A web host keeps your website files and makes your site visible online when someone types in your site address, called a URL (e.g. woocommerce.com is our URL). Think of a host as being similar to a physical location where you’d lease a space to build a store. Choosing a bad web host is the same as leasing a spot in a bad location. A good host provides the foundation for a fast, secure, and stable online store.
Choosing the right host requires some research. We recommend making a shortlist of hosting companies based on the criteria below and comparing several options to find the best fit.
If you’re starting an online store, the ideal hosting company is one that specializes in WooCommerce. It might mention it in plan descriptions or even have a plan with “WooCommerce” in the name.
If you can’t find a host that focuses on WooCommerce and meets your other requirements, you should look for one that is dedicated to WordPress.
But mentioning WordPress in a description doesn’t necessarily prove expertise. Look for other signs on the company’s site, like blogs with helpful tutorials, tips, and guidance on working with WooCommerce or WordPress.
Support and maintenance
When it comes to hosting, it can be tempting to choose the cheapest option. But because providing high-quality, human support is so expensive, pricing often reflects the amount of help you can expect if you run into trouble. You can count on the old adage, “You get what you pay for.”
It’s a good idea to search online for reviews of a company, specifically when it comes to customer support. Do people report difficulty getting assistance?
Make sure your host welcomes direct contact via phone, email, or online chat, and look for 24/7 support windows. Choose a package that includes automated backups and restorations without extra fees.
There are two common types of WordPress hosting plans:
- Managed. While the exact features depend on the provider, managed WordPress plans automate tasks like installation, updates, security, and backups. This is a great option for beginners or businesses that don’t want to deal with day-to-day website management. However, managed plans are typically more expensive and provide less control.
- Non-managed. These hosting plans leave more of the work up to you. Servers may still be optimized for WordPress performance and security, but you handle everything else. These plans are typically cheaper and require a greater time investment, but you have more control and won’t run into the limits that managed plans often have.
To decide which hosting plan is right for you, start by making a list of the things your site is going to need. This might include:
- The anticipated volume of traffic (visitors per day).
- The expected amount of storage space required, especially if your site will include a lot of videos or large images.
- An SSL certificate. This is an essential security feature for any website, but especially for online stores. It secures your customers’ personal data and tells search engines that your site can be trusted.
- An in-house caching system. Each time someone visits your website, their browser has to load everything — images, videos, and other files — from the ground up. If you have caching enabled, your files are stored in a secondary location so that the site loads faster when visitors return.
- Automated, regular backups and easy access to them without additional fees.
- Additional software that you might need. WordPress-focused hosts in particular often include a selection of premium themes and savings on paid plugins that, if relevant to your website, can save you money in the long term.
Overall, you’ll want to choose a package that meets as many of your needs as possible. If you’re just starting out with your store, then a small, inexpensive package could be fine. In other cases, the benefits of adding features like an SSL certificate or CDN could outweigh the savings of the discount plan.
Although you might have a small shop right now, we encourage our entrepreneurs to dream big. As you expand, your storefront might outgrow its hosting plan.
Look for a hosting company that offers several packages that are easy to switch between. A good host will help you easily upgrade your package when you need to — if, say, you get an increase in traffic.
Top-tier companies offer cloud-based hosting. This is a great solution for shops that see an occasional large spike in traffic, as it can adapt dynamically to visitor demands. As the needs of your shop grow, cloud hosting will grow along with you and make sure your site never goes down, not even when your big advertising campaign launches or when you get a shout-out from a celebrity on Instagram.
To see how a few hosts stack up on technical benchmarks, we recommend this comparison from ReviewSignal.
Uptime and security
Can someone reach your site whenever they want? Occasionally, due to maintenance or other issues, your server may go down for a short amount of time. The percentage of time your host is available to serve your site is called “uptime.” You want this to be as close to 100% as possible. Greater than 99% is the standard to look for.
Your host plays an integral role in website security. We’ve touched a bit on SSL certificates and backups, but there are a few other factors to consider when picking a host:
- Software security. WordPress requires updated versions of software like PHP and MYSQL. Make sure your host offers the most up-to-date versions. Otherwise, you risk a security breach and compatibility issues.
- Malware scanning. While you can implement malware scans on a website level, it’s also important to have them on your server. Your host should offer scanning as part of your plan and notify you if a hack is identified.
- A firewall. Hosts use firewalls to lock down and protect your data and website files. It provides an invisible barrier between your server and hackers.
Support for the Open Web
Lastly, remember that both WordPress and WooCommerce are open source. There’s a large community of open-source supporters and developers, so if you encounter an issue, a solution likely already exists. If not, it’s easy to locate someone with the knowledge and passion to help.
WordPress relies on volunteers to develop and maintain functionality. Some hosting companies even devote funding and staff hours to supporting WordPress, which now powers almost 39% of websites. Choose a company that values and invests in the Open Web.
Choose the right WooCommerce host
Selecting a host requires a thoughtful analysis of your personal needs and the ideals you want to support. Dig into a company’s focus, support response, and bundled value before choosing a package. Look for a company that offers multiple plans, so you can smoothly upgrade as needed. And choose a host that supports the Open Web.
WooCommerce understands the value of a strong relationship between an online store and its host. It’s the solid foundation on which to build a great website. We’ve chosen to work with a number of recommended hosting providers — they made it on our list because they offer proven solutions and exemplary service.
If you’re ready to find your perfect host, view our recommended hosting solutions!