OpenCart gives you the freedom to host your ecommerce website with any hosting company, for any price, anywhere in the World. However, having to choose your own hosting company can often be a daunting task - especially if this is your first website.
Making sure that your website is hosted with the best hosting company for you is one of the most important steps in setting up your new store. Whether you get 50 visits a month or 50 million, ensure that you check out multiple hosting companies before signing up to one - and remember, a low price doesn’t always mean you’re getting a great deal.
We’ve outlined 8 questions that you should ask and check before signing up, as well as including the basic server requirements for running your OpenCart store below. If you have any other recommendations, share them in the comments section below!
OpenCart server requirements
These extensions must be enabled for OpenCart to install properly on the web server:
- Web Server (Apache suggested)
- PHP 5.3+
- Database (MySQLi suggested)
Required PHP libraries / modules:
- GD Library
What level of support do they offer?
No one wants to be stuck alone when something goes wrong. It’s important to check how much support you’ll receive if your website ever goes down and who you can contact. Make sure to check:
- Support hours / availability - if your website goes down at 3am, will someone be available to put it live again?
- Average response time - how long will it take an issue to be resolved?
- Available options for contacting - e.g. email, phone, ticket system, live chat.
- Language - if you’re using a hosting company from another country, ensure that they offer support in your language.
Do they take regular back ups?
If something goes wrong with your host’s servers, it’s important to know that your website is still intact. Back ups of your website are especially important if you don’t have the ability to take them yourself or you don’t have a developer to do it for you. Check to see how often they take back ups and if there are any hidden costs involved.
What is their average percentage uptime?
When looking for a new host, ask them what their average percentage uptime is - this is the amount of time that their servers will be working as normal without going down. Ideally, you should look for a hosting company who offers 99% or higher uptime.
Will my site be on a shared or a dedicated server?
There are two main options available when signing up for hosting: a shared server or a dedicated server. Whilst this is a personal choice and is highly dependant on each individual site, it’s important to know which option you’ll be using.
Shared hosting is where multiple websites are hosted on the same server. This tends to be significantly more affordable (especially for smaller ecommerce stores) but can be unreliable as a problem or security issue with another website on the server can cause issues with the whole server - including your website.
Dedicated hosting means that you’ll be the only website hosted on the server, and often allows you to have more bandwidth or disk space as you won’t have to share the resources with other websites. However, dedicated servers can be a lot more expensive than shared hosting.
Do they offer scalable hosting plans?
As your company grows and gains more visitors, you may need to increase the amount of bandwidth or storage that you’re allocated to keep up. Check to see how easy it is to move up and down hosting plans - most companies allow you to simply switch your plan from within your account area. Remember to ask if there are any additional costs or admin fees for changing plans.
Are there any hidden fees?
As with anything, make sure to read the small print before signing any contracts with your new hosting company. As well as costs for moving up and down plans, check to see if there are any sign-up fees or exit fees that may be hidden in the terms & conditions.
What will happen if I go over my usage limits?
A sudden increase of traffic is always great for business & sales, however it can come with some harsh ramifications from your hosting company if you go over your monthly allowances. Every hosting company is different, so check what their policy is for going over your limit - will they immediately cut off / take down your site if it goes over the limit? Will they send you a pre-warning notification to let you know that you’re getting close to your limit? Are there any additional charges for going over your limit?
Where are the servers based?
As a general rule, you should always aim to be hosted on a server based in the country where your main target audience is located. This can help your website to run quicker in your target audience’s location and can also help boost your website’s SEO.
Do you have any other recommendations for someone looking for a new hosting company? Share them in the comments section below!