We’ve been in the eCommerce game for the best part of 20 years now so it’s fair to say we know a thing or two about what it takes to succeed in this sector.
Having built hundreds of stores for clients across a wide variety of industries, one thing has always remained the same – having a fast, secure website is absolutely paramount if you want to convert browsers into buyers and rank higher on search engines.
Selecting the right hosting package can be the difference between a slick online shopping experience for your customers, and a clunky store that leaves a lasting impression for all the wrong reasons.
With that in mind, we wanted to put together the ultimate guide to Magento hosting, highlighting all the areas you need to consider when it comes to hosting – speed, security, compatibility, technical support and more.
But before all that…
Why Is Magento Hosting Different?
As the most popular eCommerce platform in the world, Magento is relied upon by thousands of global businesses to sell online efficiently. Because of its fantastic ability to allow for significant customisation and flexibility, this is one of the most robust online selling platforms ever made.
With all that power though, comes great responsibility. Your standard hosting package just won’t cut it – you’re going to need dedicated Magento hosting for things to run smoothly, but what does that mean exactly?
Well, it’s different to normal hosting in the sense that Magento is quite a resource-hungry platform, more so than its competitors like Shopify and WooCommerce.
Because of this, not all hosting providers can support a Magento store equally well. There are greater demands placed on a server when operating Magento and as such you need to bear in mind certain considerations to make sure you choose the most suitable Magento hosting package for your needs.
Selecting the right hosting package can be the difference between a slick online shopping experience for your customers, and a clunky store that leaves a lasting impression for all the wrong reasons.Tweet this now
In our experience as an agency, if you want a fast and secure Magento installation, a dedicated hosting package designed for that purpose is a must-have.
Getting Started With Magento Hosting
If you’re already using Magento, you’ll already understand how large a platform it is. With such a range of functionality at your fingertips, there is a price to pay when it comes to performance.
Perhaps the most common issue we repeatedly encounter as an eCommerce agency from a hosting perspective is that our clients want Magento to run quicker, both frontend and backend.
When you search online for ‘Magento hosting’, you’ll come across the usual suspects offering a great price – Bluehost, Dreamhost, Hostgator – but none of these providers can deliver a Magento hosting package that is good enough in terms of performance and reliability at that price.
Hosting is very much a ‘you get what you pay for’ service – so why would you go with a cheap option that costs less than a cup of coffee? Price is important of course, but that should only form one element of what you’re looking for.
In our opinion, there are some key areas to focus on when selecting your Magento hosting package. These are irrespective of the size of your store as well as how many visitors your site receives, so as a minimum standard you should be looking at the following features:
Your eCommerce store should be treated in the same way as your smartphone or personal computer – it needs regular system updates to remain secure and guarantee that known bugs are removed.
Your eCommerce store should be treated in the same way as your smartphone or personal computer – it needs regular system updates to remain secure and guarantee that known bugs are removed.Tweet this now
Be warned though – some hosting providers will offer patching as part of their service but others won’t. You should make every effort to secure your store from hackers and ultimately someone needs to be keeping your site up-to-date from a security perspective, so make sure you stay on top of that as a matter of great importance.
Responsibility for your server security should always lie with your Magento hosting provider. They are there to ensure that your server is always operating on the latest software (eg. the most up-to-date operating system and control panel) as well as offering a firewall and anti-malware as standard. These are common steps taken by eCommerce hosting providers to ensure that your customers and their data are always safe and secure when interacting with your site.
Last but by no means least is the option of daily backups of your store. This shouldn’t be underestimated as an extra feature of Magento hosting as if something does go seriously wrong, you’ll still have a copy of your site that you can rescue. Regular backups that save everything can give you the peace of mind you need.
It may also be worth asking the following questions to your Magento hosting provider of choice:
• Do you run a server-side virus scanner?
• Do you have firewalls and relevant Magento hosting security features? One key option to look out for here is the ability to turn specific PHP modules on or off, most providers will offer this without any additional charge.
Ultimately you need your hosting to be as flexible and personal as your business, so it’s not good enough being forced into a pre-arranged hosting package that just doesn’t suit your needs.
After security, speed is by far and away the most important feature of any hosting service.
It’s no secret that a slow website will frustrate customers and they’ll eventually lose patience, meaning it’s likely you will miss out on sales and extra revenue. A fast, reliable store on the other hand will encourage visitors to look around, stay on the site longer and perhaps spend more money than they originally planned.
Any Magento hosting package should be well matched to the demand your store will bring and should be tailored depending on the number of site visitors you expect to see as well as the volume of orders being processed. If you’re a fairly small business that makes a handful of sales a day, your server demands will be much lower than a more popular store that turns over tens of thousands of pounds a day.
The bottom line is no-one likes a slow website. Magento is often dismissed as being slow straight out of the box, but that’s just not the case – it all depends on how your server is configured and optimised. If that part of the operational process is completed correctly, your store will run at a good speed.
We would also recommend you choose a Magento hosting provider that offers the option to upgrade your server capabilities at any given time, to ensure that your site is never overloaded or too slow to respond simply because of an increase in visitor numbers. If your business is doing well, you don’t want to be restricted by your hosting package or see your site slowed down purely as a result of sudden popularity.
If you’re unsure about a particular hosting provider and want to check out any latency issues that may impact page load times, you can ping the server IP in question using PickUpHost. This will grade the performance of the server and give you a good indication of any speed issues that could arise as the result of using that hosting provider.
Furthermore, you can also ask the hosting provider if they utilise any server-side caching mechanisms specifically for Magento, such as memCache or xCache. Caching is a way of storing information in a more accessible place, keeping frequently used data within easy reach to speed up load times – it’s a common way of reducing latency and improving the speed of an eCommerce site.
One of the biggest areas that a Magento hosting provider can set themselves apart from the rest is through their technical support. Unless you already have experience in setting up and managing servers, you’ll be heavily dependant on reliable support throughout the year.
The world of internet shopping never takes a break, even at Christmas, so neither should your technical support. It’s actually surprisingly common for eCommerce stores to experience problems around busy shopping times like Black Friday and Christmas, so your hosting provider needs to be around to support you when you need it most.
The world of internet shopping never takes a break, even at Christmas, so neither should the technical support from your hosting provider.Tweet this now
Imagine your store goes down the night before Black Friday – you’d want it back up and running as soon as possible, right? That’s why it’s worth paying that little bit extra for high quality support rather than risking it with a fast-but-cheap service.
In our experience, support run via an online ticketing system has proved the most effective way of providing help and guidance to our clients. Using this system allows screenshots to be added and problems can be described at length, far outweighing the benefit of a live-chat system for example.
Again, you get what you pay for when it comes to hosting support so it makes sense to invest wisely if you feel confident in your Magento hosting provider.
Another area that you should consider before choosing your Magento hosting provider is that of compatibility.
Make sure you check the Magento hosting requirements documentation and compare this with the specifications that are being offered by your provider. It’s also key here to check for PCI compliance – this is a standard applicable to all businesses that handle card transactions and store customer data. If your store does not meet the minimum requirements for PCI compliance, you’ll be unable to sell and may be liable for a fine!
It also makes sense to ensure you’re ready for whatever the future may hold. In Magento terms, that means shifting from PHP 5.x to PHP 7.x which is the preferred code language for Magento 2.0 and higher. It’s important to check that your chosen hosting provider can meet the latest compatibility guidelines at this moment in time.
Types Of Magento Hosting
There are a number of options to choose from when it comes to the various types of Magento hosting available today.
Based on your requirements, you can opt for a simple shared hosting package or a fully configured dedicated server – or something in between.
Because of the heavy resource demands most Magento stores have, shared hosting plans are often a bad choice. Your site can quickly outgrow its shared memory allocation and leave you needing a server upgrade, often at additional expense.
That said, if you’re at the very start of your eCommerce journey and your Magento store is still fairly small, shared hosting is an affordable way to enter the market. As your product catalog grows, you will eventually want to move away from this type of package, but it’s a decent place to start.
As the name of this option suggests, your store will enjoy the maximum amount of resources available via your server. In simple terms, this means you’ll have full and complete control of your server, specifically how resources are allocated.
While this might sound like a great option, it comes at a price. Hosting solutions like this are often only used by busy stores or high-end Magento websites that are particularly demanding when it comes to resources.
We believe that most medium-sized Magento installations will not require a dedicated server. While this option does provide you with a significant amount of resources and memory, the costs involved can be off-putting. Not only that, you would also need to be wary of security updates and patches as these will need to be completed by you.
Hopefully by this point in the article, you’ll have learnt a lot about what you need from your Magento hosting provider. To remind you of the areas we’ve covered, we believe you should focus on:
• Server speed and potential issues with latency
• Server security, implementation and ongoing protection
• The availability of ongoing technical support
• Magento compatibility and PCI compliance
Once you’ve confirmed everything from the above list, you’ll then want to consider the type of hosting plan you need dependant on the size of your Magento store as well as the volume of traffic entering your site.
Regardless of whether you opt for a shared hosting package, a dedicated server or something in between, make sure you take the time to consider all the options available and choose the right hosting provider for your needs – not just right now, but in the not-too-distant future as well.
If you need any more guidance, get in touch and we’ll be happy to help!