Ten Questions to Ask Your E-Commerce Host
The internet is becoming an increasingly important sales channel for retailers, and there has never been a better time to dip your toe in the proverbial e-commerce waters and expose your business to a truly global customer base. Whilst it’s worth bearing in mind that there are undoubtedly a number of risks involved in securely setting up your e-commerce portal, the benefits of an e-commerce presence are unquestionably huge. So, with that in mind, we’ve prepared a list of 10 questions to ask any prospective host of your e-commerce business in order to help you not only get maximum ‘bang for your buck’ but also ensure that your e-commerce host is as reliable and, more importantly, secure as humanly possible. Your business is precious to you, so it’s worth finding a host that feels the same way.
- PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) - this should be one of the first things you check with any potential host for your business. Anyone not PCI DSS certified should be avoided as, with identity fraud remaining a real thorn in the side of online trading, the security of your transactions is paramount.
- Technical support – again, a real deal clincher should be the level of support your host will offer. Your e-commerce site needs to be online round the clock and, theoretically, so should your support. Downtime means money, transactions and even customers lost.
- Security breaches – it’s important to know if the company you intend to give your business to has ever suffered any data breaches and, if so, how they dealt with them and what measures they introduced afterwards. Trust is imperative with e-commerce and you need to know you can trust the company hosting your business.
- Bandwidth/disk-space – it’s essential to have plenty of both of these available as your site grows and you shouldn’t avoid investigating how much is offered by your potential e-commerce hosting company.
- Backups – selecting a host that backs up your site regularly is preferred. Never rely solely on the host backing up files though, you also need to be performing these on your own.
- Redundancy – as vital as backups, redundancy is important for DNS servers (which direct people to your site when they type in the domain name), email servers, web servers, file storage, etc. Always seek a host that uses redundant methods of connection and storing and serving files. If one plan fails, another can quickly be used.
- Software – many e-commerce hosting companies use their own bespoke software for shopping carts, whilst many others will use third-party software. It’s worth finding out which your host uses and what guarantees and assurances come with said software.
- Service Level Agreement (SLA) - just as essential as having the type of shopping cart software you are looking for, you want to make sure you have a SLA (service level agreement). This explains how the company will compensate you if their servers go down.
- Customer details – ask in advance whether your hosting company stores customer details and, more importantly, credit-card details, on separate servers. If they don’t and, god forbid, there is a data breach in the future, then you could be looking at a financial punishment from the banks.
- Price – there is a wide range of e-commerce hosting packages available, but beware of costly add-ons like excess bandwidth fees and set up or cancellation charges as these can quickly increase what appears to be a cost effective package.