This is a really important item. The speed of your site depends on 2 items:
1. the technology and how well it is put together to build the ecommece engine
2. the speed latency of the hosters servers
Your checklist for hosting on ecommerce :
- What are the technical requirements to run your selected ecommerce product ? Make sure your hoster can meet all of these.
- You will need a dedicate IP address. Make sure your hoster has these available and you may need 2 as a backup.
- What are the response times of the hosting company to support tickets ?
- Where is the hoster physically located ?
- Are they and end game hoster or are they a reseller, if they are a reseller know where they are sourcing their hosting from.
- If you are selling in europe and you are using a US hoster you will need a safe harbour agreement from your hoster to keep you within the data protection laws of europe.
- Can your hoster run schelduled cron jobs for you ? you will need this for reminder emails and support ticket management.
- Are you allows to run live chat on the hosting
- How many concurrent sessions are allowed on the hosting. Some hosters stop at 30 concurrent users as a security precaution to prevent DDOS attacks. Make sure there is room to scale up and expand later. BTW 30 concurrent sessions is too low.
- Does the hoster perform regular backups? is there a restore from backups charge.
- What is the up time guarantee and what is the hosters definition of up time. Some hosters have alot of small print around this and you need to be clear that up time means accessible to the public using an internet browser.
- What is the it up-time record over the last 2 years.
- Have an independent security consultant vet the hoster to make sure they are using the latest security patches to protect their sites. Some hosters setup new machines and never update them, so the service degrades from day one.
- If shared hosting how many other sites do they host per server. If you have 400 other sites on a server then its really too much. You can get a list of the domains on the server you are on, make sure they are all good behaving sites, because if they are not you will suffer along with your 400 other neighbours.
- If you take a dedicated server make sure to purchase a maintenance contract that will upgrade the systems and monitor uptime and come in a fix when the server is down.
- Lastly look for references from other ecommerce sites. Reading online reviews of hosters is a waste of time, because customers with bad mouth or fall over with praise and there is no middle road in hosting reviews.
If you are serious about ecommerce then a dedicated server is the only guarantee of speed. To settle for any form of shared be it VPS, Cloud or Shared hosting is a compromise. You cannot afford a slow site so why chance it ?