Hosting is a minefield. Everyone has an opinion on who’s the best and who’s the worst. Downtime for a website is bad enough. But downtime for an eCommerce website means lost revenue. Today we kick off a new series on the best WooCommerce Hosting plans that money can buy.
Over the years I’ve used more hosting providers than I care to remember. I’ve spent countless hours reading reviews and listening to experts telling me why their preferred host is the bees knees. I’ve seen good hosts go bad and I’ve seen mediocre hosts get their shit together and come good. The simple fact of the matter is that there are almost an infinite number of hosting options available in 2014 and that it’s more difficult than ever to know who to trust with your hosting business. We hope that this series helps WooCommerce store owners to make better hosting decisions.
Scope of our hosting reviews – shared hosting be gone!
I’m very very close to a 100% ban on shared hosting for WooCommerce. Why is that you may ask? There are tons of what I like to call “middle of the road” shared hosting companies out there who specialize in low cost, low quality, average speed hosting which might be just about acceptable for a brochure based website or a simple blog. But any website that is primarily an eCommerce website with it’s primary purpose being the sale of goods and services online needs something more reliable and more robust than shared hosting. Then there’s also security. Do you use an eCommerce payment gateway which processes credit cards directly on your website? Have you heard of PCI compliance? If not, well, sorry to be one to inform you but 99% of shared hosting providers won’t be PCI compliant which could end up costing you tens of thousands.
The curse of WooCommerce hosting
I think WooCommerce suffers a little because of it’s simplicity and low barriers to entry. Because it’s so easy to get up and running with WooCommerce on your existing shitty middle of the road hosting provider – it might appear at first use that that’s all you need. I’ve seen many people new to WooCommerce learn this the hard way when they start to add thousands of products to their database or when they suddenly discover that their host doesn’t allow dedicated SSL’s/IP addresses etc. Then there’s also the fact that you’re now potentially responsible for custom billing data. You do not want this sitting on the same server as Many Jane’s blog about breeding Peruvian hamsters* (which is in effect what will be happening on a shared host).
* no offence intended to any hamsters or Peruvian readers for that matter.
I am willing to make one exception which we’ll explore in a later part of this post series. For now I’d like to close off this short introduction post with my ideal WooCommerce hosting feature list:
- Dedicated IP addresses available – important for SSL’s and for SEO.
- No restrictions on the number and type of SSL’s that can be configured within the hosting environment.
- SSH/Shell access available and enabled by default.
- Minimum of 24h/nightly backups with 30 day rotations. Ideally more regular, recurring backups could be configured to allow for much smaller windows of transaction loss.
- Simple process for restoring backups from archive. Backups alone are not sufficient. A rapid, well tested and highly visible restore process is essential.
- Support via email, live chat and knowledge base. Ideally phone escalation would be nice. Deep subject matter expertise (e..g. WordPress and WooCommerce) would be ideal.
- Top class security/firewall/threat detection infrastructure. This is even more essential on an eCommerce website.
- Performance – this almost goes without saying – but overall machine and network performance has to have been validated elsewhere first.
- Stellar uptime record.
- Nice to have – seamless staging area which can be used to rollout new features with minimal impact to live production systems.
- Nice to have – CDN integration.
- Nice to have – Git/SCM integration.
- Trustworthy. Ethical.
Right now I can count on one hand the hosting companies who come close to meeting everything on this list. To date, I don’t know of any hosting that can fulfil the full list and do it at scale.