Magento Hosting: Comparing the Options
Magento is, as is well known in ecommerce, one of the most feature-packed and expandable ecommerce platforms around. Despite its fully-packed feature set however, any site built with Magento will require separate hosting. Because performance and data security are paramount in the world of ecommerce, we’ll look at each of these factors in depth.
Since there is now a wealth of hosting plans, we’ll also look at a range of hosting types available – including dedicated servers, shared hosting and cloud hosting – taking into account the pros and cons of each service.
First Steps: Meeting the Requirements
Before comparing the different hosting options out there, we should begin by looking at Magento’s minimum system requirements. It is important you know what the Magento platform will and won’t support before looking for a hosting platform. At the least, your server should run within a LAMP or LNMP stack environment and should run scheduled jobs (crontab) with PHP 5.
The next step, after this, will be to install the software. Though you may not be directly involved in this process, it is important to understand the steps Magento will take, as your developer will likely have to check for your approval along the way. Steps to be taken include: readiness check, adding a database, web configuration, store customisation, admin account creation and finally ‘install’.
Before running through the different hosting solution types available, we’ll first look at some general check-points to bear in mind, regardless of your server set-up.
Whatever plan you go with, it is essential your Magento hosting company provides significant security. At a minimum, your hosting provider should ensure the server is running the latest security patches for your site to run. For a start, you can ask the following questions to your web hosting provider to assess their security attempts:
- Do you run a server-side virus scanner?
- Is there a DDoS protection mechanism in place? If yes, does it work at the hardware or software level?
- Do you have the ability to turn off or on specific PHP modules?
- Does your company meet the PCI Security Standards Council’s requirements of a hosting provider?
By asking these questions, you should give you a fair idea of the kind of security procedures your host has in place. Don’t forget, once your site is up and running you can access the Magento security scan tool.
Magento isn’t just any ecommerce platform. Now in its 11th Year, it is one of the most advanced ecommerce platforms around. Hence, while the size and traffic to your site will determine how much CPU and memory you need, the likelihood is – as a Magento user – you are expecting high traffic, high demand from the outset. This means performance, i.e. speed, should be your top priority.
Fragment: each day, visitors post new comments, webmasters add new content, modifying or removing data along the way. This continual activity leaves “holes” in the database tables which in turn leads to longer fetch times. Making sure to regularly fragment is a relatively simple step to ensure your site is up to speed.
Keep Alive: enable keep-alive tells the browser of your visitors to establish a TCP connection once instead of multiple times to request all the web files loaded on your web page. This speeds up your website because the browser of your visitor needs to open just one persistent HTTP connection. Remember to check it is switched on for maximum site performance.
Dedicated vs. Cloud: although shared hosting has its benefits, it is unlikely to give you the kind of speed you need long-term. Dedicated and cloud servers give better performance overall. Shared hosting puts you at the mercy of traffic drawn from the other sites based on your server. This is something we’ll look into further in the next section.
Comparing Hosting Package Types
Here we'll look at the two most common hosting types available, taking the pros and cons of both into account, when it comes to running Magento stores.
With shared hosting you have the option of taking up space on a server alongside other businesses. In practice, this means hosting service costs are reduced, and server maintenance eliminated; hardware servicing is taken of care by your web host. From the user end, you are left to focus on running your website via a control panel where you can access your folders, files, and apps.
The main downside of this hosting type is that in sharing space on the server, you also share bandwidth. This means your service can be severely throttled when demand on the other sites on the server is high. In addition, shared servers are especially prone to hacking attacks. Any malicious activity the server suffers will affect the entire network of websites using the server.
This does not mean it is impossible to run Magento on shared servers. Starting out, you might find shared package is perfectly suited to your needs. However, as the number of products on your online shop grows, it is likely it will become more and more difficult to use this kind of set up.
Dedicated Server Hosting
With dedicated hosting, rather than sharing space over the cloud (or on part of a single server), you lease an entire server, usually hosted in a data centre. The benefit of this setup is that it gives you total control. You have the ability to install security patches, or general software updates without having to ask permission. You can even select the type of hardware and the operating system – though remember to make sure the OS is Magento compliant.
As with everything though, there are downsides. The most obvious one is price: dedicated hosting costs more on average than any other type of hosting. Assuming your web-master is not fully proficient with setting up and running software on a server, there is also likely to be a steep learning curve with this hosting type. Most negative of all, if your server crashes for any reason (e.g. DDoS attack), your customers will have to wait until the site is brought back online.
Used by some of the largest sites on the web, including Spotify, Netflix, Pinterest, Etsy and Apple, cloud hosting is both popular and reliable. The essence of the technology is that it allows you to scale your server. Since cloud hosting runs across multiple servers, a peak in traffic can be handled without resulting in a 404 error when your custom arrives on your home page.
A further benefit is that, with cloud hosting, you do not need to manage hosting yourself. Server management is carried out on your behalf, quickly and seamlessly, by a support team. This also makes cloud hosting an attractive option for customers or providers looking to ‘hassle free’. Cloud-based applications and data are also accessible from virtually any internet-ready device – ensuring full flexibility, whether in the office or on the move.
Although there are many cloud hosts to choose from, Amazon’s AWS service is still the most popular. As of 2017, Amazon owns the largest market share of all Iass and PaaS cloud hosts. With AMS, you can also scale your site: applications like Auto Scaling, and Elastic Load Balancing can help scale your site depending on demand. These tools may give the advantage to AWS when compared to other cloud hosts. As always, be sure to shop around.
Take a look at Amazon’s Total Cost of Ownership calculator here.
While only you can decide the best hosting solution for your site, we hope this overview has helped make the decision easier. Though price, flexibility, security and performance are all key factors when making your choice, the most important thing to keep in mind is how your store will work for your customer. If this can be kept in mind, everything else should naturally fall into place.
Want to find out more about Magento? Please see our Complete Magento Ecommerce Guide for more details.