Your hosting provider is one of your most important website partners. It can make or break you, especially for large-scale stores that feature many products and do a lot of business online.
When choosing your host, it should come down to a lot more than a simple cost comparison. If your online shop is the heart of your business, you want to have the highest level of support possible.
How big is big?
Many online stores start small, with basic, limited hosting packages on shared servers. When should you start considering a move to more advanced hosting that can support a large enterprise?
Consider upgrading your hosting if you’re seeing:
- A high volume of regular traffic. A good guideline for a large-scale shop is more than 100,000 monthly visits, but lower levels of traffic can cause problems too. If you’re seeing slow-loading pages, occasional site outages, or problems with transactions timing out, then it’s time to upgrade.
- A high number of products and/or customers. Most inexpensive hosting has a storage space limit, and if you have thousands of products or variations, along with associated images, you might find yourself facing extra storage charges from your hosting company. Storing information for large volumes of customer accounts can cause similar problems.
- Site outages during spikes in traffic. Spikes in traffic are one of the biggest reasons to consider a hosting upgrade. You should feel confident that you can promote a big sale at the busiest time of the year, and have your hosting company quietly handle it with no impact to the front end of your website.
Must-have hosting features
If it’s time to look at a higher level of hosting, keep this checklist of key features handy when comparing companies. You’re looking for an eCommerce hosting expert who understands the value of each of these features and includes it in their packages.
WooCommerce and WordPress specialization
When you’re building your business around WordPress and WooCommerce, it makes sense to choose a partner who optimizes their network for that software. You’re looking for a hosting company that makes it clear that they know the ins-and-outs of WordPress and can tweak their network as required to maximize performance and loading speed. Choose a host that is endorsed by WooCommerce for maximum confidence in their system.
As a bonus, look for hosts that actively take part in and support the WordPress open source environment. Companies that devote staff time and resources to the development of WordPress core and testing of its features are both more likely to be experts in the field and to be aware of any potential issues when they arise.
When it comes to online stores, data is king. Your orders, inventory numbers, customer accounts, and total sales numbers are of critical importance. No matter how reliable your hosting is, outages do happen, and you’ll rest easier knowing that your site is receiving automatic, regular backups.
Unlimited bandwidth and storage space
The last thing you want your customers to see is a bad gateway error when they attempt to load your site. These “white screens of death” are often caused by overwhelmed servers that cannot handle the traffic on your site, causing requests to time out.
At the same time, you need to know you have all the space required to store your product information, order information, and customer profiles.
Look for a hosting package with unlimited bandwidth and storage space. Consider dedicated or cloud hosting, which means that you won’t compete for resources with other sites on the same server and can scale effortlessly as needed.
Expert security configuration
A good hosting company will be open about their security protections for your website, and will make sure their servers are properly configured with up-to-date software for maximum safety. They should be able to answer any questions you have about security and have a good reputation for maintaining up-time and discouraging hackers.
At a minimum, your hosting company should use PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliant servers that keep your customer data absolutely secure, and include an SSL certificate, which ensures all web-related communications are encrypted and locked down.
Traffic spike protection
Imagine you’ve worked hard to build buzz around a new product launch, or a sales event like Black Friday. Then, right when it comes time for the big moment, your site crashes due to the flood of incoming traffic — creating an unhappy customer base and a significant loss of sales and income.
If you need to support this kind of spike in sales, it’s essential to have a host with a scalable system that can rise to the challenge. Consider cloud hosting as your solution; it seamlessly expands to handle the load on your shop.
A global viewpoint for international shops
If your store does business worldwide, then you’ll want a host that offers a Content Delivery Network (CDN). More advanced hosting packages will include a CDN, which copies your website to servers around the world and serves a cached version of pages to international customers. The result is faster service around the globe and better performance and support for your customers.
Free premium plugins
As a bonus, some high-level hosting packages will include premium plugins like Jetpack Complete, which provides additional security, one-click backup protection, and advanced speed features. If you’re comparing different hosting plans for your large scale shop, then access to premium plugins can be the factor that tips the scales.
A built-in staging environment
When you have a busy shop that’s active around the clock, you can’t always take it offline for software updates, let alone full redesigns. You don’t want to put your income at risk by running updates in a live environment.
A quality host will include access to staging environments. Create a duplicate site with one click, then run your updates or make your required design changes and test, test, test. When you’re ready, pushing your changes back to your live site should be a simple process.
Professional, 24/7 support
Look for a company with great customer reviews and easy access to a real person, either by phone, email, or chat, 24/7. You want assurance that your host has your back any time your online store is open. And when you’re talking eCommerce, that’s all the time, every day.
There’s no question that quality hosting costs more. But the price of discount hosting can be lost sales, stressful website outages, and security issues, all of which a store simply cannot afford. Having hosting experts on your team that can support lots of products, sales, and traffic spikes with ease is well worth the cost to protect your most valuable business asset and your online reputation.
Looking for a good starting point? Check out our list of recommended hosts.