Setting up an e-commerce site used to very difficult. You needed to either purchase an expensive e-commerce application or develop one in-house. Either way, the cost can be prohibitive for small businesses. It certainly ruled out this lucrative option for little mom-and-pop shops.
Open-source web applications changed everything. Available for free, you can now choose among several mature and full-featured e-commerce apps. Many can be served by a low-priced Shared host that caters to small business owners. And you don’t even need to hire an IT team to set up and maintain one.
OpenCart is one of them. With an intuitive interface, awesome speed, pretty good set of features, and loads of plugins available, it is a perfect choice for many.
OpenCart was founded in 2006 by Daniel Kerr. He started OpenCart because he felt that the current open source solutions weren’t very good. OpenCart and many others have changed that. The best are covered here. For example, we recommend the best hosting for Magento, Loaded 7, Zen Cart, Tomato Cart, and Spree Commerce.
The current version of OpenCart is 220.127.116.11; the company has relocated to Hong Kong and continues active development.
OpenCart is compatible with the LAMP stack (Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP) that powers the vast majority of hosting companies. Softaculous supports it, but it is not necessarily true that every hosting company that offers Softaculous will have a one-click install of OpenCart. We’ve found that many do. But like any e-commerce solution, there are a few additional requirements for a business-oriented site.
It is not as resource intensive as Magento, so a small to moderate store can be hosted by a Shared hosting provider that is set up to support e-commerce. Its place in the market is as a lightweight alternative to a heavyweight like Magento. You may find that it runs well in a premium Shared hosting environment that does not have the muscle to power Magento.
The Best 5
- WebHostingBuzz : A business Shared hosting plan powered by a dual web server configuration,
- Arvixe : A great Shared and VPS host that offers premium Business Shared hosting plans,
- Site5 : A Shared and Cloud VPS provider who has 20 datacenters around the world,
- Eleven2 : A Shared and VPS provider with premium Shared hosting plans for business,
- A Small Orange : A line of Business Shared hosting plans designed for e-commerce.
Read more about them after the break!
Just because a cheap Shared host can run OpenCart doesn’t necessarily mean that it is a good choice. Data show that a fast and responsive e-commerce site is much more likely to get the business. If you have doubts, test your site to be sure that a Shared hosting solution works for you. Hey, that’s what that the money-back guarantee is for!!
If a Shared host proves to be too slow, upgrade to a VPS or a premium-level Shared hosting plan that is designed for e-commerce. It is likely to cost double or more, but you won’t be losing sales because of lousy load times!
For e-commerce, the other 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.
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. Also, the host should be a part of a content delivery network that 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.
To help you, we have curated 5 best hosting companies for OpenCart.
Winner – Web Hosting Buzz – From $9.95/month
WebHostingBuzz was founded in 2002 with the idea of offering reasonably priced hosting in a market that was dominated by a few hosting giants and indifferent service.
They now own over 250 of their own servers and have datacenters in both the US and UK. Their primary datacenter is in Atlanta, with others in Dallas, New York, Phoenix, and Newark, Nottinghamshire (UK).
WebHostingBuzz is a good choice if you are looking for affordable business hosting with a provider who is well known for knowledgeable and courteous customer support. They have attractive business plans at both the Shared and VPS levels of service.
Shared Hosting Plans
WebHostingBuzz’s entry-level Shared hosting plan is a bit below our minimum standards for business users, but their highest priced Shared plan does look good. It is the so-called “Buzz Premier” plan and it goes for $9.95/mo. This sounds like a great choice for a lightweight e-commerce package like OpenCart.
The Buzz Premier plan comes with a dedicated IP address and an SSL certificate. The certificate is included for the first year. In subsequent years the SSL certificate is $12.95.
Also, the Buzz Premier plan uses two web servers, Apache and Nginx, with Nginx playing the role of the front end. This really should improve performance compared to a Shared host that uses only Apache. This is a great premium-level Shared hosting package for small business.
Business Web Hosting
The Business Web Hosting plans are premium Shared hosting plans that are tailored to the special requirements of business. All of these plans are PCI compliant and the “Power” and “Premier” plans come with a fixed IP address and an SSL certificate. Both need to be added to the Business “Light” plan in order to make it ready for e-commerce.
In addition to being set up for security, they are also designed to be faster than the average Shared host. Like the “Buzz Premier” plan, they use the Nginx web server as a reverse-proxy front end.
These plans come with a 45-day money-back guarantee, two weeks longer than the industry average.
|Name||# Sites||Ded. IP||SSL||Storage||Bandwidth||Price|
1. Nightly backups are included.
2. An SSL certificate must be purchased and installed in the Light plan. WebHostingBuzz has SSL certificates for sale at $12.95 or you can purchase a certificate from another vendor. There are actually different types of SSL certificates, but that is another post!
Unmanaged VPS Plans
WebHostingBuzz sells a line of very capable and affordable unmanaged VPS plans. Their personality is to offer the basics and offer the extras a la carte. That’s the case here.
You get at least one dedicated IP address with any of these plans. Only one is included with VPS1 and 4 are included with VPS6. The ones in the middle have two!
Unless you purchase full management and an installer, expect to do some installation and management at the command line.
1. cPanel is $8/mo extra.
2. Softaculous is $2/mo extra.
3. Management is $50/mo (base plan). If additional time is needed, it is billed at $25/hr.
2. 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 and has the security features needed for handling credit card transactions.
The Personal Class plan costs $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 can be conducted on a Personal Class site. In fact, Arvixe promotes OpenCart as an e-commerce solution for Personal class. However, an SSL certificate and dedicated IP address must be purchased as optional extras. The SSL certificate is $25/yr and the dedicated IP address is $2/mo.
The Business Class plan costs $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. Of course, OpenCart can be installed equally easily on Business Class and the performance of your storefront will be better. If you expect a lot of traffic, we recommend that you consider a Business Class Shared host.
Business Class customers get a free SSL certificate and a dedicated IP address. Unfortunately, neither is PCI compliant. It is possible to encrypt connections on Business class, but a host that warrants PCI compliance 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 all our criteria for conducting secure e-commerce.
|VPS Class Pro||8||3GB||100GB||Unlimited||$70/mo|
1. Both plans 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 cPanel/WHM/Softaculous and the Cloudflare CDN. It is designed to meet your e-commerce needs in every way.
3. 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
For VPS, Site5 has datacenters in the following locations: Dallas, San Francisco, Seattle, Washington DC, Amsterdam, and Singapore.
Their main datacenter is in Dallas, but you can request another location when you sign up. Other datacenters charge a bit more per month.
Site5 offers a 45-day money back guarantee (15 day for VPS). What’s almost unique is that they also 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 for eCommerce, the $11.95 plan is our recommendation. The cheaper plans require that you purchase and install an SSL certificate yourself and pay a few dollars extra for a dedicated IP address. You might find that it is not really cheaper!
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 OpenCart. It is a luxury.
4. Eleven2 – From $16/month
Founded in 2002 and headquartered in Los Angeles, Eleven2 is a full-featured hosting company with attractive Shared, VPS, and Dedicated hosting plans. Their service is backed by a 60-day money-back guarantee, double the industry norm.
They have datacenters in the Dallas, Asheville, NC, London, and Phoenix. Their VPS servers are located in the Los Angeles datacenter. Also, they are part of Cloudflare, so your site will benefit from their CDN for free!
Their higher priced Shared hosting plans have the necessary security features to host e-commerce. Of course, their VPS plans do also. In that case, it is the responsibility of the sysadmin to properly configure the VPS for security.
Shared Hosting Plans
They don’t try to compete in the “unlimited everything” rat race; rather, they set generous limits on RAM and storage on all but their cheapest plan. The entry-level plan, which is only available by the year (it comes out to $4.95/mo), gives you 10GB storage. The next plan up is $10 (month-to-month) or $8/mo with an annual prepayment. Unfortunately, the cost of adding an SSL certificate and fixed IP address is more than the hosting itself. Obviously, the low end plans are not designed for e-commerce. However, the top two plans are quite generous.
Here is their price sheet for Shared hosting. The S-300 and S-400 plans come with the needed SSL certificate and fixed IP address.
|Name||Storage||Bandwidth||SSL Cert.||Ded. IP.||PC Comp.||Price|
Note: These prices are for a 1-year prepayment.
For the S-100 and S-200 plans, the SSL certificate and dedicated IP address are options. They are both included in the S-300 and S-400 plans. All the plans include the Cloudflare cloud-based CDN.
Eleven2’s VPS plans are fully managed. The prices include the cPanel/WHM panel. This is often an option on VPS plans. They do have SSD but the SSD is used currently as high-speed cache, with mechanical disk storage.
5. 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 OpenCart, 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.
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 OpenCart, you would 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. OpenCart is so lightweight that it may work for you. For instance, you can try out a “Tiny” plan for pocket change just to find out whether Shared hosting will work for your store.
And remember that 90-day money-back guarantee!
Business Shared Hosting Plans
The Business Shared hosting plans are their Shared hosting solutions that are hardened for business. 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.
This family of plans sounds right for OpenCart. 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 and 90-day money-back guarantee.
4. Plans include SSD storage in RAID-50.
5. Backups are included.
Now that you have got awesome choices for web hosting, it’s time to go and set up your first OpenCart-powered eCommerce site. We’ve recommended great providers that offer premium-level Shared hosting plans. They provide the security that business demands and many have special features that give them a performance advantage over generic Shared hosts. If you want to explore other options, go to our hosting companies comparison tool to check them out.