In the early days of eCommerce you either had to be a programmer and build your site organically from the ground up or become a ‘business partner’ in an online mall, where rental could cost thousands of dollars and business failures were frequent. Now it’s easy to build your own website using open source modules, and no tech knowledge is necessary. Finding someone who host your site is much easier and cheaper, and you get tech support and other perks as part of the package.
However, cheaper doesn’t necessarily mean better, so you still have to do some homework before you sign on with a service provider. A quick web search will turn up literally hundreds of eCommerce web hosting services, and on the surface, they all appear the same. Here’s a quick rundown how you can choose a plan that meets your needs, but still has the flexibility to grow along with your business.
As with any decision about your business, you have to know what you need before you can make a decision. The difference with anything tech-related is you shouldn’t plan more than six months to one year in advance. Some hosting sites will be better for the small business owners, others are geared more toward International brands. Ask yourself:
- What is the purpose of my website?
- Is my software compatible with the server, or will there be conflicts?
- What traffic volume do I anticipate?
- Will I need apps for different platforms and operating systems?
Another little-known fact is that a smaller hosting service may disconnect you for using too many resources, so it’s doubly important to choose a host that can accommodate your usage. It should go without saying, but it’s necessary: read the TOS completely before you sign with any service.
Space is not so much of an issue as it was in the days when we were dealing in megabytes, but it still makes a difference in your usability and the price of your plan. If you have a small business that sells one or two physical products, do you really need a gazillion terabytes of storage? If you’re a new or smaller business, shared hosting is an affordable option, and today’s servers have adequate space to comfortably host several businesses.
You should also find out if extra hosting space is available for more than one registered domain, especially if you run multiple businesses.
Speed and Downtime
Slow load times are frustrating for customers, and they will cause you to lose business fast. Ditto if your website is frequently offline due to a poor hosting service. As reliable as technology is nowadays, any up time below 99% just isn’t acceptable.
Other important considerations include:
Renewal terms and pricing
Features and add-ons
Even after you’ve investigated different providers, look online for independent customer reviews to find out how the business treats its clients, and how diligent they are about handling complaints and complaint resolution times. It should go without saying, but it’s necessary: read the TOS completely before you sign with any service.