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Hosting is one of the most important foundations on which you’ll build your eCommerce site, and there are tons of options available. If you’re just starting out, you’re probably looking for a relatively inexpensive option that will deliver great value. However, if you’re building a business out of this site, there are several features that you should prioritize along with (or above!) cost.
While you’re looking for a web host for your eCommerce site, performance is one of the features you should make a priority. We discussed this a bit in our WordPress hosting overview, but your page loads times directly impact your search rankings and conversion rates, so optimizing your hosting is really important for your business.
For example, KISSmetrics notes that:
A 1 second delay in page response can result in a 7% reduction in conversions. (Source)
In a separate post, they also note:
79% of web shoppers who have trouble with web site performance say they won’t return to the site to buy again and around 44% of them would tell a friend if they had a poor experience shopping online. (Source)
It’s imperative to ensure that you’re not leaking conversions due to poor site performance. However, site speed is not the only factor to consider when selecting a good hosting provider for an eCommerce site. There are other features that are essential for running an eCommerce business that you should pay attention to as well, such as the ability to install SSL certificates or use development sites. Support is also an important consideration.
In this article, we’ll compare 3 hosting plans that have the features that we recommend: SiteGround’s GoGeek, Media Temple’s WP Hosting, and DreamPress from DreamHost. Each of the plans we’ve selected below are great introductory plans for eCommerce sites, and they’re all available for less than $30 per month, so they’ll deliver performance and value.
You can also view our comparison chart below and get an insider tip on an upcoming hosting giveaway.
First of all, let’s start with performance and other similarities between these hosts. I’ve hosted sites with each of these companies at some point and had good experiences with them in terms of performance and support. They also have a one-click WordPress install so you don’t have to install WordPress yourself and will manage servers for you.
You may be concerned about Media Temple’s performance since they were acquired by GoDaddy, as I was. I have no love for GoDaddy with respect to any of their services, so when they acquired Media Temple, I was leery of how the “new” Media Temple would be, as I still host a couple of smaller sites with them. However, I’ve not experienced any performance issues while hosting with them since the acquisition, and have been pleased with their performance. In fact, my site load times have actually decreased with Media Temple over the past year.
I’ve also tested SiteGround’s GoGeek plan and have been impressed with the performance and service. Want a really detailed performance analysis that includes SiteGround? Check out this overview from Review Signal. We also have a detailed review of their service.
The only plan here I haven’t used is DreamHost’s DreamPress. I’ve used their shared hosting and had good experiences with them previously, so it’s something I would use again (just haven’t had an excuse to use DreamPress yet!).
Want to check out a comparison of these three hosts in terms of performance? WP Site Care has a great comparison of 7 major hosting companies that includes SiteGround, Media Temple, and DreamHost (though not these specific plans).
So now on to similarities. eCommerce hosting has to have a few main features for me to use it. First, SSL certificates have to be allowed. Not every plan for every hosting provider allows you to install an SSL certificate, which eliminates some plans.
You can certainly select a payment gateway that doesn’t require an SSL certificate to be used, but I always recommend that a business use SSL certificates to protect login data for admin and customer accounts. Without an SSL certificate installed, login information is sent in plain text to your server and could be intercepted. For the minimal price of SSL certificates, there’s no viable reason to me to avoid using them.
Second, FTP / SFTP access is mandatory. You will need this at some point for troubleshooting, updates, or when you accidentally install something that breaks your site. As someone that also supports eCommerce sites, I can tell you that I’ve run into many situations in which FTP access is a lifesaver and I don’t feel comfortable testing some things without it.
Along with the idea of security and fallbacks are site backups. Each of these plans can do daily backups of your site to ensure that if anything goes wrong you have access to a restore point. You can also do your own backups if needed.
I also think that staging / development areas are essential. While a one-click staging area is ideal, the ability to set up some kind of testing or development site is necessary. If you’re running an eCommerce site, you have a huge issue if a new theme, plugin, or update breaks your site and you start losing money. They should always be tested prior to being deployed on a live site.
Having a staging or development site available is also super handy for support. If you have a live site taking orders, you may not want support personnel debugging on this site. However, if you can spin up a staging site that experiences the exact same issue, you can easily give support access to the staging or development site so they can debug until their hearts are content without interrupting your business.
All of the plans in this comparison have these features available, so you’ll want to take a look at some of the differences to see what works best for you.
Pricing is obviously going to be a point of differentiation here. While SiteGround is the least expensive choice for the first term (you can pay for 1, 2, or 3 years as your first “term”), it will become the most expensive after this. However, I have had the fastest response times from their support team (GoGeek includes priority support), so I think the price is justified.
One of the major differences here is that DreamPress uses a Virtual Private Server (VPS), while Media Temple and SiteGround provide shared hosting for these plans. A VPS can provide improved performance since there aren’t as many sites hosted on the same server. The way the server is configured is also different. A VPS segments a server into “virtual machines” so that your site has a semi-dedicated environment – you don’t have all server resources devoted to your install(s), but other sites on the server cannot interfere with yours.
Having used the shared hosting for SiteGround and Media Temple, performance has been high anyway. SiteGround also uses upgraded hardware and fewer installs on the server to improve the performance when using the GoGeek plan. On the other hand, using a VPS can give you a bit more piece of mind since your site is isolated, but you don’t have complete control over the DreamPress VPS as you would with a different VPS since this is managed for you.
Another difference is with SSL Certificates – while you can install 3rd party SSL Certificates with all of these plans, SiteGround will provide one in-house free for one year (they do charge setup fees for 3rd party SSL certs, but not in-house SSL certs). However, if you choose to use an in-house SSL versus a 3rd party SSL, DreamHost will be cheaper in the long run at $15 per year. Note that Media Temple limits the 3rd party SSL certificates you can use to GeoCities or GoDaddy.
The number of sites and bandwidth for these plans also have some slight differences. Media Temple and DreamPress limit the number of installs you can have (though you can add more sites with Media Temple – each with a bit extra storage – for a fee), while SiteGround recommends a limit to the number of visits per month you can have (though 100,000 per month is a lot). You may need to upgrade your plan if you’re usage exceeds their recommended limits. You can also have different numbers of staging sites, though these will take a bit of setup with DreamPress (you can develop at a subdomain then transfer changes).
Data centers should also be considered. This is where site information will be delivered from, so you’ll want it as close to your main audience as possible. SiteGround offers a choice among 3 data centers in the USA, Europe, and Asia; Media Temple’s WordPress hosting uses a data center in Arizona; DreamPress uses a data center in Los Angeles, USA.
SiteGround will also transfer your WordPress site to their servers for free, while you’ll have to pay for transfers with other providers, or you can do them yourself.
There are a few more minor differences, such as the guarantee period for you to get a refund, so I’ve tried to summarize them in a chart:
Please let me know if you have questions 🙂 . So far, I’ve been very impressed by SiteGround, but you can expect high performance with each of these plans. There are also enough differences to help you make a choice – do you need multiple staging sites? Will you be using several sites or just one? Is this a new site or one that will require a transfer? These are questions that will help you pick out the right plan for you.
Ready to test one out?
I’d also love to hear about your experiences with these! If you’ve used on of these plans in particular, let us know in the comments. 🙂