eCommerce Web Hosting for Your Online Store

Choosing the Wrong eCommerce Web Hosting Can Cost You

eCommerce is one of the quickest growing sectors on the internet. More and more people are becoming comfortable with buying all kinds of things from online stores, and more money is spent every year.

If you're looking for ecommerce web hosting, the first thing you need is obviously something to sell. If you already sell something offline, you can probably sell the same things from your web site.

The number of things you're going to sell plays a big part in choosing the type of hosting you need. For example, if you've got less than 20 products, you can set yourself up on a small hosting account.

Listing hundreds or thousands of items is a whole other story - you'll need much more storage space, higher bandwidth and other features like databases and probably a secure server for accepting payment.

The most important part of an ecommerce website is how you get paid, so let's look at some of the different options that are available.

You have two basic choices - collect payment information yourself or outsource it through a third-party payment service.

Collecting Payment Yourself

If you're planning to get a merchant account for accepting credit cards (or you already have one) you'll need to have a website with a secure connection.

This means all the information that is entered by your customers will be encrypted so it can't be intercepted and read by anyone else. Without a secure connection, there are very few shoppers who will enter their credit card numbers and other sensitive information.

To get a secure connection you need to apply for an SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate. They're issued by companies like Verisign and Thawte and you'll be required to provide them with verifiable information about your identity and location.

Once the certificate is issued to you it needs to be installed on your web site. You'll need a dedicated IP address to make this work, which is available from all good web hosts (usually for an extra charge).

Using a Third Party for Payment

If that sounds a little complicated, you can always choose to use a third-party service to handle your payment transactions. When a customer buys from you, they will be reidrected to the payment service's website, where they enter their payment information.

These services sometimes charge a setup fee and then they keep a percentage of each sale that they process for you.

Shopping Cart Services

A shopping cart is a script that is installed on your web server. They help to automate the ecommerce process by letting you put your products into categories and create pages that describe the overall categories as well as each product.

They also let you keep track of repeat customers, suggest related items for the customer to buy before checking out and they often have a rating system for your customers to post reviews.

A shopping cart gives your customers a much better experience while helping to structure your website more efficiently.

A lot of hosting plans include shopping carts such as Miva Merchant, Agora, osCommerce and Zen Cart. When deciding on a shopping cart, make sure it is compatible with your payment service.

For example, if you already have a merchant account in your offline business, you'll need to pick a shopping cart that support the payment gateway used by your bank.