Every ecommerce enterprise is different. E-enterprises vary in their size, their budgets, their earning models and their cultures. So they all have different hosting needs. And the right hosting service provider for one business isn't right for the next.
As an entrepreneur, you are likely to want a commercial service provider. In other words, a firm that charges for its services. There are 'free' providers, but in reality the service usually comes at a price. You may need to accept the provider's advertising, for example, or share data about yourself or your customers. Some 'free' or 'budget' providers also impose restrictions on file types or apply traffic limits.
Another useful tip for all ecommerce enterprises is to take a look at the website of your country's national web hosting association. That's a professional society, rather like the guilds of builders or gas fitters whose logos you probably look out for when hiring someone to do work on your home. Members of the national web hosting association will have signed up to a code of conduct and committed themselves to providing good quality services.
Hosting providers range from huge multinationals, such as Google and Amazon, to small businesses offering niche services. Your choice will come down partly to personal preference: you may find working with a household name reassuring, or you may be more comfortable with a company in your own city, whose support staff you interact with well.
Ultimately, however, what matters most is the fit between the provider's services and your hosting needs. There are several distinct types of webshop hosting, described in topic 3. Each type of hosting suits certain ecommerce business models. A construction company may use the internet to raise its profile, advertise its services and generate leads. For a firm selling hair accessories on line, the internet is a shopping mall where the firm has a shopfront and a point of sale.
When looking for the provider that's right for you, there are a number of questions to consider:
- How important is reliability to you, and how reliable is the provider? A good provider will guarantee availability of at least 99.5% or will reimburse you for downtime.
- How much bandwidth and disk space do you need, and how much is the provider offering? The amount you need depends on how many visitors you'll get and how much data will be transferred on each visit. Video and 'glossy' pictures need more capacity than text and simple icons.
- What are your support needs likely to be and what kind of support is on offer?
- Does the provider support all the file types and access protocols relevant to your business model?
- Does the provider offer a package that's right for your business model, e.g. a package that includes webshop software or payment provider connections?
- Do you need associated services, such as e-mail and a control panel?
- What are other entrepreneurs saying about the hosting firm you're looking at? Put a provider's name into your search engine, talk to colleagues in your industry and browse online forums where webmasters and business people share experiences.