How to Choose a Web Hosting Plan for E-commerce Websites
by Natalie Aranda
The requirements for E-commerce websites are determined by the characteristics of online operations and the need for conducting transaction online. An e-commerce hosting plan you choose should have the flexibility for customization, the capacity for handling the web traffic, and the functionality of online shopping cart for online catalog and online payment processing.
Online Operation and Hosting Capacity
An e-commerce website should be running smoothly in order for customers to make purchase. There're many things to consider while investigating the hosting capacity for your site: 1) What are the preferred programming languages for your developers? Once you've picked up the programming languages for your Web development, you still have freedom to choose the operating system that hosts your Websites. 2) What is the preferred hosting platform? Is it hosted on Unix, Windows or Linux? The decision depends on whether you want to use, install or migrate certain applications. For instance, if you plan to run SendMail, an email program, you won't get this on Windows. If your custom applications are developed in ASP scripting language, you can't run them on Unix. Besides ASP which works only on Microsoft Windows, PHP, JSP and PERL work on Windows, Unix and Linux. 3) Do you need shared hosting, managed hosting, dedicated Servers, or Virtual Private Servers (VPS)? Shared hosting is the cheapest plan, and you can host as many sites as you like with a Reseller Hosting option. VPS costs around $50 a month, and Dedicated Server plan will cost from $50 - $100 or more a month dependent on storage space and bandwidth of the hosting plan. 4) How much storage space do you want and how much bandwidth do you need? If your site offers custom business cards with lot of templates online, chances are you'll need lot of hard disk space for storing those business card templates, and lot of bandwidth as well There're tens of thousands of people searching for "business cards" online. On the other hand, if your site offers manufacturing of smart cards or membership cards, you'll need lot of storage to host the graphic templates, but you won't really need a huge bandwidth since the number of people searching for "smart cards", or "membership cards" is less than 5% of that searching for "business cards".
E-commerce Hosting Features
To evaluate e-commerce web hosting plans, first of all, you'll need to find out a list of plans that meet the needs of the functionality, then do price comparison for each plan. The comparison of functionality is often straight forward, and the comparison of cost for different e-commerce hosting solutions are dependent on both the setup fees and your transaction volume. Different hosting plans may have different free structures. Online shopping carts offer users the ability to search the products by keywords, price etc., which is a huge advantage over catalogue printing on papers. For a turnkey commerce solution, EBay Stores, Yahoo! Store and Microsoft bCentral are the most popular ones for small businesses.
To compare e-commerce functionality, the questions to ask include: 1) Whether a shopping cart accepts online check or eCheck beside support on online credit card and paypal for payment options? Whether the payment processor handle transaction in a particular country? For instance, you can't accept from and or send money to Romania with paypal, but you can do that with 2checkout. 2) Whether there's a limit on the number of products and categories that you can setup? 3) Whether it automatically sends out an email notification once an order is placed successfully?
For comparing the cost of e-commerce hosting plans, the questions to investigate include: 1) What's the basic monthly subscription fee? 2) Whether there's a setup fee for a new online store? 3) Whether you have to pay for the addition of new items to the product catalog? 4) How much it charges for each transaction? High volume sites may prefer the plans that charge a higher monthly-fee but a lower fee on each transaction, while low volume sites work better with hosting plans that charge zero or low monthly fee and initial setup fees but a slightly higher fee on each transaction.
The website is the virtual storefront for your e-commerce operation. A thorough and careful evaluation of e-commerce hosting plans is a part of ingredients to your e-commerce success.