Magento is one of the most powerful e-commerce apps on the market today. And thanks to the open source movement, you can use it for free!
Magento was initially released in 2008 under the name Bento. It was created by Varien, the company that originally worked on osCommerce.
Magento is a relative newcomer, but it has emerged as the most full-featured e-commerce solution in a crowded field of amazingly capable apps. eBay acquired the company in 2010 and has given it a polished, professional look that you don’t normally see in open source projects.
Under eBay’s leadership, there are now two versions of Magento, the Community Edition and the Enterprise Edition.
- The Community Edition is the open source version. It can be downloaded from the Magento site or installed by one of the installer apps that’s found in most managed hosts. The Magento Connect marketplace is the clearinghouse for extensions to the Community edition. Since the first release of Magento, there are countless extensions, plugins, and themes authored by different talented individuals and companies. In fact, there is no shortage of plugins that add additional functions and visually awesome looking themes that can take your online store to next level.
- The Enterprise Edition is the paid version of Magento. The Enterprise Edition is based on the Community Edition codebase and has exclusive features that are of interest to larger businesses. The crucial difference is that it is sold with an annual support and maintenance contract. The price is not published on the site and varies by configuration, but it is in the 5 figure range.Open source is sweet!
We are concerned with the Community edition here. Our recommendations are intended for small to moderate sized businesses. Clearly, an enterprise-level operation calls for one or more dedicated servers and a cloud-based infrastructure. You’re not going to see Amazon running on a $5/mo Shared host! That type of service is beyond the scope of this article.
The Community Edition runs on a standard LAMP stack (Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP). It is available in Softaculous, so it can be installed with one click of the mouse on many hosting companies. But that doesn’t mean that the choice of a good host is trivial.
Magento requires more resources and than many other e-commerce apps and is also apt to be used by larger e-commerce stores. So if you are thinking of running Magento on that sorry little shared hosting company, then your website will be facing loads of errors and terrible loading times. That’s a painful truth. A “bargain” Shared host is no bargain when money is on the line and you lose sales because of a slow and unresponsive web host.
The Best 5
- A Small Orange : A line of Business Shared hosting plans designed for e-commerce,
- Site5 : A Shared and Cloud VPS provider who has 20 datacenters around the world,
- Arvixe : A great Shared and VPS host that offers premium Business Shared and VPS hosting plans,
- VPS.net: A world leader in mananged and unmanaged cloud VPS Hosting, with 18 datacenters all over the world,
- SiteGround : Premium Shared hosting and managed VPS for business.
Read more about them after the break!
For e-commerce, a critical requirement is that the host must establish an encrypted and secure tunnel in which payment information is exchanged.
The chief requirement for e-commerce is airtight security. You need to create an encrypted line of communication between the seller and the buyer. This prevents a so-called “man-in-the-middle” attack. A “man-in-the-middle” is a bad guy who is eavesdropping on the conversations between the buyers and the seller. This is very bad since a “man-in-the middle” can grab your customers’ credit card numbers and even impersonate you to them.
To block this, you need to obtain and install an SSL certificate. In practical terms, you need:
- A private SSL certificate, so that the buyers are able to verify that you are the legitimate merchant that you claim to be,
- A fixed IP address, a requirement for implementing a clean SSL connection that the buyers can verify in their browsers,
- Also, there’s a set of rules called PCI compliance (Payment Card Industry compliance). A host should be able to warrant that its servers are PCI compliant. This would mean that they’re solid from a security perspective.
The SSL certificate enables your customers to establish an encrypted and trusted connection using the https protocol (rather than the ordinary http protocol); https is the secure and encrypted version of http.
Typically, a Shared host that is robust enough for e-commerce comes with a fixed IP address, an SSL certificate, and the server is warranted for PCI compliance. If you want to use a Shared host then you should be careful that you are able to conduct encrypted transactions. Most Shared hosts are not designed with e-commerce in mind.
Another possibility is to purchase an SSL certificate separately and install it yourself. This may or may not be cheaper, depending on the type of deal that the hosting company offers for their business-oriented plans.
Performance, Uptime, and Backups
Beyond that, it’s in your best interest to choose a fast and reliable host. Customers are turned off by slow and unresponsive sites. If your potential customers lose interest because your site loads too slowly, then you won’t be doing much business.
This is one reason to consider using a VPS rather than a Shared host!
What can you do about all this? A few things:
- Choose a host with a datacenter close to your customers,
- Use a CDN (Content Delivery Network),
- Use a Cloud VPS or a deluxe shared host that does not overbook their servers.
- Use a provider that does automatic backups.
A first step is to check to see that the host has a datacenter relatively close to your customers. You usually can check to see where the host’s datacenters are. A couple of our recommended hosting companies have datacenters all over the world. Also, the host should be a part of a content delivery network. A CDN makes your site available to a group of “relay” servers who can serve your content to clients even if the main server goes down.
One thing you can do is join Cloudflare, a worldwide CDN that provides a number of important cloud-related services. It is a CDN that tries to keep your site up even if your server goes down. Its almost like joining an expensive Cloud VPS! Also, it provides some anti-spam and DDoS protection by crowdsourcing it.
Cloudflare is free and you can usually join it from your panel. If not, you can sign up at the Cloudflare site. Often, good hosting providers are part of their own CDN and their customers benefit from that service automatically. This is something to check.
For an active, high traffic site, you should consider a Cloud VPS instead of a Shared host. This is the safest way of avoiding performance and reliability problems.
Finally, you should take steps to ensure that your e-commerce site is fully backed up, with redundant copies. In addition to an automatic backup, it doesn’t hurt for you to maintain a local backup.
We searched our database for hosting companies that are the best suited for hosting Magento sites. We have a short list of premium Shared hosting companies and the best in VPS. Here is our pick of the 5 best Magento hosts.
Winner. A Small Orange – From $20/mo
Founded in 2003 in Atlanta, their mission statement is to provide the best quality service at an affordable cost. They have outstanding Shared hosting and Managed VPS plans, but their line of Business Hosting plans is of special interest to us. These are affordable Shared hosting solutions that are configured for e-commerce right out of the box. This is just what we are looking for!
Softaculous at A Small Orange (ASO) has a one-click install of Magento, so you can begin customizing it in just a few seconds.
ASO offers a very unusual 90-day money-back guarantee; this is the highest in the industry. That makes it a great place to set up your store and make sure that the plan that you’ve picked has enough horsepower to handle your traffic. This is a very real question in the case of Magento.
Shared Hosting Plans
ASO has a wonderful line of general-purpose Shared hosting plans. As general-purpose plans, they aren’t hardened for business out of the box. In order to use any of them for Magento, you also need to purchase a dedicated IP address and that SSL certificate. Even so, you may find that they are cheaper than their Business Shared hosting.
And remember that 90-day money-back guarantee!
Business Shared Hosting Plans
These are the Shared hosting plans that are already set up for e-commerce. They cost more per GB, but all the security and business requirements are standard.
They have three Business plans, Startup, Small Business, and Enterprise. Here they are:
|Plan||Storage||Bandwidth||SSL Cert.||PCI Comp.||Price|
1. Storage is on high speed mechanical disks with SSD caching.
2. Automatic daily backups are included.
Their Business Shared hosting is backed by their cloud infrastructure. They claim 99.9% uptime and we believe it for their cloud-based services like this. For a business, downtime equals lost revenue, so this is an important consideration.
ASO also has a premium “Managed SEO Services” service as a high cost option to any of their plans. It promises to hand tune your site for maximum SEO. This is the type of service that is often provided by an external SEO consultant.
If you want to upgrade to VPS, then ASO’s plans make it as painless as possible. A Small Orange’s VPS plans are fully managed yet they are priced in the same range as their Business shared hosting.
Cloud VPS Plans
ASO’s prices don’t necessarily stand out — until you learn that this is fully-managed Cloud VPS hosting that uses 2.5GHz Xeon CPUs and SSD storage. If you shop around half as much as we have, you’ll see that these features can easily add an extra $50/mo to the base charge. This is especially true after you throw in the cPanel installer. It is included in ASO’s VPS plans. It’s in ASO’s character to advertise the price of the “deluxe” version of a service instead of advertising the bare-bones version and then upselling everything in the building.
1. The cPanel is included.
2. Each core is equal to a 2.5GHz Xeon or better.
3. 24/7 tech support & 90-day money-back guarantee.
4. Plans include SSD storage in RAID-50.
5. Backups are included.
2. Site5 – From $11.95/month
Site5 has been in business for more than 15 years and is one of the most successful hosting companies. Site5 is the home for over 200,000 domains and 250 servers. They have a worldwide network of 20 datacenters that run shared, VPS, dedicated, and reseller servers. Here’s the locations of Site5’s datacenters.
- Asia: New Delhi, Singapore
- Australia: Sydney
- Europe: Amsterdam, Bucharest
- UK: London
- Canada: Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver
- South America: Joao Pessoa, Sauo Paulo
- US: Dallas, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Phoenix, Miami, Atlanta, New York, Washington
Their main datacenter is in Dallas, but you can request another location when you sign up. Other datacenters charge a bit more per month.
For VPS, Site5 has datacenters in the following locations: Dallas, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington DC, Amsterdam, and Singapore.
Site5 offers a 45-day money back guarantee (15 days for VPS). What’s almost unique is that they do have a 30-day free trial account! It’s available for Shared and Cloud Shared plans. If you want to check out Site5 ahead of time, we suggest that you take them up on their 30-day free shared cloud account. This is perfect for trying out the performance of the Shared hosting plan and working out all the kinks in the SSL installation.
Site5 is among very a small group of hosting companies that offers a customer support Service Level Agreement. The SLA states that if a customer does not get a response to a support inquiry within 24 hours, his account will be credited as a token of apology. This is both commitment and confidence.
Shared Hosting Plans
Their Shared hosting plans are priced at $4.95, $8.95, and $11.95 a month. The $4.95 plan permits only one site but the others are unlimited. Only the $11.95 plan comes with a dedicated IP address. All the plans are provided with an SSL certificate, but if you intend to use your Shared hosting site for eCommerce, the $11.95 plan is our recommendation. If you go for the $8.95 plan, you’re going to have to fork over another few bucks for a dedicated IP address anyway.
Cloud Shared Hosting Plans
Site5 has an interesting premium-level Shared hosting plan that delivers the advantages of Cloud hosting without the price penalty of a fully-managed VPS. They call it Cloud Shared Hosting. Like a VPS, it has storage and bandwidth limits, but it comes with the uptime advantages of cloud hosting. They cite a 99.99% uptime statistic, but a true cloud really shouldn’t be going down at all.
The Cloud Shared Hosting plan is available only at the Dallas and Amsterdam datacenters.
A dedicated IP is included, as is their 45-day money-back guarantee.
The Cloud Web plans are designed with fully redundant backup components with automatic failover. It is designed for businesses that must be online 24/7 but don’t have enough traffic to justify the expense of a cloud VPS. Site5 guarantees 99.99% uptime for their line of Cloud Web hosting plans.
Site5 offers both managed and unmanaged VPS hosting plans. Their unmanaged plans include root access, choice of Linux distro, and optional panel and installer.
Here is the price sheet for their unmanaged VPS hosting.
Cloud VPS Plans
Site5 also has a line of fully managed Cloud VPS plans. Their prices include the panel, installer, and remote backups — but without root access. You can SSH into your server but you don’t need the benefits of full management to work with Magento. It is a luxury.
3. Arvixe – From $22/month
Arvixe is a mature hosting provider with a plethora of packages, options, and types of hosting services. They offer different grades of shared hosting as well as VPS, Reseller, and Dedicated hosting.
Arvixe has two categories of shared hosting, with two plans to pick from in each. Personal Class plans are for smaller websites, while Business Class plans enjoy more server resources.
The Personal Class plan is $4/mo while Personal Class Pro is $7/mo. The former is restricted to six domains, while the latter supports an unlimited number of domains.
E-commerce is possible on a Personal Class site but we have our doubts about putting Magento on an entry-level Shared host. If you try it, you need that SSL certificate and dedicated IP address. The SSL certificate is $25/yr and the dedicated IP address is $2/mo. However, you can expect load times to be slower than optimal for an e-commerce site.
The Business Class plan is $22/mo and Business Class Pro is $35/mo. These plans to not overbook their servers. The cost differential between Personal and Business is proportional to the number of accounts per server.
Business Class customers get a free SSL certificate and a dedicated IP address. Unfortunately, neither is PCI compliant. It is technically possible to encrypt connections on Business class, but a host with PCI monitoring is preferable. Fortunately, their managed VPS Class plans are PCI compliant.
VPS Class Plans
The VPS Class and VPS Class Pro are priced at $40/mo and $70/mo. These are the two plans at Arvixe that meet our criteria for conducting secure e-commerce.
|VPS Class Pro||8||3GB||100GB||Unlimited||$70/mo|
1.These plans both include an SSL certificate for life.
2. Both plans are PCI Compliant.
3. Both plans provide root access.
4. The dedicated IP address is $2/mo.
5. SSD storage is $10/mo.
6. 1GB RAM is $20/mo.
These two plans are fully managed VPS that come with the cPanel/WHM and Softaculous installer and the Cloudflare CDN. It is designed to meet your e-commerce needs in every way.
4. VPS.NET – From $20/month
While some may prefer Rackspace or Amazon AWS, for us, we prefer VPS.NET when it comes to cloud VPS hosting. They offer a line of elastic cloud VPS plans at affordable prices and backed by a network of 18 datacenters around the world. If your Magento site needs more horsepower than any Shared hosting solution can offer, then take a close look at VPS.net. They are the world’s VPS experts!
As the name suggests, VPS.net offers only VPS hosting and they specialize in Cloud VPS hosting. Cloud VPS servers can re-size on demand without reboot while remaining online.
The extra care in providing only high performance services can be felt throughout your time with them. Since you can spin up their VPS servers in only 55 seconds, you can easily set up a cluster of servers for a high availability configuration. This is perfect for a high traffic e-commerce site. They also have an automatic scaling service called Elastic Cloud Hosting which essentially allows you to scale your system resources up and down.
This ability is often advertised as “auto-scaling”, “auto-healing”, “elastic service”, and so forth. Capacity expands to meet heavy demands and cloud servers can take over if your main server goes down.
VPS.net claims 99.99% uptime, which ought to be realistic for a Cloud VPS host. The worldwide array of datacenters is important to any business who needs to conduct e-commerce around the clock.
VPS.net has an impressive network of datacenters all over the world. In combination with their cloud technology, it makes VPS.net a fantastic choice. Here is the complete list of their datacenters. You choose your server’s location when you sign up.
- Asia: Tokyo, Singapore, New Delhi
- Australia: Sydney
- UK: London, Manchester
- Europe:Amsterdam, Paris, Frankfurt
- South America:Sao Paulo
- Canada: Montreal
- US: Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, San Jose, Salt Lake City, Seattle, Washington, D. C.
VPS.net has a huge selection of plans; the unmanaged cloud VPS is is a great balance between cost and capability.
Unmanaged Cloud VPS Plans
Here are their plans in the $100/mo and below range:
1. Full management is a $69/mo option.
2. The cPanel is a $10/mo option.
VPS.net describes these plans as “semi-managed”. That means:
We make sure we are here for you. We provide 24×7 support via live chat, email and phone. Should you have any problems with the software that comes with your server then we can help you out with the basic free of charge. More complex issue may require our paid for Fully Managed support.
It seems that “semi-managed” means that they are there to assist but you are the primary system administrator, not them. For many people, this is a good balance since a VPS customer is often an experienced webmaster and can handle all the routine tasks themselves. Unmanaged and semi-managed plans are cheaper than a fully-managed plan, so semi-managed or unmanaged is smart if you are ready for the responsibility.
The VPS.net plans are upgradable in units that they call “nodes”. You can add additional VPS nodes to scale up if you want. The additional system resources will be multiples of the basic node. You can scale up or down without any downtime.
VPS.net also has a strong line of managed VPS solutions, but an unmanaged cloud VPS is all you need to host a responsive e-commerce app. Check out their managed plans if you wish to indulge. Their prices for managed hosting are much higher than ASO and others.
5. SiteGround – From $14.95/mo
Founded in 2004 by a few university friends, SiteGround gradually but steadily grew into a leading web hosting service provider. Today the company has about 90 employees and is constantly growing.
The company now has datacenters in Chicago, Amsterdam, and Singapore. The company is built to provide top-notch customer support and high performance hosting services, while sticking to the policy of not overselling their resources. Their place in the market is to compete on the basis of quality and service rather than cutthroat prices.
Their costs and feature sets are competitive. Their types of plans are:
- Shared Hosting: Pricing from $3.95 to $14.95.
- Managed Cloud VPS: Pricing from $68.95 to $138.95.
- Managed Dedicated Server: Pricing from $229 to $429.
Of course, the (costly) Cloud VPS and Dedicated plans are suitable for e-commerce. The good news is that the middle and high priced Shared hosting plans also pass our tests. Here’s the details of their Shared hosting plans.
SiteGround supports a one-click install of Magento using Softaculous. Since both their Shared and VPS hosts have the installer, you are all set for creating a Magento store.
Their Shared hosting plans are optimized to support three major content management systems.
- WordPress, for blogging
- Joomla, for general CMS use
- Magento for e-commerce.
Their customized version of cPanel has built in support for this trio and their middle and top tier Shared hosting plans are intended for business.
SiteGround offers three categories of shared hosting plans that correspond to small, medium, and high cost. Their shared hosting plans limit storage and bandwidth so as to not overbook their shared servers.
|Name||# Sites||Storage||Bandwidth||SSL Cert||PCI Comp.||Price|
The GrowBig plan comes with an SSL certificate. The certificate can be added at extra cost to the lower priced plans.
Only the top plan, GoGeek, includes server PCI compliance, making it the preferred choice for e-commerce. They describe GoGeek as great for “average sized” e-commerce websites. If you run a bit larger than average, then read about VPS!
Fully Managed VPS
Curiously, SiteGround offers only fully-managed VPS plans. They have no entries in the cheaper “Unmanaged VPS” category. Their style is to only offer complete, full-featured support — but at a price. Unlike most providers, they don’t even make the panel and installer optional! If you want VPS from SiteGround, you get everything!!
Also, they are not stingy about allocating computer resources. Even their entry-level VPS plan has two 2GHz cores and 2MB RAM. They don’t try to cut corners on resources in order to advertise a super-low price on a VPS that can hardly do anything.
The drawback of this is that they do not offer any VPS with root access. “Full management” and “root access” often conflict with each other. Thus, the cheapest SiteGround plan with root access is north of $200 because root is only offered on SiteGround’s dedicated servers!!
Here is their managed VPS price table.
1. cPanel/WHM/Softaculous are all included.
2. An SSL certificate and two dedicated IP addresses are included.
3. The git version control software is included.
4. A CDN is included.
5. The plans do not include root access but it does support SSH.
If their VPS prices are a bit steep for your blood, then take another look at ASO’s VPS price sheet. They offer a great value in fully managed VPS. If you need a VPS that gives you root access at a great price, head for Digital Ocean for the best price/performance balance in unmanaged VPS hosting.
There are many other hosting companies that support Magento but your mileage will vary. We’ve recommended solutions that will give you enough horsepower to host a Magento site while keeping prices as low as possible. This is a balancing act and the right answer depends on your situation. If you want to explore other contenders, then use our hosting services comparison tool to find others and evaluate them yourself.