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Operating An E-Commerce Store

Updated - 06/06/2003

The needs of a business website are a little more involved than the needs of a standard personal website. There are matters of information security, exceptional reliability and E-Commerce functionality that need to be addressed when choosing a host for such a site. In this article, we define the main components necessary to take part in E-Commerce and how your web host can provide most of these for you.

The Main Components Of E-Commerce

Putting together an E-Commerce website is much easier once you understand how all the components work together. Those main components will always consist of the following:

  • A reliable web hosting provider with the right features
  • Merchant account for accepting credit cards
  • An E-Commerce shopping cart program
  • Some form of real-time processing gateway

This is a long sentence, but basically the way it works is that your web host shows your website to the world, your shopping cart helps your customers order easily, a merchant account allows you to accept credit cards, and real-time processing processes the orders in instantly and approved transactions are credited to your merchant account. All are independent components but they all function together to make E-Commerce work.

The Features Of An E-Commerce Hosting Account

If choosing a reliable hosting provider that has plenty of bandwidth and features is important for the standard website owner, then it is probably 10 times more important to the E-Commerce site owner. How fast your site loads and any downtime it experiences can have a major effect on customer reaction. You'll want to be sure to review any host thoroughly, getting as many reviews of them as possible before buying.

As far as important features, an E-Commerce hosting account should include:

  • A guarantee of 99.9% uptime. Don't just take the host's word for it. Read several reviews on any host before you entrust your online business to their servers.
  • At least 200 MB of disk space, depending upon the size of your site. If you use databases to store product / customer information, then you will use up more space than the average site.
  • At least 20 GB of data transfer. Some sites will need more or less, but that will depend upon how many customers you can attract to your website.
  • Some form of SSL certificate for secure transactions. You may not need this if you choose a payment processor that already has SSL for their pages, but it doesn't hurt to place feedback forms and other pages where customers may fill out information on an SSL server.
  • Toll-free phone support - For an E-Commerce site, always pick a host with this feature.

Aside for these very important features listed above, make sure the hosting account has any dynamic web page platform (ASP, PHP, Cold Fusion, JSP) that you intend to use and the appropriate database technology (MySQL, MS Access).

Before you commit to any of the other three main components on an E-Commerce site, you'll need to make sure they each work with each other. Your shopping cart must be compatible with your host and the cart must be compatible with your payment processor. When picking an one component, read its product information to find what other types of programs it is fully-compatible with.

Most hosts that offer an "E-Commerce hosting account" will have one or more shopping carts already loaded on the account. If you want a recommendation on a reliable, powerful shopping cart, you might pick a host that has Miva Merchant already installed. It is one of the most widely-used and trusted shopping cart platforms on the Internet. Also, choosing a payment processor like is almost always a safe bet, since they are compatible with just about any major shopping cart. And finally, almost any major merchant account provider, like your business bank or, will be compatible with

Find A Good Designer To Do The Work For You

If you're uncomfortable with the notion of putting all these components together, you should find a web designer who can integrate these elements into a functioning website. If you are not familiar with setting up web pages and web-based programs, setting up an E-Commerce site might prove to more more challenging than you expect. Check our web designer listings for more information on finding an E-Commerce website developer that can accomplish this task for you.

If you'd like to read some more helpful articles on choosing a low cost hosting provider, then please return to our Hosting Guides section.

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