Magento hosting is currently available from hundreds of thousands of providers. The decision of what Magento hosting company to use can be the difference between the success and the demise of a Magento shopping cart website. While any Magento hosting, eCommerce hosting, or even generic web hosting company may look the same at first glance- placed in very simple terms, nothing could be further from the truth. There are three key elements we are going to be observing:
While these again may appear like generic enough terms to select any web hosting company, they are not. Let's review each of these topics by how they apply specifically to Magento hosting, in hopes to reveal who the few realistic Magento hosting companies really are.
It's a simple fact that it is too easy to start a web hosting company. Most hosting companies are "hobby hosts", or one-man shows. They have no systems administration staff, or customer service staff over off hours. They do not have administrative access to the servers that host your site virtually, and certainly not physically. They are resellers with no experience in how to correctly host a web site, and a very low chance of staying in business for very long. Magento has system requirements that are not enabled by default in a very large percentage of the web hosting companies out there, and will likely not function optimally, or possibly even at all, if your web host has not tuned a web hosting environment to play nicely with Magento. These web hosting companies will not have the ability to meet the unique web hosting support demands of your Magento shopping cart.
The first thing that you should look at when choosing a Magento hosting company is how long they have been in business. Companies on the official Magento Enterprise Hosting Partner list are ideal. Firstly, these companies know the ins and outs of the Magento application on day one, and will not be left experimenting on your hosting when problems happen. Some of the companies on the official list, such as Nexcess, have been working directly with Magento for over a decade. The number of Magento hosting companies that this can be said for can be counted on one hand, but are a great place to start your search.
Security is a topic that's crucial for any eCommerce web site. If your site stores valuable financial info such as credit card numbers and personal contacts, as most Magento shops do, the severity of this topic is multiplied. No organization can afford to risk the devastating effects of having such data compromised. Many Magento hosting environments consist of private, virtual partitions of a server. This protects against a number of potential exploits that can be opened up by irresponsible webmasters that might otherwise share a server with your Magento shopping cart site.
Whatever company you choose for Magento hosting, it's a good idea to do daily PCI (payment card industry) scans, using a service such as ScanAlert or McAfee Secure. In addition to the extra assurance that these badges give your visitors (which have been proven to drastically improve conversions by bolstering trust), this also means your Magento hosting remains safe. New exploits come out every day, and countless web hosting companies never test for PCI compliance. Before ordering hosting, ask your host if they are PCI compliant, but don't stop there- test it yourself!
Performance tuning is a topic not to be taken lightly in a Magento hosting service, and overlooking the impact of this factor is perhaps the most common mistake that companies make when selecting their Magento host. Did you know that studies have repeatedly proven that users gravitate drastically towards faster web sites? Think about it. No venue is more competitive to sell your product that the Internet. If two Magento shopping carts have the same products, but one is consistently just 10% faster, which would you gravitate towards?
This trend has become so clear, that Google has taken to penalizing slower web sites in their search results. In fact, the search giant is so serious about penalizing your slow web server, that speeding up your web site is directly stated in their Webmaster Guidelines as a way to make your site rank better in their results. While Magento is pretty fast out-of-the-box, it won't perform up to spec unless you are in a Magento hosting environment tuned for Magento, and overall performance. Such performance gains can be found by looking at Magento's official Enterprise Hosting Partners, referenced on the Magento web site, as a number of these hosts have developed isolated Magento hosting environments tuned specifically towards speeding up the unique behavior of a Magento shopping cart.
In conclusion, don't make the same mistake that most amateur Magento webmasters make. Take the time to learn about your Magento hosting provider before your order service, and they will treat you well!