Ecommerce hosting provides you with the features you need to run a fully functional and secure online store. The right ecommerce host can help you protect sensitive customer data, effectively manage product searches and orders, and deliver an online shopping experience that will keep your customers coming back again and again.
An ecommerce host will be able to provide you with all the basics needed for any Website: ample disk space and bandwidth, email accounts, email forwarding and autoresponders, databases and support for mailing lists, discussion forums, Weblogging, content management and other applications. In addition, though, an ecommerce host offers features specifically for conducting secure and customer-friendly transactions online.
Those features typically include one or several shopping cart applications, SSL (Secure Socket Layer), digital certificates and support for online security and PayPal integration. An ecommerce hosting plan might also include a number of scripts to help you deliver customer-friendly service via live chat, customer polling, guestbooks, email marketing and customer feedback.
To help you actually conduct financial transactions online, you'll also need a merchant account. This will allow you to process credit-card payments either on the Web or by phone. Depending on the type of shopping carts your host provides, your merchant account provider might be able to automatically process customer payments as they are made in real time. However, some shopping carts will require you to manually process each order as it comes in ... not a viable option for a very large or busy ecommerce site.
While you can in theory install and operate freeware or shareware scripts to conduct business online, a true ecommerce hosting shared or dedicated plan is usually a better bet for both you and your customers. A good ecommerce host can help you set up your online store quickly and start taking orders securely right away without all the headaches of do-it-yourself script installing, maintenance and order management.
As you are selecting an ecommerce website hosting plan, you need to consider the quality of the customer support the prospective web host provides. We review each company by features, cost, and support prior to them being ranked on our list. Each company that is on our list offers the higher quality of customer support by phone as well as email.