Choosing a web hosting provider
How to choose your hosting provider.
Before you sign up to any web hosting provider a considerable amount of research must be done to ensure the provider is equipped to host the requirements of your website. There are different types of hosting providers offering deferent plans. This ranging from free hosting accounts to dedicated/virtual server plans.
Choosing the right hosting provider is an essential part of your online success, part being website uptime, security, and support are the first factors to consider when choosing the hosting provider for your ecommerce website. The importance of these three factors are crucial for the business, the customers, and the turn over. Top security is needed to protect all your files, databases and customer information from potential hackers and malicious software. A hosting provider should also have a secure backup system for your files and database, and also 24hr technical support for any problems that may arise.
For an ecommerce website there are a few essential features that your provider must have.
- Dedicated IP address
- SSL (secure socket layer) and SSL certificates
- Payment Gateway Support
- Scripting languages support such as PHP
With ecommerce websites dedicated IP’s and SSL’s go hand in hand, and are used to secure the transfer of information across the web this including customer and credit card details, as well as identifying the website in relation to the SSL certificate. A secure socket layer works by encrypting the data when sent over the web and rendering it useless to potential hackers.
Dedicated IP’s are needed for secure socket layers and one IP address is only assigned for one domain, unlike a shared IP address which can be used by several domains which can cause a conflict to your domain if another domain has been flagged as spam or malicious.
If you are selling products directly from your website its essential to have a payment gateway system to allow payments to go straight into the businesses nominated bank account right after the transaction.
Shopping cart platforms are built using a scripting language and it’s essential that the hosting provider’s server is equipped to read those languages. PHP is the most commonly used language for shopping cart platforms and these can either be a template cart system or a custom built system.
The other thing to consider is the operating system being used on the provider’s server. There are predominantly two major server operating systems, that being Windows and UNIX. The two will give you the same result but will all depend on what languages your website is built in. If you are using ASP.NET and MSSQL you will need windows. If it’s using PHP, Python, MySQL then UNIX is for you. Depending on the technologies you are using will depend on the operating system you need to use. Some hosting providers give you the option for both systems and some only the one type. Over all a UNIX operating system has more functionality and is easier to use.
The location of the business and the target audience also needs to be taken into consideration as to what country the website will be hosted in. Normally where the majority of traffic or customers come from would be the best place to host the website. It’s best to set up and host the website in relation to the intended target. If your business is aimed to target Australian consumers its best hosted in Australia.
Databases will be needed to store all your information about your products and customers. The hosting provider must have SQL databases for you to implement an online store.
The webhost should also have a hosted Email service so that you can create multiple email accounts for administrators, sales reps, general staff, and being able to manage emails accounts from your control panel.
Security & Backups.
Your hosting provider should have solid security and backup protocols and clearly state what you need to do to keep you website files and data safe. The protection to look for in a webhost is a firewall which protects against malicious and daily backup procedures. Your files and databases should be backed up daily so if anything unexpected happens your site and database cam be restored from where it left off.
Your chosen host should have 24 hrs. 7 days a week support system so if you have any problems you can have them resolved quickly. The Data center should also be monitored 24 hrs per day . Response times to your requests should also to be considered as you don’t want to be waiting for hours or even days to get your problem solved. The technicians should be located within your time zone.
To manage your hosting account you will need a user interface. This will enable you to control and access email accounts, domain management, and databases. This also gives you statistics for your website with the amount of visits, the duration and, where your visitors come from. The user interface will also display your account and billing details. Be sure it’s easy to use such as the industry standard Cpanel of similar.
Disk Space & Bandwidth
The storage and bandwidth capacities need to be looked when choosing the right plan. The disk storage works similar to that of you own hard drive on your PC. You need to have sufficient disk space to hold all your files and data. As your online store will grow over time more pages, products will be added and your database will expand. Each hosting provider will have hosting packages with different amounts of disk space and bandwidth depending on the outlook of your site will depend on which plan is needed.
Bandwidth is the amount of data transfer over a period of time. When you get a visitor on your site they will be downloading your pages, content, images, video and accessing your database these all contribute to your bandwidth allowance. The more traffic your site endures the more bandwidth is needed. If you exceed your allocated bandwidth you can be charged and excess fee per GB or depending on your plan conditions your site may be shut down.
You will need to be able to compensate your bandwidth if your traffic suddenly increases from marketing campaigns or unpredicted spikes. This by making sure your provider allows you to go over you allocation with a pay per Gb or being able to expand to a larger plan quickly when needed.
There are different types of servers to consider listed below.
- Virtual private server (VPS)
- Dedicated server
- Cloud based.
For a large online retailer I would suggest using a VPS or dedicated server. Shared hosting is far cheaper but I will compensate the security and reliability of the site. Shared hosting may have up to 100 accounts on the same server which share the disk space and bandwidth. On a VPS there is only one account per server but there could be as many as 100 VPS per machine. On a VPS you get total control of your server and your allocation of disk space and ram is not shared between other accounts on the same machine.
Evaluating and comparison of Web Hosting services
This report will focus on evaluating and comparing two web hosting providers within Australia aimed and focusing on the larger scale retailers operating an online shopping cart (ecommerce site). The report introduces the main features of both providers and well as pricing, customer support, and service level agreements.
The two providers this report will evaluate are, Quadra Hosting and Crucial Pty Ltd. Quadra hosting has been chosen as I have used them in the past and current, therefor can evidently back up their support and service. Crucial has been chosen from a google search and without the knowledge of their service or any other recommendations. A non-bias approach will be taken and making the comparison evaluation from the information given by both companies.
Quadra hosting is an Australian operated company based in Queensland and the data center based in Sydney, where the websites are physically hosted. They have also a mirror company in the United States which is based in Oregon and the data center in Texas. They were established in 2002 and have a variety of customers ranging from government departments to small and large business within Australia and around the world.
We will start of by delving in with a brief overview of what they have to offer and their key features, their security and support, and then into more detail into their specs, plans and pricing.
Quadra hosting provides hosting from a single domain package right through to a virtual private server, utilizing both windows and UNIX operating systems. The main benefit’s with Quadra is with their multi domain web hosting platform which enables multiple domains on the one hosting account. Unlike most others which use a domain add-on to add additional domains. The difference is an add-on domain will sit inside your main domain directory, with Quadra hosting system each domain will have its own directory making each domain more flexible and secure. Quadra hosting also uses a multi-server cluster this giving separate servers for individual services. This meaning a separate server for web, email, MySQL, etc…, making your web applications run smoother and faster.
Support and security
To start with Quadra Hosting has an extensive support section that will help with most concerns and questions. The documentation carries the knowledgebase section with articles, a FAQ section, and numerous user guide/tutorials which include setting up your account configuring email clients, databases, domain name etc…
For any problems they you may have there is a 24hr ticket support process in areas from sales to tech support. These tickets are normally answered within an hour 7 days a week and any issue resolved quickly. Antispam and antivirus software is used with the email service however they don’t guarantee 100% the spam and viruses will not come through but always ensure protection is up to date.
Quadra Hosting has a reliable and secure set up and takes security seriously, by using firewall protection keeping up to date with security patches and using PHP’s ” open_basedir ” function to prevent cross site access. On the windows platform each site is assigned a unique ID.
There is emphasis on reliability and they guarantee 99.9% uptime utilizing redundant hardware. The network and services are monitored 24/7.
The utilization of RAID Arrays are used on all their servers which will protect data against any disk failure, and to further protect your databases and files an off-server backup is performed daily and kept on a different server. This is a must have as if your website happens to get hacked or malicious software runs through it and files get deleted you are able to get your website and database back up and running as where it left off.
Control Panel and website features
The control panel is well laid out any easy to use similar to Cpanel. You have total control of email accounts databases and domains allowing you to do anything you need to do. All your account information as well as billing is accessed by the control panel. They provide one click application installer such as WordPress, open cart etc… and many more. Detailed site statistics to monitor your sites performance.
Quadra Hosting provide all the necessary languages and features to run an online store.
- PHP scripting
You are able to run an e-commerce site with integrated shopping cart and online payment systems. Quadra Hosting specialize with the PHP scripting language and have trained PHP experts that can assist any PHP developer with any problem they may arise.
Dedicated IP address and dedicated SSL are available at an extra cost, and come with a free shared SSL.
Payment gateway support is offered for most of the large banks as well as online payment systems such as PayPal.
Web Hosting pricing and Plans
Quadra hosting have servers in the USA and Australia, and they have hosting plans consisting of a choice of Windows or UNIX, shared or VPS (Virtual Private Server).
Their VPS packages are full managed and monitored 24Hrs a day by Quadra’s trained staff.
Below is a comparison of Quadra Hosting’s VPS packaging. I have included one of their shared hosting packages just for a comparison of price which is $917 per year. What is offered in the shared hosing package is generally the same in a VPS. The VM value Plan (see below) would be a good starting point priced at just under $4200 per year with a $199.95 set up fee, plus the only added cost is the domain name and the SSL which is $33 per year.
The SSL certificate consists of:
- Domain validated certificate
- 2048 bit Industry Standard SSL Certificate
- Trusted by all popular Browsers
- 9% Browser Compatibility
- 128/256 bit encryption – the same high level of security as any other SSL Certificates on the market.
- $10,000 relying party warranty
Web Hosting VPS PLANS
|Features||VM Basic||VM Value||VM Standard||VM Pro|
|RAM||1G||2G||4G||4G (32 bit) or
8G (64 bit)
(extra traffic $4.40/GB)
|CPU (Number of Cores)||1||2||2||4|
|Storage subsystem||High performance SAS RAID Array|
|Disk Space for Operating System||15-50GB|
|Disk Space for User Data||25GB||50GB||75GB||100GB|
|Total Disk Space||40-75GB||65-100GB||90-125GB||115-150GB|
|Systems Management||Fully configured and managed by Quadra Hosting|
|Systems Monitoring||24×7 Automated System and Service Monitoring|
|Control Panel||H-Sphere Web Based Control Panel|
|Number of Domains||unlimited domains, subdomains, and aliases|
|Number of Email Accounts||unlimited POP3 and IMAP accounts|
|Number of FTP Logins||unlimited|
|Databases||Unlimited databases when running the database server on your own VM.
MySQL server requires Unix Server
|Uptime Guarantee||99.9% Uptime Guarantee|
|Redundant DNS Servers outside your VM||Geographically diverse DNS servers|
|Daily Backup||Automatic data protection|
|Operating System Options:||Windows 2003 (32 bit)
Windows 2008 R2 Server (64-bit)
Centos 5/6 64-bit
Shared Web hosting plan.
Unix Web Hosting Plans
|Hosting Fees & Discounts|
|Pre-pay quarterly (5% discount)||$256.36/qtr|
|Pre-pay yearly (15% discount)||$917.49/yr|
|Storage and Bandwidth|
why not unlimited disk space?
|Monthly Data Transfer||1000GB|
|Web Sites (True Multi Domain)||unlimited|
|Domain Aliases / Pointers||unlimited|
|Dedicated IP Address||$3.30/ip/month|
(on a separate server)
|Web Mail Access|
|Anti Spam / Anti Virus|
|Use Google Mail|
|PHP5 with PEAR|
|Perl CGI / FastCGI|
|Python CGI / FastCGI|
(on a separate server)
(on a separate server)
|Custom SSL Certificate2,3|
|Payment Gateway Support|
|Account Control Panel|
|Raw HTTP Logs|
|Web Based File Manager|
|SiteStudio Design Tool|
|Softaculous App Installer|
|24/7 FTP Access|
|Multiple Sub-FTP Accounts|
|Virtual and Anonymous FTP|
|Daily and Weekly Backup|
|Restore from backup||FREE|
|Multi Server Clustering|
|Fast Enterprise Grade SAS Disks|
|Geographically Diverse DNS|
|Password Protected Directories|
|Can run Joomla, WordPress, vBulletin, etc.|
|Custom Error Pages|
|Custom Mime Types|
|Custom DNS Records|
|SSH/Secure Shell Access|
|Pre-pay quarterly (5% discount)||$256.36/qtr|
|Pre-pay yearly (15% discount)||$917.49/yr|
For their term and conditions Quadra have a clear policy and Service level Agreement (SLA).
In summary Quadra Hosting is a good and reliable company to host an e-commerce site with all the features ready that’s needed to manage your site.
All information has come from their site and can be visited at: http://www.quadrahosting.com.au