Hosting Plan Primer

More hosting companies are catering specifically to Web shop owners, so take advantage of plans that deliver the services you need. We highlight three options to get you started.
All Web sites require hosting, and if you own a Web shop, it is especially important to find a company that offers plans for e-commerce. These days, more companies cater to e-tailers, providing packages that serve their specific needs, so it's wise to capitalize on the trend. The basic needs of any online store include back-end functionality that lets you manage a product catalog, exceptional site security, secure certificates and the integration of a payment gateway. We explain these functions and offer some tips on what to consider when shopping for a host.

Product Catalog And Shopping Cart Software
The product catalog is arguably the most important part of any e-commerce venture. Not only will site visitors need to intuitively access and navigate the catalog, but the site administrator also needs to quickly and efficiently maintain product listings, prices, promotions, shipping costs and much more. For a small e-commerce site with only a few items, this isn't as big a consideration as it is for a store offering hundreds or even thousands of products. Still, care should always be taken when looking for hosts, to ensure that they offer appropriate applications.

Site Security
Site security is also paramount. Many customers will be unwilling to make any purchase from a site that does not offer the appropriate level of security. SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificates can be purchased from certificate registrars, but some hosting plans, albeit a relatively select number, offer them as part of the package.

The use of a secure server means exceptional security and is depicted in users' browsers by a padlock symbol and through the addition of an s in the URL (https instead of http). This promotes a sense of trust and reliability that will offer shoppers peace of mind, which in turn, will boost the bottom line.

Payment Gateway Software And Merchant Accounts
In order to sell products online and accept credit card and debit card payments it is necessary to use a payment gateway and merchant account. Although some services effectively combine the two, the most popular service being PayPal, these can prove more costly in the long run. It is prudent to offer customers flexibility when it comes to payment options to maximize your sales.

Disk Space And Bandwidth
In addition to these features, you should also consider the amount of disk space and bandwidth that your online store requires. Hosting accounts vary wildly in terms of the limits they set for both of these.

  • Disk space is the amount of space that a Web site is allowed on a server. Typically, e-commerce sites contain a large number of pages and generally also include images and occasionally videos. All of this adds up to a high disk space demand.
  • Literally speaking bandwidth is the capacity that a network connection can carry at any time. In the case of hosting accounts, bandwidth is determined by the amount of data served to all visitors in the space of a month, and again, varies greatly from one hosting plan to the next.

Hosting And Your Budget
Finally, cost implications will obviously play a factor. No business, including an online store, can survive without maintaining a realistic budget. Budget e-commerce hosting accounts are out there if you know where to look. Just remember to consider all the features you need and to budget for the addition of these extra options. If you're looking for a hosting provider, or thinking of switching, we'll help you get started by outlining three that offer excellent e-commerce plans.

Website SourceAll Round Performer
Website Source offers a range of e-commerce plans that are arguably the best available for the money. They are feature rich and should fit within any Webmaster's or business budget. The least expensive package is $6.85 per month and offers 50GB of bandwidth and 5,000MB of storage, which should be ample for even medium-sized online stores. This package also lets you host an unlimited number of Web sites, too, making it perfect for the small network owner. Also included is an OsCommerce shopping cart that provides the intuitive product catalog we discussed earlier.

More advanced packages range in price from $14.55 per month for 90GB bandwidth and 7,000MB of disk space to $129 per month for dedicated server plans that provide use of an entire server. All of these advanced packages provide Miva Merchant 5 shopping cart software, which is more advanced than OsCommerce software, and designed for larger e commerce stores.

All Website Source plans also include a free setup of the payment gateway software and the use of shared SSL certificates. Dedicated server customers also receive impressive discounts for Web site specific SSL certificates.

LunarPagesMost Powerful
The LunarPages e-commerce hosting plan is more expensive than the Website Source plan, however, it offers a lot more for the money and is more closely suited to the needs of larger online stores. All LunarPages plans offer the software you need to get your store up and running. They also provide a shared SSL certificate making them a good value.

The basic plan costs $6.95 per month and provides an impressive 800GB per month of bandwidth and 35,000MB of storage. It also includes use of the shared SSL certificate, directory encryption and a choice of OsCommerce, Zen or Cube shopping cart software.

In contrast, the e-commerce specific package costs $21.95 per month, meaning it isn't for the faint hearted. However, in exchange, customers receive 1,000GB per month of bandwidth and a staggering 50GB of storage. The same e-commerce software and features are also included. The stand out feature of this account is the sheer amount of disk space you receive, making it perfect for larger stores with many products.

SiteGroundThe Best Budget Plan
SiteGround is virtually unbeatable when it comes to price for an e-commerce plan. For $5.95 per month, you get 40,000MB of Web space and 900GB of monthly bandwidth. They will also install (free of charge) OsCommerce, Cube or Zen shopping cart software for you, making it very easy to get up and running. A free, shared SSL certificate is included along with a huge range of other features.

If budget plays a big part in the final decision, then SiteGround is probably the best choice for you. It is also a good choice if you have little or no knowledge of how to install shopping cart software or how to integrate payment systems into your site.

The Bottom Line: E-commerce Hosting
E-commerce hosting does not need to be expensive but it does need to offer the appropriate features. OsCommerce is an open source shopping cart so can be installed on any compatible server, however, using an e-commerce hosting plan can mean that the software is installed for you at no extra cost. Some hosts even provide payment gateway software for no extra fee. Your exact requirements as well as those of your online store will determine the best choice for you.

Matt Jackson, making his debut on, is a new media copywriter specializing in crafting Web site content.

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