A Few Key Points on Choosing an Ecommerce Web Hosting Company
Ecommerce is a booming, billion dollar business, and growing by leaps and bounds every day. Is it any wonder you're practically salivating to hop a ride on that gravy train? But put your tongue back in your mouth for just a minute. Ecommerce is, like any other business, a business and it must be entered into seriously and deliberately, with foresight, careful planning, and commitment. Otherwise you're just throwing your money away, right?
First thing you'll need, of course, is a product. Then you'll need to choose and register a domain name suitable for the brand you're trying to create. Once you've got all that figured out, you'll ready to find a host - an ecommerce hosting company. How you go about finding one is the subject of the rest of this article.
You'll want to begin by deciding whether to go with a "store-in-a-box" style service or design a custom site all your own. The prefab cyber-storefronts and online malls are excellent, inexpensive, and convenient ways to go if you're just starting out or if you serve a niche market. While your client base is small, you can save a lot on unnecessary bandwidth, storage space, and features you're not quite ready to use.
Storefronts and online malls usually come with a selection of features such as credit card processing, a "shopping cart", and search engine placement tools. Unless you already have third-party software to perform these operations (or a master programmer on staff who can create one from scratch) you're going to need at least some of these features.
To be a successful online business, you will need to accept credit cards - period. If you are selling more than one or two products - you will want a shopping cart of some sort. Search engine optimization tools and advertising support are great, and shouldn't be ignored, but don't let it make or break the deal for you unless all other factors are equal.
If you do go with the "store-in-a-box" option, just make sure the ecommerce hosting provider you choose offers some sort of scalability, so that when you do expand - and you do want to expand, don't you? - you will be able to evolve your ebusiness into a custom site without the hassle of having to switch ecommerce hosting providers.
But if you've already established a brand for yourself, you might find the graphical limitations of such "skins" to be constraining. You may want to design a custom site that gives your clients the true, personal flavor of your organization, especially if these are existing clients (say, from a brick-and-mortar predecessor to your new estore) who have grown accustomed to a certain level of panache and originality from your business.
Remember now that the site you choose for your ecommerce hosting does not necessarily have to be the one that designs or helps you design your site. Therefore, you should decide how important site building assistance from your ecommerce hosting provider is for you. If you can design your site yourself, or afford to hire out, then you need not consider an ecommerce hosting company's website building tools in choosing whether to go with them or not.
This frees you up to pay more attention to things like security, reliability (guaranteed uptime), speed, and support. Sometimes the ecommerce hosting companies with the best overall infrastructures may have the scantest smattering of design tools.
But whether you need the whole package from your ecommerce web hosting company or just a piece of it, there's no better way to evaluate its services than by speaking with its existing clients. Find out what estores are already up and running on the ecommerce hosting servers you're considering. Contact the webmasters via the inevitable "Contact Us" page and ask if they're happy with their current ecommerce hosting provider.
Then, whatever their answer, find out why. Ask how often if ever the server is down. Ask about help desk support. Most webmasters will be more than happy to proffer rave (or reprehensible, when appropriate) reviews of their ecommerce hosting provider.
More than any other research method, this will help you choose what ecommerce hosting company may be right for you.