If you own an e-commerce-based business or are planning to start one, choosing the right web hosting service can be the difference between generating consistent sales or developing consistent headaches.
Two key areas that need a keen focus are performance and security. Performance affects user experience, and poor performance can lose customers. Breaches in security can result in a disaster involving both financial and brand damage.
Improving Performance of eCommerce Sites
The average online user today is both demanding and impatient. Small delays in page loads can cause potential customers to simply close the page and head somewhere else for similar products or information.
To avoid problems in performance, there are various areas which you can look into to ramp up your eCommerce site.
Check Your Hosting Server Performance
Before you run out and simply make a change, first evaluate the performance of your web host. To do this, make use of a specialized site like HostScore, which records the server performance of various hosting companies.
This is different compared to web page speed tests such as WebPageTest or Pingdom, which analyze the performance of your site. HostScore tests web hosting servers, and those are the numbers you need to know to see if your web host might be the problem in terms of performance.
Host at the Right Location
The location of your hosting impacts the website performance. Choosing the right location is vital as servers which are far from your target audience will result in higher load times. For example, if your target market is in the North America region, make sure your web hosting server is located there instead of somewhere else such as in Europe.
Make Use of Up to Date Script Engines
Script engines are the things that run most of the files which make up our websites. Many eCommerce sites will likely be built on some form of the script such as PHP. As far as possible, always use the latest versions of script engines as they normally offer superior performance.
For example, PHP 7 is much faster than PHP 5, so you can check in your hosting control panel to see which you are running. Do make sure that before you change it, you check with your eCommerce application site to see which it supports.
Make Use of a CDN
Content Distribution Networks (CDNs) are a good way of helping with load balancing. They work by storing portions of your site on global networks of servers. This helps you serve your pages up more quickly to visitors.
Another benefit of CDNs is that they help mitigate against Distributed Denial of Service attacks. These occur when attackers try to flood your site with requests or other information to shut it down.
CDNs today often also include advanced features as well such as the ability to block abnormal traffic, analyzing traffic behavioral baselining, and blocking traffic based on known attack signatures.
Having said that, let’s look at the security aspect of things;
Web Hosting Security is Vital to eCommerce
In 2019, websites came under an average of 62 attacks per day. Thanks to the age of digital, immense pressure is being put on website owners to secure their online assets. This is especially true for eCommerce sites that handle user data as well as process payments (or at least, payments information).
Although no methods are completely foolproof, you can undertake some steps to harden your site against cyberattacks or other forms of intrusion.
Check for SSL Availability and Support
Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates are vital tools for online retailers. They help by encrypting data transmitted between your site and its visitors. Many web hosting companies today offer free SSL certificates, but eCommerce sites may need to opt for paid versions.
There is a broad range of SSL certificates such as DV, OV, and EV certificates, each varying in cost and scope of assurance. Some of the better certificates even offer loss assurance guarantees in case the security of their certificates is breached.
Keep Applications Up to Date
Your eCommerce site is made up of many moving parts from the application itself to supporting plugins. Each of these is a potential point of vulnerability. Thankfully, developers often issue patches and updates to fix discovered vulnerabilities.
Unless you are working with fully managed hosting, you’ll need to ensure that your applications are always kept up to date. This means that you will need to monitor them regularly and update them whenever you can.
Always Backup Your Site
Many people rely on web hosts to back up their data, or simply have faith in the redundancies provided in the service. This may be enough for personal web hosting, but when your website is your livelihood, you need to take more drastic steps.
Where possible, regularly backup your website (here’s an example to back up the database in CS-Cart), then keep copies offline. Where you keep the backups is up to you – in Cloud storage or even your own local storage – as long as it isn’t on your web hosting server.
Most people are not aware that backups are a critical factor in regards to website security. Having a reliable backup and restore system is essential.
Scan for Malware
Malware is malicious software that affects computers – and this includes web hosting servers as well. In fact, web hosting servers make especially tempting targets since one user who doesn’t carry out Malware prevention can be the loophole that allows infections to take hold of an entire server.
Being aware of the policies put in place by your web hosting service provider against Malware help reassure you. However, for peace of mind, opt for an extra Malware scanning service, or at the very least, do periodic checks yourself.
As you can see, there are many things that you can do in terms of improving the security and performance of your eCommerce site. Bear in mind that what I’ve covered here barely scratches the surface of what it is possible to achieve.
The best thing you can do for yourself is to look for a web hosting provider offers not just a solid product to host your eCommerce platform, but has a great team in place to help you out if necessary. This can be one of the most vital parts of your web hosting relationship, affecting your ability to quickly resolve site outages.
Other than that, remember that your ultimate need is to enrich the personalized experience of your site visitors. Happy visitors are most likely to turn into paying customers, so keep those performance numbers up!