though, you’ll want to expand your online business capabilities. In this case, FTP access is a must. Make sure it’s offered upfront when you sign up.
7. Check The Access Speed
Check if your hosting service provides sufficient bandwidth for efficient data transfer. Even if you start off with a small site, sign up for the maximum data transfer you can, to be on the safe side. An unavailable, slow or unreliable site loses business faster than it loads.
8. Check For The Right Support Quality
Check if your service provides multi-channel, 24×7 customer service and support. If your provider offers support for third party software, which is rare, it’s likely their regular customer service will also be good. Medium-sized companies are more likely to offer great pricing and responsive support staff. Ask plenty of questions while evaluating the service; if your service cannot be bothered answering you, it’s a good indication that their customer service is also lack luster.
9. Does The Plan Offer A Dedicated Server?
Usually, a high traffic site is backed up by a dedicated or VPS server. It’s possible that your merchant account provider will also require a dedicated or VPS server for compliance. It’s easier to get your shopping cart installed on a dedicated server.
10. Check For Uptime Guarantees
Your business must be available to your customers 24/7, which means your hosting service should be available and reliable 24/7. Even the best hosting service can suffer downtime due to natural causes and power outages. Ask for the industry standard of 99.9% uptime when you sign up. The guarantee indicates a backup service in case of downtime.
11. Check Server Hardware Quality
Your service provider’s service quality depends largely on the quality of their hardware. Check if your ecommerce host provides excellent backup facilities using fast and reliable hard drives, multi-processor servers to ensure optimum speed and a high power generator.
12. Ask For Recommendations And References
• Contact your provider’s customers for service recommendations.
• Join discussion forums based on the open source technology you want to use, such as Java, Ruby, Python or PHP and check archives for existing answers.
• Also ask your web developer to recommend hosting companies. If your web developer is happy with a service, you’ll save yourself many billable hours in the future!
13. Check If The Service Is Technological Competent
A well structured and knowledgeable hosting provider should be able to work with any technology you choose. Make doubly sure that the provider knows how to set up various servers and applications. One way to check technological competency is to ask customer service directly how they install, configure and support specific technologies. Look for detailed answers that let you know that they understand technology at depth.
14. Evaluate Hosting Plans
• Shared hosting is economical; you’ll be sharing server resources with others, which is fine for low volume transactions.
• Virtual Private Servers (VPS) are more expensive and superior to shared hosts. You’ll be sharing dedicated resources with others but without impact on your usage.
• You’ll need to buy or lease a physical server to have a dedicated service.
• With the cloud hosting option, you pay economically for the exact resources you use, month after month. You can rent servers for limited periods as well. Opt for a well known service such as Rackspace or Amazon EC2 to ensure good customer service.
15. Check For Security
Check if Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is available, along with encryption of online bail dispensation data. Before signing on the dotted line read reviews on the hosting service, evaluate the speed, security and reliability on offer with other plans.