Picking the ‘right’ host is tough enough for any website. Let alone if it’s for an e-commerce site!
Why? Because having an online store that’s reliable, credible and loads quickly for customers has everything to do with your host.
Many site owners jump straight into the first cheap host they find. By the time they realise it may be a bad decision, they face the headache of a full site migration.
So, today, we’re talking about why finding the RIGHT host matters, WHAT matters, and our top picks for the best ecommerce hosts. Ready? Let’s go.
An e-commerce site needs to load fast
We at Bitcatcha are always stressing the importance of website speed. But for e-commerce sites, this is ultra important!
Good speed translates to a better user experience for your customers. Better UX, happier customers.
Better UX also helps to build brand credibility. Customers who have a good time on your site are much more likely to return in the future, or recommend your business to others.
Not many visitors will tolerate a slow-loading site, let alone browse through product pages until they find something they want to buy. With today’s standards, every millisecond counts.
And another important thing – speed also affects your site’s SEO.
And, in the e-commerce realm, ranking higher than your competitors on Google makes all the difference.
Last July, Google added a ‘Speed Update’ which now factors mobile speed into its ranking algorithm. The faster your mobile website speed, the better your SEO rankings.
So just to summarise, a slow website means poorer retention, greater page abandonment and lower SEO rankings.
A fast website means better visibility, lightning-quick transactions and higher conversions. All great news for you!
A Technology partner, not just a host provider
Every e-commerce site deserves a provider that’s more than a barebones hosting service.
It’s not just about finding a physical server for your site. What you should be looking for is a partner in technology.
Like any good partner, you want someone dependable through the highs and lows. Someone…
- Always there for you
At times of crisis, you’ll often be turning to third-party support. You need to know your host support team is dependable 24/7.
Even the biggest online stores can be overwhelmed by an unexpected surge of traffic. You need to ensure you have the resources to survive your busiest days.
- Who lends a sense of security
E-commerce sites are the #1 targets for malicious attacks. Just as you have a responsibility to protect your customers, so your host should be looking out for you by providing a solid line of defence and helping you protect yourself.
Freedom & room to grow
Whether or not you understand the nitty gritty of server technology (which yes, can get very technical), you should still always feel that you as the owner have total control over your e-commerce site.
That means being able to manage it in a way that suits your business and your level of expertise.
You should feel a sense of freedom and possibility; of having room to grow, and with the option to switch plans or providers at anytime.
In other words, a true technology partner should enable you to do things your way.
Not every entrepreneur comes from an tech background, and a good host understands this – for example, by providing an intuitive control panel, or by giving you the flexibility to use whatever your favourite ecommerce software is.
How we choose a Good ecommerce hosting
Today, we’re using 6 pillars to choose our favourite 5 ecommerce hosts:
Pillar #1: Host speed
Of course, a good host needs to deliver excellent speed. This is non-negotiable!
A good host will be geared for speed in both its hardware build and software add-ons. Some things to look out for include:
- Does the host have data centres that are well distributed across continents?
- Does the host offer CDN services?
- Does the host offer proprietary caching technology?
We’ll also be running hosts through our trusty Bitcatcha server speed test tool.
This speed test tool basically helps us measures how quickly a server responds to a request from anywhere in the world.
We have 10x testing nodes installed in different locations to help simulate people around the globe visiting the site you are testing.
Pillar #2: Reliability
Live chat, phone, a ticketing system … often, the ‘best’ method to offer customer support is a matter of preference.
However, we feel a good host should not only offer you 24/7 support, but have a team that is highly qualified to solve issues quickly. That way, your queries won’t have to go through multiple escalations.
We’re also squeezing uptime into this pillar. A good host will take all measures possible to minimise downtime. Look out for hosts with a uptime guarantee of at least 99%, and who can validate their claims with third-party reviews.
Pillar #3: Security
A good host offers strong security features, not limited to the following:
- SSL certificates & integration
SSL helps ensure that sensitive data is transferred over a secure network. Look out for hosts that offer it automatically (or affordably) and enable easy SSL integration.
- Proactive monitoring
Some hosts offer an automatic monitoring system to catch and resolve issues.
Many hosts offer automatic daily backups.
Pillar #4: Software compatibility
As we’ve mentioned, most hosts offer different bundled software and integrations.
Some hosts include e-commerce features, but if you already have preferred 3rd-party tools like Magento, Prestashop or WooCommerce, you’ll need to check that your host supports them.
Whilst the “best host” is the one who covers ALL e-commerce software, this isn’t realistically possible.
However, be on the look-out for hosts that offer the cPanel interface. It comes with the Softaculous installer that covers 400+ software, which means you’d be quite well covered. If it doesn’t have cPanel, check if they have some sort of alternative installer, and that they offer good app support.
Pillar #5: Scalability
Every business wants to grow. Your host should certainly not hold you back!
The general rule of thumb is to start with an average host plan and upgrade along the way.
For small/medium or new e-commerce sites, shared hosting is often the way to go. It’s great for keeping costs low when you’re just starting out, as resources are shared with other sites on a server.
However, once your traffic starts to grow, you’re likely to want to look into VPS dedicated server, or cloud solutions.
A great host can accommodate this sort of future growth.
Ask yourself, can this host easily upgrade my plan to allow for more storage and bandwidth? If the answer is no, you might end up having to switch host later in the future. Much better if your host can simply scale their solutions as you grow.
Pillar #6: Value for money
A good host will get you your money’s worth.
Prices vary a lot between different hosts and plans. Whichever you choose, you definitely want to be getting bang for your buck.
Some hosts offer a slew of value-add services. Some questions to ask include:
- Is email hosting included in the plan?
Email addresses that match a domain generally look more legitimate to customers.
- What features am I getting?
Will I get any free domain registrations? Do I get additional storage or bandwidth?
- Is there a trial period?
Most hosts offer a money-back trial so you can test if they’re a good fit, risk-free.
Ranked: The Best eCommerce Hosting 2020 (Server Speed Tested)
With all of that in mind, we selected 5 hosts that we feel do these 6 pillars proud.
Yet each of them have their own areas of strength and unique selling points. Let’s take a closer look at what these hosts excel in.
- cPanel & SSH access
- Free daily backup
- GIT Integrated
- Servers in 3 continents
- Nginx & CentOS
"Excellent speed, support & compatibility at great prices; a true value buy for small, medium and new e-commerce sites"
SiteGround is one of our absolute favourite hosts, hands-down.
Founded in 2004, they’ve won plenty of accolades since. Most notedly, an endorsement by WordPress themselves!
In fact, Bitcatcha.com is one of the 1,900,000 domains worldwide they’ve serviced to date. We’ve been happy customers of theirs since 2015.
Though it’s tricky to decide which standout USP to shout about, we feel SiteGround’s biggest strength is that it offers the whole hosting package.
Truly, SiteGround is the technology partner every e-commerce site wants and deserves. It offers seriously good speed features and reliable support.
To test the speed of SiteGround’s servers (which run on speed-enhancing SSD disks), we set up a separate test site hosted on their GrowBig plan and put it through our trusty Bitcatcha speed tool.
The result: an A+ rating with an amazing average response time of 138.1 ms!
In practice, loading times would be sped up even more by activating their Cloudflare CDN and premium SuperCacher (built by their own engineers and said to boost load times up to 4x).
Fellow users on the GrowBig plan also enjoy premium priority support by chat or ticket. We’ve always been very impressed by the promptness of their support team, who can be contacted 24/7 by phone, chat and ticket.
On top of that, we’ve personally registered a 100% uptime on our own site since October 2017, as per their 99.9% uptime guarantee.
So yes, with Siteground, your e-commerce site is guaranteed to be speedy. And you’re certainly in very good hands.
For a fair price, users get a solid and holistic solution that delivers everything a small to medium company should need.
What we didn’t like about SiteGround
- Expect to fork out a little more cash for domain registration.
- SiteGround’s renewal prices can easily catch people by surprise!
We’d recommend their GrowBig shared hosting plan, and then later scaling up when necessary.
- 20GB SSD
- 1TB bandwidth
- 1GB RAM & 2GB Burst RAM
- 100 MB/S Network
- IPv6 Support
"A no-frills, cheap hosting solution that’s great for ecommerce owners just starting out and needing localized, full support."
Lithuanian-sprung host Hostinger claims to serve over 29,000,000 happy clients to date.
With a cheap (ok, kind of insanely cheap) introductory price, we wondered if Hostinger was some sort of dud. It’s one of the cheapest hosts on the market after all.
Did such low prices mean its offerings would be hit-and-miss?
But, after playing around with 3 premium accounts on Hostinger (we have test sites on their Singapore, Amsterdam and US datacenter, read our in-depth review here), we’re convinced that they too deserve a spot on this list.
Their caching technology, Bitninja (an all-in-one real-time protection suite), a drag-and-drop website builder, free domain registration and a 99.9% uptime guarantee are just the tip of the iceberg.
What impressed us most was they run a total of 4 customer support centres worldwide (or ‘Customer Success’ centers, as they call them) in Lithuania, Jogja, Brazil and Ukraine.
When we asked a Hostinger rep about it, he told us they’re determined to serve clients in their mother tongue.
In fact, they currently serve their customers in a whopping 20 languages! Vietnamese, Danish and Arabic, to name a few.
Talk about dedication to support!
That also explains why they have data centers in 6 different regions (UK, US, Brazil, Netherlands, Singapore, Indonesia and soon Lithuania). They clearly have the spread and the depth to provide very localized customer service.
Offering support that speaks your mother tongue, Hostinger is perfect for those of you who need hand-held help.
And what better incentive to start your e-commerce site, than a super low introductory price?
What we didn’t like about Hostinger
- The lowest introductory price requires a commitment of 48 months. But their 12-month price is also very reasonable, starting at $1.95.
- No phone support, they only offer a ticket system.
- SSL, CDN and daily backups doesn’t come free with the plans.
Their Shared Hosting plans start from $0.80/mo. We’d recommend their Premium Shared Hosting, which starts at $2.15/mo.
- Powered by Google Cloud
- 20,000 visits /mo
- Daily backups
- WP expert as support
- Hack fix guarantee
"A fully-managed Google Cloud-based host that’s great for owners serious about growing traffic and willing to pay a premium price"
Next, meet Kinsta – a managed WordPress host that’s been around since 2013.
The first thing you need to know about it is that it’s powered by Google Cloud.
This gives it an interesting edge over most of the competition, and helps put Kinsta near the top of our list of favourite ecommerce hosting.
Even better, Kinsta runs off Google Cloud’s Premium Tier. This lets users tap into the highest levels of performance, speed and security of what’s already a leading brand in cloud hosting. It also gives them 20 data centre locations to pick from!
So, it came as no surprise to us that’s it’s extremely FAST.
We played around with a test site and put it through our speed checker. It scored an A rating, with an average response time of 196ms (you can read our full Kinsta review here). Very respectable!
And that’s before implementing their very impressive, premium KinstaCDN (a partnership with KeyCDN, another leading brand in their field).
It’s this same cloud architecture that puts Kinsta’s no-downtime technology in a league of its own.
Big traffic surge? No problem. With Kinsta, your website’s container simply scales dramatically to as many CPUs as needed. Your site should stay up and running and you just need to pay the overage fee.
Compare this to shared or VPS hosting, where a sudden traffic spike can bring down your site. No wonder Kinsta also has a SLA-backed 99.9% uptime guarantee.
Their Google Cloud infrastructure also makes Kinsta super scalable. If you need more bandwidth, you can seamlessly upgrade your plan. No complicated migrations to another server or host. Simply pay the next tier up.
With such speed and scaling advantages, we think Kinsta is a great option for large or fast-growing enterprises who want to make sure they’re always open for business.
What we didn’t like about Kinsta
- It’s quite a lot more expensive than many competitors.
- No email registration or domain registration included.
- No phone support.
- As Kinsta is a managed WordPress host, you’ll only be able to use WordPress e-commerce plug-ins such as WooCommerce
Kinsta’s plans start from $30 a month for their Starter plan, and go up considerably by tier.
- 75GB SSD storage
- 2TB transfer
- 4GB RAM & 4 vCPUs
- Node.js & TLS 1.2
- cPanel or Plesk
"Good performance, security and a TON of unlimited features at fair prices, but potentially slower support."
For a relatively unknown web host, A2 offers a striking value proposition.
The more we read into the long lists of features it offers, the more we became sure it deserves a place on this list.
Out of all their plans, their Turbo plan was the one that caught our eye. It’s supercharged for speed in every way.
This plan proudly utilises Turbo web hosting servers, said to load sites up to 20x quicker than standard servers. When we put this to the test, our test site on their Turbo plan also scored an A+ on our speed test, with an average response time of 169.5ms.
Fast – but admittedly not the fastest out of the hosts we tested (read up on all the juicy details in our full review here)
Still, A2 certainly seems to offer a LOT of things under the Turbo plan.
The 3 different options of caching are just the beginning. Not to mention you’ll get Hackscan (a very decent all-inclusive security protection), or the fact their e-commerce apps come A2 Optimized, meaning they’re configured to load pages faster and more securely.
Now, what we loved most about A2 was its very impressive list of ‘unlimited’ offerings under a low price tag.
We’re talking unlimited email addresses, websites, total databases, storage and transfers – as well as unlimited subdomains, parked domains and addon domains. You won’t even need to pay for SSL as they include a free Let’s Encrypt SSL option.
That’s a ton of unlimited value and a decent amount of room for you to grow.
All this, at a reasonable price, makes A2 a feature-rich solution for owners of small to medium e-commerce sites.
What we didn’t like about A2 Hosting
- ‘Unlimited’ resources do have a caveat – they’re not necessarily consistently ‘unlimited’. In reality, the shared host environment is divided virtually to make sure that sites don’t use more than their fair share of resources and affect the performance of other sites. If your site starts drawing more resources than it should, the host may impose some restrictions which can affect your site performance.
- Support can be slow. In the past, we’ve waited between 5 – 40 minutes to connect to their live chat. We read other reviews reporting similar slowness, or that it took multiple attempts to connect to live chat.
A2 Hosting plans
Introductory prices for their shared hosting options start at $7.99/mo for their Lite plan.
They also offer VPS hosting (managed and unmanaged), dedicated hosting and reseller hosting.
- Cloud hosting
- Responsive support
- No contracts
"Highly scalable, managed cloud-hosting that is performance-focused, but not the most user-friendly for novices."
Cloudways is a bit of an unusual one.
Versus your standard host, Cloudways is more an integration point for multiple cloud services, managed from a single console. They help you set up a cloud-based virtual server that suits your specific hosting needs and style.
Their tagline immediately caught our attention: ‘limitless growth without any restrictions’. The more we investigated, the more we realised they aren’t kidding around!
See, the thing we love about Cloudways is the degree it lets you do things YOUR way. Not only is it a powerful hosting solution – it guarantees you both flexibility and control. We’re talking about next-level customisation.
To get started, you’ll need to pick from world-class cloud providers like AWS and Google Cloud. That already gives you a whopping 60+ data centers to choose from.
After selecting a provider, you’ll be able to customise a number of server parameters, as well as deploy applications and upgrade packages as you see fit.
If you decide you need more resources, CloudWays lets you scale your server storage space in just a few clicks without affecting your store performance or your prior customisations. In one click, you can also vertically scale your RAM, processor and bandwidth. It doesn’t really get more seamless than that!
All of this on a convenient pay-as-you-go model – a great flexible alternative to the usual host contracts that lock you down.
We definitely recommend Cloudways to tech-savvy owners who know what they’re doing, and crave the advanced flexibility and control.
However, for e-commerce site owners who are just starting out, the huge number of customisation options may be overkill.
What we didn’t like about Cloudways
- Uptime – We couldn’t find an uptime guarantee on their site, and our own uptime tracker reported a lower 99.54%. Cloudways is built on top of other cloud hosting facilities, so they do have limited control over the hardware.
- Fairly technical. As it’s up to each client to build their server from scratch and manage it themselves, Cloudways may be better suited to developers and experts.
- No phone support.
- Email hosting, domain registration & CDN allowance not included.
- Their 3-day trial is perhaps a bit short.
Cloudway’s plans vary a great deal in price and capacity, given you’re picking from 5 different providers.
Their most popular tiers range from $33.30/mo (Google Cloud) to $50/mo (Linode) – each offering different storage and bandwidth levels, with a pay-as-you-go pricing plan layered on top.
Verdict: Picking the right ecommerce hosting
Sure, your hosting provider isn’t something your customers see.
However, it has everything to do with how they experience your business, and how they come away feeling.
Which is the very best ecommerce host? There’s no absolute right answer, but you’ll want to be sure the host you choose ticks the following boxes:
- Excellent speed
Earns at least an A+ or A rating on our Bitcatcha speed test.
Provides a dependable and skilled support team to keep you running smoothly.
Provides a solid line of defense from hackers and malware.
- Widespread compatibility
Is compatible with your choice of e-commerce software.
Accommodates your site growth.
- Value for money
Balances the features you need with a fair price.
From here, you’ll make your decision based on their strengths. To recap, here are the top 5 host: