For anyone in love with Joomla, it is inevitable that some of them will want to build their e-commerce site with it. Why not? Joomla is a powerful content management system that has been rocking since its inception. Using a good CMS with an e-commerce plug-in makes your site more full-featured than a site that only does e-commerce and nothing else.
If you want to add the ability to do e-commerce from your Joomla site, you need a plug-in to do the heavy lifting for you. VirtueMart plays that role.
VirtueMart is one of the leading open source e-commerce plug-ins for Joomla. It was originally called mambo-phpShop and was written for the Mambo CMS. After Mambo was forked to create Joomla, it was re-branded as VirtueMart and it officially supports the Joomla CMS. The ancestor is still around but it is no longer in active development.
In September 2009, the developers began work on VirtueMart 2 and the new version was released in December 2011. The current version is 2.6.
As of fall, 2013, data indicate that VirtueMart runs on 1.47% of the top 10K sites, 3.25% of the top 100K sites, and 6.02% of the top million sites. Since Joomla isn’t as popular as WordPress, so these are pretty good numbers.
It is written in PHP and it also requires a MySQL database for storage. It is best suited for low to medium traffic web sites. As such, it is compatible with the LAMP stack (Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP) that powers the majority of the world’s hosts.
Building an e-commerce site from scratch is not an easy task. If you are only selling 10 items or so, you can get away with a basic site with the item listing and PayPal buttons. But if you want to build a true e-commerce business, you should use a standalone app like Magento or Loaded 7 or a plug-in like WooCommerce or VirtueMart.
That’s the reason people use content management systems. There are dedicated e-commerce solutions like Magento or osCommerce, but if you already have a website using your favorite CMS or are more familiar with a CMS, then why not use add an e-commerce storefront as part of the CMS?
For Joomla’s fans, VirtueMart is the e-commerce solution of choice. It is available as a Joomla extension and it simply rocks. There aren’t many e-commerce jobs that VirtueMart cannot handle. Plus, it is fully integrated with Joomla so anyone familiar with working with Joomla will immediately feel at home.
VirtueMart is best suited for low to medium levels of traffic, so it doesn’t need extraordinary hosting resources. But still, whenever credit card information is sent over the open internet, security jumps out as a huge issue. Even a lightweight e-commerce plug-in demands that you deal with the same security issues that the big guys need to face.
The Best 5
- SiteGround : Premium Shared hosting and managed VPS for business.
- 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 hosting plans,
- WebHostingBuzz : A business Shared hosting plan powered by a dual web server configuration,
- HostGator : A huge Shared hosting provider with a premium Shared hosting plan 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. 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.
But your need doesn’t end here. Any e-commerce site needs a good hosting environment in order to run it effectively. Sure, VirtueMart is less resource intensive than Magento but it doesn’t mean you can just host it anywhere. You will want a Joomla specialist. So here are 5 hand picked best hosting services for VirtueMart.
Winner – SiteGround – From $7.95/month
Currently hosting over 150,000 websites, SiteGround is a privately owned company created by a small group of IT professionals in 2003. 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.
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.
The optimization work they have done on their servers is quite spectacular that we love the speed test results we get from testing some of the sites hosted there. So, e-commerce applications like VirtueMart will run without a problem on SiteGround’s Shared hosting plans.
As a Joomla fan you will be elated to learn that SiteGround offers free Joomla templates, extensions, and technical support. This is the whole package for Joomla fans! It is rare for web hosting providers to offer technical support for individual web apps, but SiteGround does for Joomla. So rejoice!
|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 plan.
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. That sounds like VirtueMart!
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 day 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.
They have some free Joomla templates and tech notes about Joomla security and optimization issues. They also have tech notes on how to harden your Joomla site against malware and even disinfect it if it gets infected. They will even help you to migrate your Joomla site from your current host to Site5 if you ask for it. Its a good sign that they are a “Joomla-aware” host and can respond to questions related to Joomla specifically.
We feel that Site5’s shared hosting environment is powerful enough for small VirtueMart-powered e-commerce sites. If you want to upgrade, you can choose one of their cloud hosting solutions. Their cloud solutions guarantee a very high level of uptime, better load balancing, and location redundant.
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 a shared SSL certificate, but this only means that the SSL certificate is shared among all the accounts on the server. For e-commerce, you will need to purchase a private SSL certificate.
The $11.95 plan is our recommendation because it is the only one that comes with a dedicated IP address. If you go for the $8.95 plan, you’re going to have to fork over another $3/mo for a dedicated IP address anyway.
In all cases, you will need to purchase and install a private SSL certificate. Site5 sells private and guaranteed SSL certificates starting at $50/yr or you can purchase the certificate elsewhere and Site5 will help you install it.
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.
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 Joomla. It is a luxury.
3. Arvixe – From $22/month
Arvixe was founded in 2003 and has become 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 have the security features that are required for business on the web.
Arvixe offers parallel plans for both Linux and Windows hosting and we have one word of advice: Linux.
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 it may or may not work for VirtueMart. It’s borderline — Joomla plus VirtueMart is a database-driven system. That type of system takes more power than one that just serves static HTML pages.
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.
If that doesn’t work for your store, upgrade to Business Class. The Business Class plan costs $22/mo and Business Class Pro is $35/mo. The former is limited to six sites while the latter is unlimited. 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. Fortunately, their managed VPS Class plans are PCI compliant.
VPS Class Plans
If your store is on the small side, you probably don’t need to upgrade to VPS but it is nice to know that a much faster option is available. 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. 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 really have good prices.
They now own over 250 of their own servers and have datacenters in both 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 knowledgable and courteous customer support. They have attractive business plans at both the Shared and VPS levels of service.
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 isn’t a bargain basement price for a Shared host, but we require a Shared host that is hardened for credit card transactions. The $9.95 price for that is about as low as it gets. Not only that, it has uses two web servers that work together to improve performance! That’s a great value for $9.95.
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 on a Shared hosting plan. In this configuration, Nginx serves the static pages, taking some of the workload from Apache.
The Premier plan may well work out for you if traffic is not high enough to push you into a VPS.
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 would 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. This should boost performance compared to Shared hosting plans that use only Apache or an Apache-compatible server.
These plans come with a 45-day money-back guarantee.
|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.
5. – HostGator – From $10.36/month
HostGator is the home for 8 million domains owned by over 400,000 customers. They operate several data centers of their own and offer shared, reseller, VPS, and dedicated hosting. They’re best known for their affordably-priced and well-received Shared hosting plans. That’s where their center of gravity is.
All of their plans are backed by 45-day money back guarantee. The Shared hosting plan features unlimited domains, disk space, and bandwidth, and the cPanel and installer.
VirtueMart is the right sized e-commerce solution to run at Hostgator, providing the store doesn’t attract heavy traffic.
Shared Hosting plans
Hostgator has three grades of Shared hosting plans. They also offer price discounts for long commitments. In this pricing chart, the prices are from month-to-month to three years. The lowest price is valid for a 3-year commitment; the highest price is month-to-month. From this, you can see that you get the biggest discount for the cheapest plan.
You can see how their price table encourages customers to make that long-term commitment! Although they are trying hard to get under that $4/mo price point, it doesn’t matter for e-commerce because the “Hatchling” plan does not support a dedicated IP address or a private SSL certificate. The Hatchling plan is only for noncritical use cases.
Here are the main differences among the plans:
- The Hatchling plan supports only one domain, while the the others support an unlimited number of domains. It does not allow either a dedicated IP address or an SSL certificate.
- For the Baby plan, a dedicated IP address is $2/mo and the private SSL certificate is free upon request. For month-to-month, its price is about the same as Hatchling.
- The Business plan includes a dedicated IP address and a private SSL certificate. This is our recommendation for VirtueMart. If you get a “Baby” plan, then you need to add these two features.
We think that the Business plan is a good match for VirtueMart, assuming light to moderate traffic. If you are get more traffic than it can handle, upgrade to a VPS.
Hostgator offers both unmanaged (a.k.a., “semi-managed”) and fully managed VPS plans. We give the prices for the “semi-managed” plans in the table. This plan does not include a panel; the industry-standard cPanel is a $10/mo option and that also includes full management. So, add $10/mo to these prices if you want full management.
Here are their unmanaged VPS Hostgator plans.
The cPanel is optional at $10/mo and it includes full management. So, add $10 to the above prices if you want the familiarity of a user interface and management with a VPS.
Compared to others, Hostgator’s VPS plans are a bit pricy. Their best deals are with the budget Shared hosting plans. If you’re looking for a great value in unmanaged VPS (a.k.a., command line interface), our choice is Digital Ocean. They give you 1GB RAM and 2TB bandwidth at $10/mo instead of $40-$120.
If you can host Joomla, you can host VirtueMart. But that doesn’t mean you should just pick a just any hosting service. When you add e-commerce to your site, security instantly becomes critical. Also you might also want to upgrade to a true cloud-backed infrastructure so that your store stays online 24/7 (or as close as possible!).
Always make sure you pick the right hosting company, then you will be set for the growth of your e-commerce site. Trust us. We speak from the experience. While these 5 are best among the services we tested, it is not comprehensive yet. So head on over to our hosting comparison tool and check it out for yourself.