Unless you’re a coder or talented web designer, chances are you will be using a content management system (CMS) as the foundation for your website. One of the most versatile CMS solutions for e-commerce sites is Magento. It has a plethora of features and add-ons that can accommodate the requirements of all kinds of online stores, with an endless number of themes and possible customizations, so you can develop your own unique brand that stands out from the crowd. It’s open source nature means the possibilities are endless, though you will have to pay for something truly unique.
Despite being open source, the developers also offer special paid Enterprise and Professional Editions for larger businesses, which have more functionality and features out of the box, as well as some extra support. Unfortunately Magento (which is now owned by Ebay) does not have its own webhosting solution following the closure of Magento Go in 2015. So if you decide to use the platform for your business you’ll need to find a competent host to get the site online.
What Is Magento Hosting?
Magento is a pretty advanced system that makes use of the PHP programming language, MySQL databases, and requires all sorts of technical requirements from the server. While most hosts do provide compatibility on paper, there are still other considerations to take in to account. Magento is known for using a lot of resources and can slow down servers that are ill-equipped or not properly configured. If you aren’t an expert yourself and the host doesn’t know how to manage Magento, it won’t be a very good experience.
A webhost that specializes in “Magento Hosting”, or who at least guarantees support for the system as part of their broader range of services, may be classified as a Magento Host, and is what you should be looking for.
What will usually set these apart from other hosts, is that they have fine tuned their servers with Magento specifically in mind. This often means your site will perform better on one of these plans than on something setup for more general use. From configuring Magento itself, to installation of themes and add-ons, a good Magento host will be able to provide specialized support staff who are experts in all aspects of the platform.
Types of Magento Hosting
Magento hosting falls within all of the same categories as regular hosting, though it works best on Linux servers. This means that if you’re just starting out and do not expect to be getting many hits each day, you can use Magento in a shared environment, paying only a few dollars per month. However even with small amounts of traffic it is known to be a bit of a resource hog, so you may want to bypass this option altogether unless you’re just using it for testing purposes.
If you know you’ll be using a lot of resources for your online store, a host offering Virtual Private Servers (VPS) with Magento support, may be a better option, because you’ll be guaranteed a certain amount of processing power, memory and bandwidth. You may even wish to rent a dedicated server just to power your Magento based website, though you’ll either have to be competent enough to set everything up yourself or find a host that will do it for you.
A growing method of getting Magento online is to host it on a cloud network, which allows for seamless scalability of resources for particularly popular websites. If you launch a new product and it goes viral, you will not have to worry about crashes or exorbitant upgrade charges when the traffic rolls in. That’s because cloud hosting draws its resources from a vast network of servers, and you are usually only billed for the precise amount of resources you use each month. This is often on a per hour rate, and can be charged as “pay as you go.”
Webhosts will use a range of other terms such as “Optimized” or “Specialized” for Magento hosting, but these usually just refer to the fact that they actively support Magento.
Some hosting plans will come with a Content Delivery Network for faster site loading, and a range of other features specifically for Magento.
Why Use Magento Hosting?
If you choose Magento as your content management system, there are many reasons to choose a specialized host, not least the reassurance that everything will work:
- Functionality: You can be reassured that your host has everything to support a Magento installation, including the Linux operating system for the server, PHP and MySQL for the pages and databases, all of the correct server side extensions, and a lot of other technical requirements. It can be a nightmare using a regular hosting package and then realizing certain things are missing, or only work in a slow and inefficient manner.
- Speed: Many hosts have the necessary features to support a Magento installation and you may be able to get it running quite easily using a guide, but those with specialized plans will have servers specifically optimized for the system. All things considered, this means your e-commerce website will load faster and operate smoother. Magento is known as being a resource hog, so unprepared hosts may end up forcing you to upgrade to a more expensive server, or you’ll simply have a slow loading site, which will have a negative impact on your business.
- Support: Going with a specialized Magento hosting plan also means support staff will be better equipped to solve issues specific to the CMS. This usually includes some kind of automated installation, as well as 24/7 help with add-ons, themes, databases, and all of the backend technical stuff that you might not fully grasp.
- Magento Perks: To sweeten the deal hosts might provide a range of “free” perks specific to Magento. These could include a selection of premium and free themes and add-ons, a testing area so you can develop and view your site without it being public, a CDN for better performance, easy upgrades and premium versions of Magento as part of the monthly bill, and various other features depending on what each host offers.
What to Look For In A Good Magento Host?
When searching for a competent Magento host there are certain features you may want to look out for, to ensure that you’re getting a good deal.
- 1-Click Install or Free Installation: This means you don’t have to handle any of the technicalities involved with the installation process. 1-Click install is particularly beneficial as you do not have to wait for support staff. All you need to do is go through a few self-explanatory steps from within your control panel and the server will do the rest automatically. You may even be able to operate multiple Magento installations under the one account.
- Theme Installation: Does the host install themes for you, or have a system that allows you to install them easily yourself? 1-click theme installation is very handy if you don’t know what your site should look like and wish to test out several different styles.
- Magento Support: Once your site is up and running will support staff be able to help you upon request, or is it up to you to fix any problems you run in to? At the very least do they provide tutorials for a list of common functions and problems? 24/7 phone and email support is ideal. Even the most savvy webmasters will experience at least a few hiccups along the way.
- Magento Partner: If a host is a Magento Partner, this means they have been officially accredited by the makers of the system and agree to meet certain standards of support and performance. This is the perfect sign that your site will run smoothly. They may also be able to provide you special premium versions of Magento with extended functionality and features.
- Free CDN: A Content Delivery Network (CDN) is a form of caching that stores a snapshot of your website on servers in different geographic locations. When a user visits your site they are connected to the cache on the closest server to them. In essence what this does is speed up your site and reduce the amount of resources required.
- Testing and Tools: Does the host provide any extra tools that make things easier, such as a test environment to work on and preview your site before going live or making changes?
- Scalability: Because Magento is very resource intensive, as your site grows you’re likely to need a simple solution for upgrading. Does the host provide this? If not consider going for a cloud hosted solution, as this is usually built in to all plans, Magento or otherwise.
- PCI Compliance: Your online store will most likely be accepting credit card payments. If you’re not doing this through a third party like Paypal, many countries legally require the site to be “PCI compliant”, which is a special security mechanism that needs to be set up through the server. It is important to check that your host is compliant if you’re going down this route, because you could end breaking the law and being slapped with a series of hefty fines.
Magento Hosting Considerations
- Price: There are not necessarily any downsides to Magento hosting. If you have decided that this is the platform you want to use, then a specialised host is the best possible option. Perhaps the only negative is that the cost of hosting and support is quite a bit higher than traditional webhosting. This is because Magento is much more resource intensive than most other platforms. Servers are often specially optimized for this, and support staff need extra expertise to help with all of the different features, both of which are factored in to the cost.Furthermore if you are unsure about Magento and just want to try it for a while, the upfront costs do not make this an easy endeavour. It’s not the kind of project to launch on a whim.
- Personalization: If you intend to develop your own unique brand there’s only so far free, and even premium themes and add-ons will take you. To personalize your website you may want to hire a freelancer to make a theme or add-on specifically to your requirements. These however may make the site use even more resources.
If you are serious about starting a business with Magento then you absolutely need some kind of specialized hosting plan, so you can be sure the site will run smoothly and you have the required support should something go wrong. Scrimping on support or features now may end up costing you more money in the long run.
Furthermore while beginner plans are enticing and will do the job if you’re just starting out, don’t be fooled in to thinking this will last forever. Once you reach a few thousands hits a day, you will be paying hundreds in hosting costs each month. With that many hits however, you should be making a substantial profit on sales.
Below are some of the top Magento hosts:
Recommended Magento Hosts
Siteground: is commonly listed as one of the best Magento hosts because of its broad range of features. They provide 1-click Magento installation, free theme installation, specialised support and tutorials, and a free CDN. Pricing starts at just $3.95 per month if you buy 12 months in one go, which they claim will handle up to 10,000 monthly hits. If you want PCI Compliance you will need to upgrade to a $29.95 package.
LiquidWeb: is well known within the Magento community for its top notch 24/7 support, on both shared and dedicated hosting plans. The one downside is they do not support PCI Compliance, but if you use a third party service like Paypal, this shouldn’t be a major issue.
Hostgator: has stepped up its Magento support and now offers plans from just $3.96 per month if you buy the year in advance. They offer 1-click install, specialised support, and a free CDN. However they do not provide free theme installation.
Nexcess: are another host renowned for their brilliant support system, which is a major selling point for a complex CMS like Magento. As a Magento Platinum Partner there will be no problem they can’t solve. Pricing starts at $19.95 per month, but unfortunately CDNs are no available until you buy a $189.95 package.
Arvixe: offer both a 1-click install solution, but also free manual installation if you have a specific version of Magento or are moving from another host. Their starter plan is just $4.95 a month for a year up front, and comes with a free CDN and specialized support.
Peer1: is a Platinum Magento partner and aim their service at customers with larger websites, so you will need to get a personal quote before you can proceed. Because they’re a partner their server performance is excellent, and support is available 24/7 by phone.
Rackspace: are also a Platinum Partner and offer unrivalled performance with their cloud hosted Magento solutions. They describe their smallest package as supporting 100 customers online at the same time, and a 150,000 product limit. Pricing is steep, but the service is aimed at the real movers and shakers who will be using a lot of bandwidth and resources. They are also PCI Compliant.