11 FAQs About eCommerce Hosting
Looking to start a new business? Or grow your current side hustle into a new venture?
eCommerce hosting enables entrepreneurs to create — and profit from — an online presence that features a complete catalog of products and services.
Although building an online store may sound daunting and expensive, the best eCommerce hosting provider can supply among the cheapest solutions in the industry: shared Linux infrastructure using open-source PHP scripts.
All you need is a top-notch web hosting plan. From there, more than 400 free applications can help you set up your site’s design, storefront, shopping cart, blog, shipping, and customer interactions.
Here, we’ll discuss the main factors behind choosing an eCommerce hosting provider based on our team’s years of reviewing the products, hosting services, and solutions from hundreds of companies.
1. What is eCommerce Hosting?
ECommerce hosting provides the systems and technology to conduct B2B and B2C transactions online with digital payment systems.
Business owners can list products for sale, with software that integrates order tracking, shipping, inventory, and payment processing.
Some eCommerce store solutions also enable the sale of virtual goods, games, subscriptions, or downloads. Plus, don’t forget online appointment bookings, reservations, or event tickets.
Each eCommerce shopping cart solution will have a different approach to logistics, billing, shipping, tracking, and delivery across transactions.
The vast majority of software programs, however, rely on PHP and MySQL databases — which are readily available with most cheap web hosting plans.
Small businesses that sign up with a strong eCommerce hosting service can use open-source database solutions like MySQL, MariaDB, or PostgreSQL to operate stores on a server with all the functionality and features of the websites run by the world’s largest brands.
2. Why Should I Use an eCommerce Platform?
Whether your company is a manufacturer, wholesaler, retailer, or service provider, eCommerce systems allow you to maintain an online presence while selling products and services online — reaching a global base of customers.
Beyond the additional revenue streams that come from selling online, an eCommerce site provides a greater understanding of your customers’ preferences and behaviors. Tracking Google Analytics can help to better position your brand or products in the future.
Here are some reasons why you should consider starting an online store:
- Faster processes: Customers can buy quicker, and you can run your eCommerce store more efficiently.
- Reduced costs: Running an online store is much more affordable than operating a brick-and-mortar business.
- Affordable advertising: Many platforms integrate with social media, email marketing, customer reviews, and online marketplaces like Amazon or eBay.
- Increased sales: Products are available 24×7, and customers may want to shop online for convenience.
- More potential customers: Geographic limitations vanish with online shopping and the logistics of payment processing and shipping.
- Efficient business operations: Many programs offer point-of-sale integrations that work with your physical storefront.
Business owners just getting started with an eCommerce host need to consider the scale of their operations to plan for cost-effective technologies.
Companies that expect to run a high-traffic website will likely want to pursue a VPS hosting solution (we’ve highlighted the best VPS plans for eCommerce here). A VPS, cloud hosting service, or dedicated server provides more computing resources and scalability.
If your business does not require this level of datacenter support quite yet, go with a budget web hosting plan from one of the companies we regularly recommend.
3. How Much Should an eCommerce Website Cost?
Well, how much do you want to spend?
As you might imagine, hiring a web design and development agency can easily cost tens of thousands of dollars for a complex eCommerce store.
Most often, a shared hosting plan will come with hundreds of free software applications you can install with just one click. Even better, look for an optimized application hosting service that configures its infrastructure specifically around a platform’s strengths.
WordPress, the world’s most popular content management system, typically leads the charge; its related WooCommerce plugin enables site owners to create a storefront using the same familiar interface.
If you buy a WordPress or WooCommerce hosting package, you can put a professional eCommerce store together for $50 or less.
Here’s how the costs commonly break down:
- Web hosting: Less than $5 per month
- Domain name registration: Often FREE with web hosting, otherwise $10 to $15 per year
- eCommerce software: Often FREE, unless you want to use a hosted solution from Wix or Volusion that can cost at least $25 per month
- Theme: Can be FREE, or premium templates can cost upward of $100
As you may imagine, using a free theme and open-source software will greatly help reduce costs. Most hosts also include basic security measures like a free SSL certificate.
Keep an eye out for upgraded hosting services that may increase your costs (but also boost your online store’s success): automated backups, enhanced security measures, and other business-oriented apps.
Of course, these price estimates do not include custom programming for themes, modules, and plugins.
4. How Do I Choose the Best eCommerce Hosting?
The best eCommerce hosting solution will provide the complete web server platform for the programs you want to use for your online store.
Most of these elements come built into most shared or WordPress hosting plans. However, some VPS hosting plans, called unmanaged or self-managed VPS, provide no administrative tools at all. (You’ll commonly see this with public cloud hosting providers like AWS, Google Cloud, and Microsoft Azure, as well.)
When conducting our hosting reviews and helping guide readers down the right path, here’s what we advise to look for:
- Price: The more you spend on your eCommerce hosting solution, the more you typically get. What do you actually need for your business right now and for the immediate future?
- Performance: Page load speeds have a major impact on customers’ purchasing habits and user experience. Look for SSDs and caching tools.
- Scalability: Will you have room to grow into another plan with the hosting company? Will the host help with the migration?
- Computing resources: This one’s easy — compare the numbers and see which plan offers the most storage, bandwidth, RAM, and support for websites and email accounts.
- Security: Most hosts nowadays offer free SSL certificates. What about backups, malware scans, or PCI compliance?
- eCommerce software: You’ll be able to find WooCommerce anywhere, but what about specialized plugins or caching tools?
- Customer support: Where will you turn if you get stuck with a problem? Examine your host’s knowledge base and test their live chat to make sure you’ll be able to can get answers promptly.
Naturally, cost is another major factor. If you are using shared Linux or Windows hosting, look for ways to maximize your value with offerings like a free domain name, unlimited bandwidth, administration support, and search engine advertising credits.
VPS and dedicated server eCommerce plans can be compared more directly based on the configuration of CPU, RAM, SSD and HDD storage, plus monthly bandwidth limitations.
Use customer service as a distinguishing factor when comparing brands and packages to find the best eCommerce web hosting.
All in all, the best eCommerce website builders are the ones that make setup and configuration easy for store owners. Your passion is your business and your products, not website creation and maintenance.
Look for a provider that can give you all the tools needed to craft a vibrant, powerful online store without dragging you down the rabbit hole of jargon and overly complicated administrative tasks.
5. Can I Use Shared Hosting for My Online Business?
If your eCommerce website registers up to 250 unique visitors online at any time, you can use shared hosting for your online business.
Many small business sites will not attract more than 25 simultaneous visitors at a time to their online store unless there is some advertising or social media promotion.
However, if a major website or news outlet promotes your store, the traffic spikes could render your eCommerce business unavailable.
The best method for developing an eCommerce site is to start on a shared plan using a MySQL database and open-source programs. You can run WordPress, WooCommerce, Drupal, Zen Cart, osCommerce, and hundreds of other scripts on a shared hosting plan with Softaculous.
As your business grows, you may want to explore an eCommerce hosting provider that can offer more scalability.
Instead of Amazon Web Services, which can be incredibly hard to set up and maintain, we recommend pairing the ultra-friendly customer support teams of SiteGround with the super-powerful infrastructure of Google Cloud.
You may even want to consider taking the dedicated hosting route, which gives your store an entire server to support your store. Dedicated hosting is incredibly reliable and secure, making it a good option for protecting sensitive customer data.
Because the eCommerce application is often free, you can test and iterate versions quickly to build a comprehensive online presence you can be proud of.
6. What is the Difference Between Hosted and Self-Hosted eCommerce Software?
Before you wade through all the details of how you’d like your online store to look and function, you’ll want to figure out what the best web hosting experience looks like for you and your business.
- Hosted eCommerce is an all-inclusive package that comes with preinstalled software on a server you can’t access. The hosting provider takes care of all the technical details and maintenance, but you sacrifice some control.
- Self-hosted eCommerce gives site owners the opportunity and server access to set up and run their online store however they see fit. You are in charge of choosing, installing, and updating the software programs and scripts for your business.
Ultimately, self-hosted eCommerce allows users to choose from more than 400 open-source scripts to build sites, while hosted eCommerce specializes in optimized runtime environments for a single platform.
Even though hosted eCommerce customers won’t have as many software options, they can still customize their stores through premium templates or plugins to add the desired branding and functionality.
Hosted eCommerce typically offers greater security, antivirus, and anti-DDoS support, but the plans tend to be more expensive and experience somewhat worse customer support and knowledge base.
Perhaps our biggest hesitation about recommending hosted solutions is the lack of server access. If you decide to move your site to another host, you’ll likely have to completely rebuild your eCommerce store.
For starters, website owners can’t access their own files. But, because hosted platforms use proprietary software, those files wouldn’t work on other eCommerce host’s platforms anyway.
Those relying on self-hosted eCommerce will likely spend substantially more time developing their store, but they can migrate their store’s files to any other host that supports the same programs.
A Bluehost WooCommerce site, for instance, can easily move to a HostGator cloud hosting account — often with the help of the host’s support teams.
7. Can I Use a Website Builder to Create My eCommerce Site?
Website builder software is intended to be easier and quicker for eCommerce when compared to all of the requirements of a content management system.
A website builder lets you start with a complete web design template or theme that is ready-made for your specific business type. For example, many builders offer templates for stores in industries like health and beauty, fashion, food, real estate, or consulting.
Recommended Website Builders for eCommerce Stores:
- Shopify: Start with a free trial and host a complete online store with high performance.
- Wix: Use premade themes to jumpstart development and launch eCommerce stores.
- Weebly: Free e commerce hosting with a Square Online site builder that scales with your business.
- Volusion: Everything you need to sell online, including themes and payment gateway.
Artists and designers using a platform like Shopify or Volusion allows you to present your work to customers without the commission fees of marketplaces like eBay and Etsy.
If you are selling handicrafts, fashion, collectibles, or other niche products, website builders can be a good option to get online and sell D2C at a cheap price.
8. Which Hosts Include a Free eCommerce Solution?
Many plans support unlimited domains for less than $10 per month that include free use of eCommerce store software programs like osCommerce, Zen Cart, CubeCart, PrestaShop, WooCommerce, and Magento.
The best web hosting solution for a popular and free eCommerce platform is a WooCommerce store installed using Softaculous on a cPanel-based shared hosting plan. Nearly all hosts offer some form of managed WordPress hosting, with many including an upgrade to managed WooCommerce services.
Best eCommerce Hosting Companies:
- SiteGround: WordPress experts using Google Cloud Platform for shared hosting and managed WooCommerce
- Bluehost: Full-service web host featuring multiple flavors of shared, WordPress, and managed WooCommerce plans
- A2 Hosting: Blazing-fast shared hosting, plus optimized plans for WooCommerce and Magento
- InMotion Hosting: SSD-powered shared hosting, WordPress eCommerce solutions, and WooCommerce stores
- Liquid Web: High-touch managed eCommerce hosting powered by WooCommerce and sister hosting company Nexcess
By signing up with a budget host and using a cPanel hosting plan, small business owners can develop their sites using WordPress with a WooCommerce store.
Drupal, Joomla, or other CMS software programs are proven alternatives for an eCommerce business to rely on Zen Cart, osCommerce, CubeCart, or PrestaShop as a hosted eCommerce platform.
9. What is PCI Compliance?
E commerce store owners who process credit card payments for customers are required to follow PCI regulations.
Representatives from Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express formed the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards Council in 2004 to create standards that reduce credit card fraudestablish and govern the mandates.
PCI Data Security Goals:
- Build and maintain a secure network with a stringent firewall and strong passwords.
- Protect cardholder data by encrypting transmission across public networks.
- Maintain a vulnerability management program with regularly updated antivirus programs and secure systems.
- Implement strong access control measures by restricting access to cardholder data and assigning unique identification to those who can.
- Regularly monitor and test networks to track access to cardholder data and security systems.
- Maintain an information security policy that addresses security practices for employees and contractors.
Most small business owners can use a payment gateway, which is a third-party service that authorizes and secures transactions. PayPal, Stripe, Square, Skrill, Authorize.Net, or 2checkout are all popular server solutions for credit card payments that are PCI compliant.
You won’t be able to process payments on a CMS or eCommerce script unless you have a PCI-compliant gateway.
This means that both your company and the web hosting service will not generally store or have access to customers’ credit card numbers.
10. Which Web Host Offers a Free SSL Certificate?
Since 2016, hosting providers and IT companies have led a major push to secure and encrypt every website with an SSL certificate.
The majority of shared Linux and Windows web hosting providers now include Let’s Encrypt or AutoSSL solutions with cPanel and Plesk administration that can generate a free SSL certificate for every domain name on your account.
Popular hosts and technology providers, including A2 Hosting, Liquid Web, InMotion Hosting, and Automattic (the folks behind WordPress), have pushed to secure all their customers with this easy-to-implement verification.
Several hosts offer free SSL certificates on plans that cost less than $10 per month:
- Bluehost — Let’s Encrypt (paid options through Sectigo)
- Hostinger — Free and paid options through Sectigo
- iPage — Free and paid options through Sectigo
- SiteGround — Let’s Encrypt (paid options through GlobalSign)
- HostGator — Free and paid options through Sectigo
- A2 Hosting — Sectigo (paid options through RapidSSL, GeoTrust, and DigiCert)
- InMotion Hosting — AutoSSL (paid options through Comodo)
- Liquid Web — Let’s Encrypt (paid options through Comodo)
According to TechCrunch, 90% of certificates being issued are to domains that had never had them before.
Although SSL certificates are now based on TLS standards, usage of the term persists across the hosting service industry.
HostGator, GoDaddy, GreenGeeks, A2 Hosting, InMotion Hosting, Bluehost, and SiteGround all offer free SSL certificates with their eCommerce website plans.
SSL/TLS protection has now become standard in the industry, and all the best eCommerce hosting plans should offer this to customers.
Businesses can upgrade to higher levels of SSL certificates to offer more security and identity verification to users.
11. How Should I Get Started With eCommerce Web Hosting?
The best way to start your eCommerce store is to sign up for a low-cost hosting plan with a free domain name, and support for unlimited bandwidth, databases, and storage to unlock the most value.
Our hosting reviews above will point you in the right direction, but don’t be afraid to check out our host-vs-host comparisons if you have trouble deciding on the best hosting platform for you.
Once you’ve purchased web space, use Softaculous to test different eCommerce script solutions like osCommerce, Zen Cart, CubeCart, PrestaShop. See how each compares with the website builder solutions for your business requirements.
Test WooCommerce with WordPress (or the relevant Drupal or Joomla alternatives) to see if that combination adds functionality that can optimize your eCommerce site.
Once you decide on the script and design theme, you’re just about ready to publish! Simply upload your product information, connect your payment gateway (many of the top eCommerce platforms have built-in modules), and start selling.