10 Questions to ask your Ecommerce Hosting Provider (Before Signing Up)

by Saad Durrani  September 24, 2015

Has the online retail industry (aka “ecommerce”) touched a peak?

It does not seem so. Here are the numbers (Source: Centre for Retail Research):

  • By the end of this year (2015), the online commerce US market will be worth around $349.20 billion. It is an almost 14% increase from the last year’s market of $306 billion. As expected, the market will be worth $398 billion in 2016.
  • The comparatively smaller market of Canada is showing similar trends. In 2015, the market’s worth will read $25 billion.
  • The European trend of ecommerce growth is bullish too. In 2015, the online retail industry will be worth $283 billion.

With such encouraging trends, many are thinking to test their luck in online commerce. Each day, new ecommerce stores are popping up on the internet. However, many of them fail for many reasons and substandard hosting and long bouts of downtime are the main culprits of these failures.

So, while your design and branding play an important role in generating traffic, your servers and the underlying infrastructure (which essentially form the bedrock of your entire business) is an integral part of the setup as well. A fact sheet published by Kissmetrics mentions that a delay of few seconds in page load time can cut down 7% of sales; so that’s around $2.5 million per annum for a store that rounds up $100,000/day in revenue.

Google also relegates PageRank if pages take >1.5 seconds to load and only 28% of users move on to the next page.

Before signing up, ask HARD-HITTING questions!

Just before buying a house, you read and research into the property and its background. You should do the same when you are picking a hosting platform for your ecommerce store. Picking a good-quality ecommerce hosting provider is essential for the success of your venture.

So, how do you pick a good hosting provider?

Well, we’ve created a questionnaire that will help you decide where you need to host your e-store. Consider this as a sort of a checklist and we suggest you ask more questions.

Ask Questions

Yes, think hard like the woman in the banner and ask a lot of questions. Be sure to email yourself the transcript if you have asked these question on online chat. Try to locate a responsible person from your preferred company and email him or her your questions.

Keep asking until you have not received all of your answers. So, here are the questions followed by the reasoning of why you should ask this question.

Q1. Which ecommerce building app do you support?

Online shops are created on ecommerce building apps, like Magento, WooCommerce, PrestaShop, etc. It is essential to know if your store is supported by your hosting provider.

Q2. What are the working hours of the Technical Staff?

Life comes with little surprises and some of these are not good ones. You should ask about the availability of the technical staff very clearly. Some providers keep different levels of support staff for different type of clients. However, Cloudways has never practiced this cringe-worthy tactic. To us, all our clients are very important.

Q3. What kind of Service Level Agreements(SLAs) do you offer? Do you offer a network uptime guarantee?

All companies make certain promises (SLAs) to their customers. Read the fine print and ask what will happen if they are breached/unfulfilled by the provider.

Q4. Will I get dedicated servers with dedicated IP? Who will take care of the server?

It is essential to know if you will get a dedicated server and IP for your use. Dollar-rate hosting companies tend to assign hundreds and thousands of websites on the same server and IP. If one of these websites gets blacklisted by search engines and email filtering software, the reputation of all the websites is affected due to shared resources.

On the other hand, dedicated hosting providers cater to system administrators. This means you can get a dedicated cloud server at an affordable rate, but if you do not know how to handle it, then you are asking for trouble. Therefore, it is essential to ask your provider if your server will be managed by the experts at the provider’s end or not.

This is where Cloudways fits the bill. For as little as $15 per month, we provide managed dedicated cloud hosting servers with dedicated IPs.

Q5. Will you take care of Data Backups? Do you have hourly backups? Where are the backups stored? Can I download a copy?

Every hosting provider has its own set of rules. Some will provide an automated backup feature and some will not. Those that do, have frequencies like weekly, daily, hourly, etc. It is also important to know where the backups are created. Are they stored on the same server as your website? If your provider is doing that, then ask for off-site backup for which they might charge extra. You should also know if you can download a copy of your backup for safe-keeping.

Just to let you know, Cloudways has an automated daily off-site backup feature. This means, by default, a copy is stored on a separate server. From the Cloud Console, you can change the frequency of backup storage. We provide hourly and weekly frequencies among other options. Plus, you can always take a manual backup and download it via SFTP.

Q6. Will you help me with installing SSL Certificates?

Installing SSL Certificates will give clients and prospects the confidence to share personal information on your site. While you may or may not know how to correctly migrate or set up a new SSL Certificate, it’s always good to know if your provider can give you  a lending hand.

Q7. What kind of hosting infrastructure do you provide?

A multi-tier setup has a separate DB/Website design in order to limit redundant requests to the DB Server, which results in better performance. Scalability allows you to instantly scale up or down, without timeout sessions. Moreover, using advanced caching and CDNs can reduce your load time considerably. If your store expects frequent traffic spikes, you cannot miss this question.

Q8. When was the company established? How many managed hosting clients do you have have, especially ecommerce clients?

Wouldn’t you rather get to know the provider, than regret later, before spending your money?

Q9. What’s the catch?

Since you pay-as-you-go for services in the cloud, wouldn’t it be great to do the same for your managed services? Do ask if you have the freedom to leave any time. If the company requires a commitment or presents a contract to sign, you need to pay heed before signing on the dotted line. Make sure to ask for a trial period!

Q10. How secure are the systems against malware and hacking attempts?

Inquire about the firewall, security protocols and measures deployed by the company to protect servers from hacks and malware and other external threats.

If your managed hosting provider has frequent downtime or a technical problem, your website will not be able to serve your customers, who most probably will not return to your site again. Be sure to look around for customer reviews and ratings!

Choosing a dubious company may cost you a lot more than you think. We hope that conducting a detailed comparison of different providers will be a tad easier for now.

Cloudways work with clients from all ends of retail online industries, from appareal to footware, from customized product manufactures to download-only stores. We understand that not all of our clients come from technical backgrounds. Cloudways Managed Ecommerce focuses on providing an optimized transparent solution to our clients. We care for you and your ecommerce business.

Simplified Managed Cloud Hosting for Ecommerce Stores.

Convert traffic into buyers with managed Ecommerce Cloud hosting.

About Saad Durrani

Saad is the Senior Editor at Cloudways - A Managed Cloud Hosting Platform. He is a technology enthusiast who loves to blog about emerging technologies and trends. When he is not blogging, he goes to the beach to find inspiration for his fictional stories.

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