A Magento hosting tutorial on how to choose the best hosting provider in 2019
Choosing the right Magento hosting provider is hard. The web hosting market is growing faster than the overall economy with up to 16% CAGR gain predicted for 2018-2023 and total market size of $32+ billion dollars.
This means there’s a huge availability of hosting services from both new and established brands. Making the right choice in such a vast market is tough. Our goal is to help you decide.
Whether you need a home for a brand new web store or want a better service for an existing project, this guide is for you.
What’s Important and What’s Not
The best way to choose the right hosting provider is to know exactly what you are looking for. So even before you start your search – decide what is important for you in web hosting and go from there.
Real Performance vs Perceived Performance
There are two types of website performance. Real and perceived. Both are important.
Real performance is more important for search engine robots such as Google crawlers. They measure the technical parameters of your store: server response, time to first byte, time to last byte, etc.
The target performance here is 200 ms for time-to-first-byte and under 2 seconds for time-to-last-byte. These values supposedly don’t directly influence rankings but at the same time, they kind of do, although indirectly. So don’t dismiss them entirely. Google looks at a number of user behavior metrics to determine whether the web store brings value to the customer.
If user stays are short, view depth is low, and the average time of visit is abysmal – don’t be surprised that your website sinks lower and lower with every search index update.
Perceived performance. This is an interesting metric. Some UX researchers argue that it’s even more important than the actual store speed. You see, there are two types of speed.
Depending on whether you are bored or engaged, a few seconds can pass either lightning fast or painfully slow. So let’s take a closer look at “brain time” or perceived performance and how it compares to “real time”. If you want a website to feel fast, you’ll need to optimize it.
Types of Hosting
There are several main hosting types that you need to understand:
- shared hosting,
- VPS hosting,
- dedicated hosting,
- cloud hosting.
When you look at the big picture, each hosting type emphasizes a different business value.
Shared hosting is all about being beginner-friendly, accessible, and cost-effective. It’s almost always the hosting of choice for new business owners who are only getting their feet wet in the market. They are either new to e-Commerce or Magento in particular. They look to create a working web store from scratch and aren’t usually prepared to invest a lot of money in infrastructure.
- cost-effective, a decent choice for complete Magento beginners,
- fast configuration and setup,
- on-demand tech support.
- low flexibility in setup and configuration,
- poor scaling options,
- lower resistance to vulnerabilities,
- extremely poor performance if your website is even slightly popular
Use shared hosting when:
- you want to start a new store / try out a new business idea,
- you don’t expect a lot of traffic or have no clue how many visitors you are going to get during the first few months (no more than 10 orders / day),
- you need good tech support (just make sure it’s at least half decent)
- you have a modest budget and want to save money on infrastructure,
- your store is lightweight, doesn’t have a ton of extensions or products.
Generally speaking, shared hosting for Magento is suboptimal. Look for an alternative if you can.
Virtual private server.
VPS is as close to a real dedicated server as it gets. It’s a hosting solution that offers you the freedom of your own dedicated server inside the traditional shared hosting environment. The compromise here is that you don’t really own any hardware (but at the same time you can get tech support team help if anything goes wrong).
VPS is a solid solution for 10-50 orders per day and decent foot traffic. More than that and you’ll want to look for something else.
Your server is a virtual machine, one of many others that are running on a physical server. And even though you still share resources with other users, instead of playing a tug of war with them for RAM or CPU time you get guaranteed control over everything you have paid for.
VPS shares similar pros and cons with a dedicated server but without the need to invest in the infrastructure.
Dedicated hosting allows Magento store owners to focus on highly customized hardware solutions, fine configuration of every aspect of your infrastructure, independence from outside influence in both hardware and software choices, and a generally DIY approach.
It’s a good solution for Magento stores with 50-500 new orders every day.
The downsides are obvious. A dedicated server is hard to scale up or down quickly. It’s both expensive and slow to order a part, wait for it to arrive, and then have someone physically install it in your machine.
A dedicated server requires expert knowledge of Magento hosting environment so if anything goes wrong you are basically on your own.
Dedicated hosting is great when you know exact traffic numbers on your website, have a solid grasp of how to configure your hosting environment and troubleshoot any issues.
- best performance per dollar spent,
- high flexibility in setup and configuration,
- top notch security (if you know how to set it up properly),
- lots of room to experiment and create a custom-tailored solution,
- great for mission-critical hosting tasks.
- scalability options are extremely limited,
- if you have a problem or mess up, you are on your own,
- high initial cost and high upgrade cost,
- hard and expensive to downgrade,
- needs admin staff for service/maintenance.
Use dedicated hosting when:
- you need to build an extremely customized business-critical solution,
- cost is not an issue,
- you understand your needs really well and know that you can handle typical load spikes,
- you won’t need to suddenly/constantly upscale or downscale your hardware,
- you need full control over everything – the hardware, the firmware, and the software of your machine.
Cloud hosting focuses on scalability which means you can have a web store with any number of orders, but bear in mind that until you have at least 100 orders per day cloud hosting is not an optimal solution.
It is a great solution for Magento stores that have stark seasonal user spikes, expect extreme loads during sales, special events, or holidays. Cloud hosting is easy to scale up or down which means your web store remains responsive and fast but at the same time you don’t have to pay for unused hardware.
Cloud hosting is not as straightforward in pricing as other hosting solutions. Most commonly it’s advertised as a pay-as-you-go service but in reality payment plans and scaling is different for every provider so you still have to choose which of them suits you best.
- best scalability for your money,
- you get most advantages of a VPS without the negatives,
- it’s the future! Eventually, cloud hosting will replace both shared and dedicated hosting.
- you still need to manage your hosting to avoid overpaying for it,
- some providers offer upscaling and downscaling web servers only after a reboot which can lead to a less-than-perfect uptime and interruptions to customer experience,
- extremely hard to set up and configure if you have no idea what you are doing – you’ll need an expert level team to leverage all the benefits of the cloud without sacrificing server speeds,
- monthly hosting expenses are more or less predictable for a well-configured web store but even then you can expect some fluctuations (around 20-50%) month to month.
Use cloud hosting when:
- your business has high seasonality and you need to scale up and down at least 1-2 times a year,
- you need a lot of Magento instances for development/testing/demos,
- your store needs to be online no matter what – cloud hosting has good redundancy and reliability, although there can be some uptime concerns,
- disaster recovery/damage control matters more than cutting costs.
Some services offer a convenient way to set up and run your production environment. And that’s great. But it’s more important to choose a hosting provider who offers continuous help in day-to-day operations. And here’s why. You setup your server once. You forget about it. But all the other things that can spoil your day will happen after that event.
Look for a reliable, experienced, and helpful team of experts that could assist you if something goes horribly wrong. Even if you need their help rarely, it’s still an extremely important thing to always know there are people who can help you out in a tough situation.
Find a customer support team with short reaction time and good knowledge of your specific technology stack. Don’t be shy to ask how well they are acquainted with the tools and tech you use.
It’s important to choose someone with extensive experience in Magento hosting. The platform has a lot of hidden pitfalls and complex mechanisms so not everyone will be able to understand your Magento-specific challenges.
Look for a hosting provider that has a strong Magento support team. You’ll thank us later.
Backups and Damage Control
Businesses grow on reliability and trust. If your website is down, you lose sales, customers, leads, and Google search rank.
To mitigate these risks, you need a solid backup system and a good firewall setup. Ask your potential hosting provider:
- what kind of backups they offer,
- how often they will make backups,
- whether or not they have a recovery strategy,
- what will they do if the website goes down,
- what tools they have in place to protect from viruses and DDoS attacks (shield, scan, clean, recover),
- what happens during a hardware failure,
- what is their normal reaction time and what will it be during an emergency.
The more complete answers you get, the better. Don’t hesitate to ask other questions that are important to you.
Integration With Third-Party Solutions
Out of the box, default Magento is not a lightweight platform. It works best when integrated with a well-thought-out caching solution such as Redis and Varnish.
Check whether your potential hosting provider knows these tools well and is comfortable integrating with them.
CDN is another crucial part of Magento optimization strategy. Make sure your hosting provider supports your CDN of choice (or offers a good alternative) and has an adequate integration knowledgebase in case you need any help.
Reviews, Testimonials, and Industry Awards
Don’t chase the lowest bidder. Remember that to make a low price offer, this provider will have to cut corners somewhere. At the very least you should know where your potential hosting provider makes these shortcuts.
Take a look at the market leaders. You’ll identify them from the variety of positive reviews, overall mentions, personal recommendations, and customer testimonials. And while we don’t suggest that you rely completely on other people’s opinions, you might want to take them into consideration.
Choosing a solid web host even for something as great as Magento can be a challenging proposition. Thanks to affiliate marketing and other sponsorships, there are many sources which have succumbed to temptation and given in to fluffed up reviews.
If you’re looking for a solid review of Magento (or anything else even actually), look out for reviewers who are willing to bolster their text with hard data. It really is difficult to argue with facts.
Those take the time to do extensive tests and perform in-dept analysis like the one I’ve seen at Onilab is also a good example.
— Jerry Low, founder @ Web Hosting Secret Revealed
Location, Location, Location
We’ve come to think about the Internet as an ethereal, cord-free thing that works through the air. On the contrary, even in 2019, we are heavily dependent on physical land and submarine data cables that connect humanity with each other from Spitsbergen, Norway to Tierra del Fuego, Argentina – and everything in between.
So if the majority of your customer base is in the UK, it’s not a good idea to host a website in the US and vice versa. Look for a UK-based Magento web hosting provider, this will make your store faster for all European customers.
If your target audience is so diverse that you can’t determine which location is best, choose the data center closest to the majority of your customers. Install a CDN service to partially mitigate higher ping for everybody else.
If you can choose between a large connection hub such as London or a small regional data center, go with the hub. It will offer better connectivity to every other place in the world which will translate into shorter server response and better user experience.
As a business owner, you actually shouldn’t care too much whether your server environment is built around Linux or Windows for Magento hosting. However, as a webmaster you should know that Linux is way more popular for most server applications and Windows is only used for extremely specific cases where it cannot be avoided. It’s also not free!
Choosing the right Linux distribution is often a matter of taste. There are a lot of good alternatives here, from RedHat to CentOS and everything in between. Our personal recommendation will go to Ubuntu but you could also give a try to CentOS, Fedora, or Debian.
Bear in mind that some use cases require a specific OS that works better within a certain scenario. For example, if your project relies heavily on a microservice architecture and containers, CoreOS will be by far the best choice here.
So even though you might have your personal favorites, some setups simply excel in certain workflows.
PCI Compliant Magento Hosting Recommendations
Shopping online, your customers need to be sure you offer them the best security options. When they share with you their credit card details, your business becomes responsible for safe reception, processing, and storage of this data.
In the ideal world, you should look for a PCI DSS 3.2 Level 1 Service Provider, the highest certification available for web hosters. Of course if you are going to work with the largest web hosting brands such as Amazon Web Services, MS Azure, or Digital Ocean (with most data centers PCI-DSS compliant), this will not be a problem.
However, even though you can almost guarantee that the biggest players will be timely audited and certified for PCI compliance, always do your due diligence and make sure yourself that the service provider you’ve chosen follows these rules.
Best Magento Hosting Providers – Onilab Recommendations
Best Magento Shared Hosting Providers
As a rule, we don’t recommend shared hosting for any Magento store, no matter how small it is. Just don’t do it. Both Magento 1 and Magento 2 need a ton of resources that have to be available to Magento server 24/7.
Sharing computing power and RAM with other websites will make Magento excruciatingly slow. The cost savings are not worth it: losing customers and potential sales to a slow website will cost you more in the long run than breaking the piggy bank and paying top dollar for a decent Magento hosting solution.
Best for Beginner Magento Store Owners
If you are only getting your feet wet with Magento and maybe even e-Commerce as a whole, we suggest you choose a good managed VPS hosting provider. It doesn’t have the ultra-low-budget shortcomings of a shared hosting nor the overwhelmingly high technical requirements of a barebone cloud hosting provider.
Choosing a managed VPS hosting is the middle ground between the inadequately slow shared hosting and the inadequately complex (and often pricey) cloud hosting. You will always have a helpful team of tech support staff ready to help you deal with setup and migration issues.
Best Professional Magento Commerce Hosting
Cloud hosting has grown in popularity over the years. From an inspiring vision to one of the most recommended hosting solutions, cloud hosting has become the go-to advice for too many people.
Amazon Web Services is one of the most popular cloud solutions on the market. However, it is also one of the most overrated. AWS isn’t ideal, especially for novice webmasters. It offers a barebone VM solution that requires a lot of configuration to make it work properly.
Setting up a blank virtual machine on AWS requires a lot of special technical knowledge. Configured incorrectly, AWS can be slow, insecure, and hard to get around. In addition, AWS doesn’t offer a lot of tech support channels – basically leaving users with a community forum to try and sort out any challenges they might have.
Everything you need you have to configure yourself:
- completely set up the LAMP environment,
- install and fine-tune Magento 2,
- optimize your instance for speed (caching and other solutions),
- integrate with a content delivery network,
- setup security environment and configure it in an optimal way.
What About Other Cloud Hosting Providers?
There are a lot of unmanaged cloud hosting services besides AWS.
Some of them are more expensive than others.
There are old players such as Azure and Rackspace that are constantly evolving their offers and new players such as the relatively recent Alibaba Cloud.
So What’s the Best Hosting Choice for Your e-Commerce Use Case? Summary!
We know that most people love quick and easy answers. And we’d really want to point our finger at the best hoster and say, “Here, this is the one. Go host with them.”
Unfortunately, this is not how things work. The optimal choice will depend on your exact needs. Whatever you select – оust make sure they know their way around Magento. You don’t want to be stuck with an offline website at 3 in the morning and no one to help you spin it up again.
If you want to build for performance and know your way around Magento, look for a managed VPS solution. This option will give you the best bang for your buck and at the same time will not leave you completely stranded if something goes wrong. The key here is a strong support team and a reliable, solid server environment.
If you need easy scalability, go with the cloud. Our recommendations here are conservative: both AWS and Sonassi offer solid server environment and reasonable pricing for Magento hosting. Take a look at Google Cloud and Azure for more alternatives. Magento Cloud is also an interesting option if you are looking for a cloud environment that is 100% dedicated to Magento hosting.
Bear in mind that no matter which hosting solution you choose, it will still require a fair bit of work from a dedicated Magento development team to optimize and configure it in the best way possible.
In Search of an Ideal Magento Hosting Provider
Still haven’t decided which Magento hoster is the best for your project?
Let our dev team help you choose the optimal hosting plan and the best server environment for your needs. We have extensive experience migrating Magento stores and working with a variety of hosting providers on both large and small Magento stores, so reach out to us today and let’s talk hosting!