9 Key Features to Look for in an Online Store Hosting Provider
What if we told you that about half a billion-dollar goes down the drain every year because of the slow speed of hosting servers?
Half a billion dollars! You would be able to buy about five private jets with this amount!
Apart from speed, several other factors can make online store hosting a nightmare for you. The type of nightmares that burn your precious money.
Thus, we are going to discuss nine features that your ecommerce store hosting provider must have so that you can sell hassle-free.
Stay with us and find out what those are. It is for your own good.
Feature 1: SSL certificate
SSL certificate is an encryption method for the data packets that a server sends to a browser. It keeps sensitive information such as credit card information secure. As a result, no one would be able to steal or have unauthorised access to these data.
As of August 2014, Google has decided to rank sites with SSL certificates higher. A higher ranking on SERPs would direct a greater volume of organic traffic to your online store.
According to the data above, the ones at the top of Google SERP have a higher percentage of HTTPS domains i.e. domains with SSL certificates.
Other than ranking, SSL certificates make your business name and location visible on the browser (on the address bar). It increases trust and makes people feel safe and relaxed when shopping at your online store.
Feature 2: Reliable and swift customer support
Your online store is not a perfect machine. Meaning it would face issues. These include but are not limited to slow load speed, bandwidth and space running out, not displaying changes that you made and many more.
When faced with such situations, you would most likely call the customer/tech support of your ecommerce hosting provider. A good ecommerce hosting provider would not keep you on hold or keep your urgent email answered for days. They would try to address your situation immediately.
So how can you find out if your online store hosting provider has reliable customer support?
Well, when your store is running smoothly, or you haven’t yet signed up for their service, call them at odd hours. It could be late at night or in the evening. The issues your online store may face would not care about time or day. So place several calls or emails on multiple days with specific problems. If they answer timely and effectively, then that hosting company is suitable for your online store. If not, look for another ecommerce hosting provider.
Feature 3: High page load speed
The loading speed of your online store directly impacts your page views (number of people who visit your site) and revenue. Here is a comparison chart that would help put things in perspective.
As you can see, the higher the load time, the greater the number of people leaving your site.
In fact, a two-second rise in load time from 3 to 5 s pushes the percentage of people leaving your site from 32 to 90% (as per the data above).
Consequence? Well, your online store revenue would plummet!
One of the many markers of how fast your online store hosting provider handles HTTP packet requests is the “Time to First Byte”. In short, TTFB.
The higher this TTFB is for your ecommerce hosting provider, the longer your site would take to load on a user’s browser.
There is something you must remember about TTFB. It is usually higher for mobile devices.
According to a study (based on an analysis of 5.2 million sites) conducted by Brian Dean, founder CEO of Backlinko, TTFB for the mobile version of websites take twice the time it takes for the desktop version.
Thus, when inquiring about the TTFB of your online store hosting provider, do check it for both mobile and desktop. If either of them goes above 4s, your store would be losing money.
You can check your store hosting provider’s TTFB from home. There are many tools available for this purpose.
We have listed the top 3 below:
Feature 4: Super-high uptime
Your online store server is not a divine creation. It’s a machine. That means it would not be online all the time.
Some of the prominent reasons for server downtime are:
- Network outages
- Human error
- Storage failure
- Power outages
- Traffic spik
Whatever the reason is, server downtime means your online store is not accessible by people. As a result, your revenue would be off the cliffs.
Thus, your server must remain up always!
On average, servers have an uptime of 98.8%. Some servers boast an outstanding 100.0% for some months. However, that is not a regular incident.
So, we strongly recommend that you verify the uptime claim of the server you have chosen for your online store.
You can perform this test using the following tools:
Feature 5: Manageable renewal price
The server renewal fee of all hosting providers rises every year. This rise is because the server has to handle a greater volume of traffic to your online store and provide higher storage.
However, not all stores monetise at the same rate. Thus, the hiked server renewal fee in the next year may drain your bank account.
Go for 24 or 36-month packages.
It means for the first 2 (3 years), you would pay a flat fee provided your store traffic or storage space does not exceed the limit.
Feature 6: Security
About 7 out of every 10 business leaders are concerned about the security of their websites. And this is not because of plain paranoia.
On average, there are over two thousand attacks from hackers according to a report from the University of Maryland.
So it goes without saying that your sever need to have an iron-clad firewall system. But how can you know if the firewall of your online store hosting provider is airtight?
Here are some features of a firewall that you need to be aware of:
- Malware and virus filtering.
- DDoS attack prevention.
- 256-bit SSL certificate.
- Intrusion prevention system.
- Protection from cross-site scripting (XSS).
- Protection from SQL injection.
We strongly suggest you talk to your choice of hosting provider for ecommerce and inquire specifically about each of the above issues and more.
Feature 7: Adequate SSD space and bandwidth
Over the years, your online store would receive an increasing volume of traffic. Furthermore, it would require greater storage space as you would add more products and content (blog posts, infographics, podcasts, etc.).
Most hosting providers offer a bandwidth and SSD storage limit with their pricing plans. In case your online store is approaching the limit, your hosting provider should be capable of allocating additional storage and bandwidth to avoid crashes.
Before you rush into buying hosting services, do have a long conversation with their customer support. We recommend you talk to other customers of that ecommerce hosting provider and verify their claims.
It’s better to be careful than to be sorry. Always.
Feature 8: CDN
A CDN (Content Delivery Network) is a geographically spaced out group of servers. It helps load your online store site faster on the devices of people from all over the world.
As you can see in the diagram above, a CDN comprises a bunch of connected servers all around the globe.
Thus, your store’s website would load faster on the device of people residing in South America or Australia (or anywhere far away from the central server).
How does that happen?
Well, it is because there are servers in those regions that would deliver your site to nearby people.
CDN is thus a crucial feature of your online store hosting provider. Before you decide on a hosting provider, make sure to check its CDN performance.
You can perform this test using the UpTrends CDN performance tool.
Feature 9: A well-rounded knowledge-base
A knowledge base such as a blog is extremely useful in keeping customers informed of current issues and various aspects of service/products offered by a company.
Your online store host should maintain a blog that serves the same purpose. Business owners like you would not have time or patience to analyse every feature of each pricing plan of your ecommerce host.
A blog, on the other hand, not only spares you the time to understand the features of hosting services but it also saves you the time to contact customer support.
Not to mention the frustration when you have to wait for the support manager to respond to you.
That is the reason, over 7 out of every 10 businesses are using a blog not just for informing people but for marketing as well. Before you finalise your ecommerce hosting service provider, check if it has a blog.
If yes, then go through and try to figure if the content is relevant, informative and helpful to you. If all those are checked, then it is highly likely that your host cares about its customers.
A quick recap of the must-have features of your online store hosting provider
Let’s do a quick recap of the features we have discussed so far.
- SSL certificate.
- Reliable and swift customer support.
- High page speed.
- Super-high uptime.
- Manageable renewal price.
- Adequate SSD space and bandwidth.
- Content Delivery Network.
- A robust knowledge base.
Your online store host is as crucial as sales revenue
We didn’t know how else to put it.
The more effective support your online store hosting provider offers, the easier it would be to scale your business. A reliable hosting provider is a rock every online business needs for uninterrupted service delivery.
Thus, take your time choosing your store host. Or if you prefer to talk to us about it, feel free to contact us.
Helen Golubeva, a storyteller at X-Cart eCommerce shopping cart. Addicted to yoga, interested in philosophy, and totally mad about copywriting. I love to use the power of words to inspire people and help them grow their eCommerce businesses.