Advice about hosting for ecommerce sites and what to look for in your hosting plan

by Don Break

If you are looking for web hosting with the intention of running an ecommerce site – in other words to sell goods or services, or make money from clicks or affiliate links – what type of hosting is best?

There are now many hosting services, which specialize in hosting for ecommerce, but do they actually offer any more than a normal host would?

As you would guess, most of the answers to these questions are related to the products or services you want to offer, or to feature on your site, and whether you need to accept credit cards.

Most web hosting companies which offer ecommerce features with their hosting packages will have a shopping cart system like osCommerce or Miva Merchant. This is essentially a database, to which you can add your own products. The customer can then browse your site, read about what you are offering, and make a purchase. Some shopping cart systems are very sophisticated and can include affiliate accounts, can generate sales and traffic reports, and can have integrated promotional and email capabilities. The best shopping cart systems make it easy for you to maintain your site and product listings, and to make sales.

This leads on to the next issue. Most customers will use a credit card to buy goods or services online. An ecommerce host will usually offer SSL, (a secure socket layer) which is a web security system designed to protect sensitive data like credit card numbers and names, while it is being transmitted across the Internet, between the customer's browser and the server. The shopping cart system will then make the payment into your merchant account. Customers now expect secure systems like this, before they make a purchase.

The web hosting and ecommerce setup you need depends on your business plans. Not all ecommerce enterprises will need full ecommerce hosting. If you plan to run only Adsense or Clickbank or affiliate links on your site, you definitely don't, and you just need a reliable shared hosting package. If you have an electronic product, consider selling it as a Clickbank merchant. On the other hand, if you have your own products, or are reselling physical goods, then you do need a dedicated web-hosting package for ecommerce.

Read more about web hosting and ecommerce at my ecommerce and web-hosting page, and check my recommendations.

Don Break writes about hosting, and how to get the best possible hosting deals.