I’m going to cut right to the chase.
Shared hosting is inadequate for your e-commerce site. Period. End of story.
As a site owner, I admire the fact that you’ve made it this far running on the hosting that you’ve had.
But that hosting company you’re with? The one that’s less than $20 a month? That hosting is probably costing you thousands of dollars a year in sales.
I can appreciate the fact that you’re after a bargain. And the web development company that set up your site before probably didn’t explain to you that shared hosting just won’t cut the mustard for an e-commerce site. Probably because they didn’t know better.
But what I’m going to tell you, as a advisor and a consultant — that hosting plan that you’re on, where you’re saving $100 a year? It’s slowly killing your online business.
The Ugly Truth About Shared Hosting Plans
The first thing you need to know about shared hosting is how the web hosting companies make money with it. The reason shared hosting is so cheap is they jam as many sites as they can possibly fit into one server and have it share resources.
The result is your site bogs down.
When customers come to your site, it takes way more than three seconds to load the page. Sometimes it takes 6 to 10 seconds, or longer, to load your e-commerce site on your current shared hosting.
And your customers don’t want to wait that long.
There of been numerous studies done on how page speed affects sales. What research shows is that the majority of people don’t wait for more than three seconds for your site to load. If your site takes longer than three seconds to load, they move onto the next website. People are impatient, and they don’t have forever to wait for your site to load.
This is the reason why companies like Amazon are so ruthless about shaving page load times on their own sites. These larger e-commerce sites realize that for every fraction of a second they shave off the load time of the pages, it translates directly in sales.
And shared hosting is the cheapest hosting that you can get, and also the very worst for performance. A lot of your potential customers won’t even make it to the shopping page, because they’re going to bounce out before the page loads.
The second reason that shared hosting is in adequate for your e-commerce business is it just doesn’t provide the necessary infrastructure.
Shared Hosting Is A Shaky Foundation For e-commerce
E-commerce websites are very different from what we call brochure websites, or a simple marketing websites.
On a regular informational only website, you can probably get by with having cheaper hosting, that will not work for an e-commerce site.
For example, take WooCommerce. As you know, WooCommerce is the number one e-commerce plug-in for WordPress.
There is a place that if you look in the back end of your site, it’s going to tell you whether your server has the minimum requirements for running WooCommerce flawlessly.
If you go to WooCommerce > System Status, you’ll see a report of how your server is against the minimum requirements for running WooCommerce.
And that screen is there because a lot of site owners and generalist web agencies may not understand that WooCommerce is not just a plug-in, it is a full-blown web application. Most shared hosts out there aren’t even running a version of PHP that is currently supported. Basically the software that is running their server is out of date. I see this more times each year than you would even imagine.
But what your e-commerce website is doing are things like processing payments, managing inventory and product variations in the database, and adding complex functionality to your site. There are minimum served software requirements for doing all this problem-free that your shared hosting plan just won’t have.
Like I said before, the shared hosting companies make money by jamming as much stuff into a server as they possibly can. Those shared hosting servers don’t get software updates in the same way that a managed WordPress hosting environment does.
There are a handful of companies out there that specialize in configuring servers for WordPress performance. Their services aren’t set up in a general fashion. They’re set up specifically to make your site faster, safer, and all-around better than a general web host.
And while I have nothing against the five dollar a month hosting plans out there, they are just not made for e-commerce. Those extra cheap hosting plans are made for things like cat blogs, not for business sites. And especially not for sites where you’re trying to pump sales revenue through them.
You owe it to yourself to get on a managed WordPress host if you’re going to be running a WordPress e-commerce site.
The third reason shared hosting is a bad fit for your e-commerce site has to do with email.
Shared Hosting and Email Issues
When you’re running an Ecommerce site, when a customer orders a product, they get a confirmation email. At the same time your business gets a new order email, with the details of the order that needs to be shipped out.
Now imagine for a second how inconvenient that would be if those emails stopped working altogether. That would make it really hard to run your business efficiently, wouldn’t it?
But this is one of the most painstaking aspects of using cheap hosting for e-commerce. Your email is far more likely to get jacked up, then if you just spent another 10 or $20 a month on great hosting.
Here’s the thing about websites in general, a bunch of pieces have to fit together in exactly the right way for them to work. The server, the email server, the database, the software running on the site — all these things have to work in coordination. And that’s just for a regular marketing website.
Now imagine you’re running an e-commerce website. Now you have to add payment gateways and e-commerce software to that mix. If one little thing is off, things don’t work the way that they’re supposed to anymore.
And I can tell you from experience, 80–90% of the problems with email delivery with e-commerce on top of WordPress come from cheap hosting.
There are a few reasons for this.
The Truth About Shared Hosting and Software Updates
Software doesn’t get updated on shared hosting as often as it does on hosting that costs a reasonable amount. It’s simple math. She posting is cheap because they don’t offer the same level of support or maintenance that you would find elsewhere.
Another thing that can happen on shared hosting is one of those 10,000 sites it’s sharing your server can get blacklisted for spam, security violations, or other nefarious activity. That means that your IP address can get blacklisted, because you’re on the same server as these bad neighbor sites. You can look up whether your IP address is on a blacklist at MultiRBL.Valli.org.
If you’re using a third-party email service, does rely on the server ports being open. If your IP address gets blacklisted because another site on that server is up to no good, that can mean that your email suddenly stops working for your website transactions.
If things are not configured correctly on your shared hosting, that can also affect things with your payment gateway. For example, if you use something Authorize.net for credit cards transactions, after the transaction, it should return you to the website. But if your server is misconfigured, customers might get an error message when the gateway tries to return to the site after a transaction.
If your SSL certificate is misconfigured, or if the server is using an out of date protocol to handle SSLs, this can also cause problems with your payment gateway.
In my experience, this is much more likely to happen as the price the hosting goes down. Support also is not as good with the cheaper hosts. And aside from performance and peace of mind, support is what you are paying for with hosting.
What Hosting Should You Use For e-commerce?
What I recommend to everyone who is on shared hosting and running an e-commerce site is switching to a managed WordPress host.
I recommend that you go to WP Engine. I’ve had numerous clients with e-commerce sites on WP Engine, and it’s like night and day compared to their previous hosts.
I trust WP Engine because they always keep the software up-to-date. I never have problems getting things to work like I do on other hosts which are slightly cheaper.
If I ever have a question, they’re right there to answer it. With a lot of these cheaper web hosts, getting them to fix a problem can take days or even weeks.
Lastly, I trust WP Engine because their site performance and page speed is excellent. In particular, their time the first bite is one of the fastest in the industry. All you need to know is that’s a good thing.
Most shared hosting plans I see businesses using are maybe $100 less per year than WP Engine (if even that much). But if you think about making one more sale per year, or even saving the hassle of solving one problem with the hosting per year, that pays for itself multiple times over. And when you’re talking about the platform that you’re running your business on, spending $29 a month doesn’t seem like that big of an expense to me.
So if you’ve been having issues with your e-commerce hosting, switch to WP Engine. It will be the best thing you do for your site revenue.