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How to Get Started: Investigating Payment Gateways Online

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How to Get Started: Investigating Payment Gateways Online

When investigating a website, app, or online shop, one of the key questions you may need to answer is ‘How are they making money?’ 

Investigating the financial transactions of an organisation can reveal details about its connections and funding. Furthermore, if the website or app is engaged in illicit transactions, tracing the payment gateway can help achieve accountability by identifying what sites they are using to earn money.   Bellingcat has looked into the payment processors in previous investigations on far-right merchandise, Britain’s far-right influencers, and non-consensual deepfake pornography.

Credit: Nicolas Guyonnet / Hans Lucas via Reuters Connect

Payment gateways are a technology that takes a customer’s payment information, checks it with their financial institution, verifies that the transaction is legitimate, and then completes the transaction. As explained by Forbes, online stores need a payment gateway to be able to facilitate payments. Companies including PayPal, Stripe, and Square are commonly used as a payment gateway for online purchases.

Most mainstream payment gateways (like Stripe and PayPal) prohibit their services from being used in illegal transactions including the sale of illegal drugs, the promotion of hate or racial intolerance, and non-consensual adult content. Finding evidence that someone is violating the Terms of Services of these companies – and how they are doing so- can lead to the closure of loopholes and accounts. It can also provide additional information about an organisation’s revenue streams. 

It is nearly impossible to conduct online transactions without a payment gateway. So it should be possible to find the payment gateway of an organisation earning money, even if it is not obvious at first. One resource that is extremely useful is Chrome’s built- in developer tools (other browsers also have similar tools). Below we’ll provide an overview of the tools to use and questions to ask when scrutinising payment systems. 

How are they Taking Payment?

For online transactions, you’ll typically see websites accept traditional forms of payment including credit cards, debit cards and, more recently, cryptocurrency. Since cryptocurrency is not subject to the same regulations as traditional financial systems, cryptocurrency is often used to process payments for illegal services. Since this does not need to be ‘hidden’, websites will usually disclose which currency they accept and how to transfer funds into a crypto wallet. There are other ways you can track funding through cryptocurrency, as discussed in this guide.

If none of the above apply?  Other sites that use a payment gateway will accept money directly via credit card payment,  bank transfer, or through peer-to-peer payment apps (i.e., PayPal, Cash App, Zelle). If this is the case, you should be able to identify the payment gateway being used. In the case of the peer-to-peer apps, these services may be used by businesses and not just individuals’ transactions. They also require a bank account or credit card to use them. It is helpful to view transaction options on both the mobile app and web browser, in case the options differ.  It is also worth checking the currency that payments are being taken in – if it is a US website taking payment in a foreign currency, that can also provide clues. Further, if a website is using different payment gateways depending on the currency, this can lead to additional leads in your investigation. Payment options may also change depending on what IP address you are using. In other words, setting your IP address in the UK and then changing it to the US may result in different payment gateway options.

Where are they Soliciting for Payment?

Organisations may solicit for payment via a website or a messaging app like Telegram. It is important to investigate all avenues where  payment is being requested as each method may provide different clues for your investigation. For example, for some of the AI deep fake services we investigated here we found that companies would accept different payment methods depending on how you tried to pay – via their website, via a web browser or via Telegram. Sellers may want to direct their users away from their website to more private forums such as Telegram to facilitate transactions and avoid detection.

Is the Organisation Trying to Hide How Payment is Taken?

For some sellers, using a mainstream payment gateway may  violate the terms of service of that company. To be able to use their services, these sellers may  try to hide the nature of their goods from the payment gateway company. 

A Walk Through Example

Some sites may not show their payment options without signing up first. 

This was the case with the Nudify.VIP site which offers non-consensual AI Deep Fake pornography.  

Initially, the website states that their services are free. 

“With our service you can undress any person in a photo absolutely FREE!” 

However, this is misdirection, as you are then prompted to log in or sign up. Only once you create an account do you discover that you need to pay to access the service and how much it costs.

After creating an account, we were presented with two options to pay, by card or crypto. 

You are then presented with an option to pay via crypto or via credit card, but it does not yet say what cards they accept or what payment gateway they use. 

Clicking through to ‘Go To Payment’ gives us a new screen that lets the user pay via credit card (ie MasterCard, Visa), a US Bank account (ie Wells Fargo, USAA), or through Cash App. 

There is no indication of the payment gateway they are using, but if we look at the URL on the checkout page, we can see that it no longer says that we are on a Nudify.VIP domain. This is a clue that users are being directed to the checkout page through another website. This method is used to hide the true source of purchases from payment gateway providers. There’s another clue  that the domain has changed- in the fine print at the bottom of the checkout page. Via the Checkout Page using either Cash App or credit card options, it discloses:

“By providing your card information, you allow aiphotos.art to charge your card for future payments in accordance with their terms.”

This is another clue that the payment gateway does not know this belongs to an AI Deep fake service Nudify.VIP.

Three checkout options for Nudify.VIP: credit card, US bank account, and Cash App.

Use Browser Developer Tools to Investigate Further

All modern browsers have some form of built-in developer tools. You can search online for your specific browser (e.g. Firefox, Chrome, Safari). If you are in Chrome, you can right-click anywhere on the screen to get a menu and an option to ‘Inspect.’ You can also use keyboard shortcuts which can vary between MacOS or Windows. For Windows, you can click CTRL + SHIFT + I and on MacOS you can click Option + Command + I on your keyboard. Any of these actions will open the developer tools which allows you to  view the code of a webpage (such as HTML, CSS, and Javascript). This should appear on the right-hand side of your screen. While developer tools are designed to check for bugs or errors in a website, you can use them in your investigation.

There should be a list of tabbed options for you to view on the top menu bar. Clicking on ‘Sources’ shows you all the resources that the website is using. 

This is a good place to start to look for any clues about what piece of code is being used in the checkout process.  In the example below, one of the listed sources on the page is titled ‘js.stripe.com.’



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Customizable Footer Credits Are Here  – WordPress.com News

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Customizable Footer Credits Are Here  – WordPress.com News

Whether it’s “Made with love and WordPress” or “Bob Ross rocks,” you can now customize footer credits on your website.

From the earliest days of WordPress.com, the bottom of every site on our platform has featured a default phrase in the footer credit area. Today, we’re handing the reigns over to you: every website using a block theme, on every plan, can customize the footer credit to say anything at all. 

That footer space offers a small and potent opportunity to showcase your creativity and unique tastes. Whether you’re buttoned up or just plain silly or somewhere between, visitors will get a little hint as to the personality behind the brand. 

Examples: 

  • Made with love and WordPress
  • Brought to you by the best minds on the planet
  • Handmade with care since 2003  
  • Bob Ross rocks  

Okay, that last one was my six-year-old daughter’s idea. But you get the picture: you have total freedom to display anything you want in the footer credit—or nothing at all. Of course we’d be honored if you still include WordPress.com in your footer, but no harm, no foul if not. 

Not using a block theme? Make the switch 

This new customization is only available on sites using block themes. These are themes that use blocks for every part of the site, whereas “classic” themes are still utilizing CSS and other coded elements. 

You can find out which type of theme your site is using by hovering over “Appearance” in the left-side menu of your dashboard. If you see “Editor,” you’re using a block theme. If you don’t, you’re using a classic theme. 

We’re big advocates of using block themes, as these unlock the most powerful WordPress features available today. If you need help converting your theme, check out this handy guide

How to customize your site’s footer credit 

In about 30 seconds flat, you can have a custom footer credit: 

  1. Access your Site Editor from the “Edit Site” button in the top menu bar when on your website’s homepage. You can also find it from “Appearance” on the left-side menu of your main dashboard. (Click here if you need help finding it.
  2. Scroll down to the footer credit (i.e. “Designed with WordPress”) 
  3. Edit the text as you would in any other block on your site. 
  4. Save your changes and you’re all set. 

Keep in mind that you can edit and add nearly any block in the footer area—text, social links, images, buttons, etc. 

Just like that, you have more options at your fingertips. That’s what we’re always striving for at WordPress.com. If you’re not on a block theme yet, we strongly encourage you to make that switch. Choose one today: 

Let us know in the comments what you think of this new feature and always feel free to drop in ideas for other things you’d like to see. 


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How to Limit Purchase Quantity in WordPress (Step by Step)

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How to Limit Purchase Quantity in WordPress (Step by Step)

Imagine that you are running a WooCommerce store, and suddenly, one of your products goes viral. Orders start flooding in, and you are super happy! But then you realize some customers are buying up your entire stock in one go.

This might sound great at first, but there’s a problem. This leaves other customers empty-handed, creates stock shortages, and can even lead to unfair market practices like reselling and price-gouging.

In this article, we will show you how to limit purchase quantity in WordPress to help balance inventory levels.

limit-the-quantity-of-products-purchased-in-WordPress-OG

Why Limit Purchase Quantity in WordPress?

Stock management can make or break your store’s reputation. Limiting purchase quantities makes sure that all customers will receive their orders and you never sell a product that isn’t in stock.

You ensure a more even distribution of your products by setting a cap on how many units a customer can purchase at once. This way, more customers get a chance to buy what they want, you avoid going out of stock, and you maintain a fair shopping environment.

It’s all about balancing the scales to keep your store running smoothly and your customers happy.

Without this limit, you risk a few big buyers dominating your sales, which can lead to frustrated customers who miss out and might not return. It also helps you manage your inventory better and prevents anyone from not getting the products they want.

That said, let’s take a look at how to limit purchase quantity in WordPress. We’ll cover three ways to do it, and you can use the quick links below to jump to the method you want to use:

Method 1: Limiting Purchase Quantity in WordPress With WooCommerce

Chances are, if you are researching how to limit purchase quantity in WordPress, then you have an online store.

Most store owners who sell physical products need to restrict the quantity to avoid out-of-stock purchases, which would simply lead to refunds.

For WooCommerce store owners, you’re going to need to buy and download the Min/Max Quantities extension.

If you need help with this, then please see our ultimate WooCommerce tutorial.

Then, go to Products » All Products. From here, you need to click ‘Edit’ under the product to which you want to add restrictions.

edit productedit product

From here, scroll down to the Product Data section. In the General tab, you’ll see the option to enter the minimum and maximum quantities.

The ‘Group of’ field means that you can enter the quantity that the product must be purchased in multiples.

minimum maximum quantity woocommerceminimum maximum quantity woocommerce

From here, all you have to do is save the product, and the purchase limit will be in effect!

Method 2: Limiting Purchase Quantity in WordPress With WP Simple Pay

If you don’t have a complete eCommerce store, then WP Simple Pay is the best solution for selling products in WordPress.

WP Simple Pay is the best Stripe payments plugin that allows you to accept one-time and recurring payments without setting up a shopping cart.

For example, here’s a few use cases where WP Simple Pay could be helpful for limiting purchase quantity:

  • Event tickets: You can allow more people to attend by limiting ticket purchases from each individual.
  • Service bookings: You can use WP Simple Pay for appointment bookings like consultations or personal training sessions. Limiting the number of bookings per customer ensures fair access to your time and services.
  • Membership fees: When selling memberships, you can limit the number of purchases to prevent abuse or fraudulent signups for your membership site.

You will first need to install and activate the WP Simple Pay plugin. For more details, please see our guide on how to install a WordPress plugin.

Once activated, you’ll be taken to the setup wizard. This wizard guides you through the process of integrating Stripe, making it easy to connect your Stripe account with your site.

Click on ‘Let’s Get Started’ to begin.

The WP Simple Pay WordPress payment pluginThe WP Simple Pay WordPress payment plugin

Continue with the setup wizard to link your WordPress site to Stripe.

You then need to click ‘Connect with Stripe.’

connect-stripe-to-wpsimplepayconnect-stripe-to-wpsimplepay

Next, you’ll need to create a new Stripe account or connect an existing one to your site.

All you will have to do is type in your email and password for your Stripe account.

From here, you can select your account and hit ‘Connect.’

Connect Stripe to WP Simple PayConnect Stripe to WP Simple Pay

Once you’ve successfully connected Stripe to your site, it’s time to create an order form and set purchase quantity limits for your products.

You’ll go to WP Simple Pay » Add New. From there, you’ll see a variety of pre-built templates to choose from.

While this works for any form template, we will use the payment form template for this tutorial.

Hover over ‘Payment Form’ and click ‘Use Template.’

create payment formcreate payment form

After choosing your preferred form template, you will be directed to the General settings page, where you can tailor your payment form to your needs.

This is where you can adjust the title, description, and form type to meet your specific needs.

If you prefer to host the payment form on your own site, select ‘On-site payment form’ under Type. Alternatively, if you want to host the form on Stripe’s checkout page, then choose ‘Off-site Stripe checkout.’

Event tickets payment formEvent tickets payment form

Next, click on the ‘Payment’ tab, where you can configure Price Options. Here, you can offer multiple price options within a single form.

By default, you’ll see one price option set at $10.

For this tutorial, we’re adding two price options, which we will label as “Premium Access” and “Standard Access.”

standard access and premium accessstandard access and premium access

In this case, Premium Access is our top-tier product with very limited availability and a price of $100, while Standard Access is our most affordable option at $10.

Next, let’s set limits on the purchase quantities for the price options we have added.

To do this, click on ‘Purchase Restrictions’ on the left. Under ‘Inventory,’ you’ll be able to create the purchase limit.

WP Simple Pay offers two ways to restrict purchases. You can either set a default limit for all price options on your Stripe payment form or configure separate limits for each price option.

In this example, we’ve set a restriction of 10 for all ticket purchases.

restrict purchase limitrestrict purchase limit

You can also configure a specific limit for each price. Just select ‘Each price option has its own limit’ and set the purchase limit for each option.

So here, we’ve limited the Premium Access to 5 and the Standard Access to 10.

restrict purchase quantityrestrict purchase quantity

Once a product’s purchase limit has been reached, customers won’t be able to buy it.

Now, if your payment form is ready to go, you can hit the ‘Publish’ button on the right side of the screen.

publish payment formpublish payment form

All that is left to do is add your new payment form to your website. To embed the form, navigate to the post or page where you want to publish it.

Click on the + icon and then add the WP Simple Pay block.

WP simple pay blockWP simple pay block

Next, just select the payment form you’ve created. The form should appear in the block editor.

Finally, just click ‘Publish.’

publish event tickets formpublish event tickets form

Finally, you’ll want to preview the form to see how it looks on the front end.

You can even make a test payment to make sure the restriction works as intended.

preview event ticket formpreview event ticket form

Method 3: Limiting Purchase Quantity in WordPress With Easy Digital Downloads

Generally, digital products don’t require stock control. However, for situations like selling virtual tickets or other “digital” items with limited availability, the ability to limit the total number of purchases can be very useful.

Adding a limit can also add FOMO and create real scarcity without having to use a countdown timer.

If you sell digital products such as courses, ebooks, or templates, then you’ll want to use Easy Digital Downloads. The core Easy Digital Downloads plugin doesn’t include stock tracking by default, but you can easily add this functionality with a simple extension.

Note: You can purchase the Purchase Limit extension separately, or if you have the Professional Pass subscription plan, it’s free to download.

First, you’ll need the Purchase Limit extension.

After purchasing and installing it, navigate to the edit screen of the product you want to set a purchase limit on.

You can do this by going to the Downloads » Downloads page and then clicking ‘Edit’ on the digital product you’d like to make changes to.

edit digital downloadedit digital download

If you haven’t created a digital product yet, then just follow our beginner’s guide on how to sell digital downloads on WordPress.

Next, scroll down under Download Details. A new option titled ‘Purchase Limit’ should appear.

You can set the number to the quantity that can be purchased. If you leave the number at 0, customers can purchase an unlimited quantity. But if you set it at -1, the product will be marked as sold out.

purchase limit eddpurchase limit edd

You can also set the purchase limits if you have multiple pricing options. Simply click ‘Show advanced settings’ and then the ‘Purchase Limit Settings’ will appear.

Then, add the purchase limit you’d like for each pricing option.

variable pricing purchase limit eddvariable pricing purchase limit edd

Then, simply update your digital product page.

There you have it! You now have three methods for restricting the purchase quantity, and you can use the preferred solution based on your needs.

We hope this article helped you learn how to limit purchase quantity in WordPress. You may also want to see our expert pick of the best WooCommerce plugins for your store or our tutorial on how to increase WooCommerce sales.

If you liked this article, then please subscribe to our YouTube Channel for WordPress video tutorials. You can also find us on Twitter and Facebook.



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Best Web Hosting for E-Commerce in 2024

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Web hosting domains for web pages

What is the best web hosting for e-commerce right now?

The best web hosting for e-commerce right now is Hostinger. Hostinger offers both a website builder and WooCommerce hosting plans at affordable prices — starting at less than $5 a month.

Hostinger’s e-commerce plans include a free domain for one year, secure socket layer certification, firewall protection and email hosting for up to 100 email addresses. You’ll also get a good amount of storage — 500 products for the store builder and at least 200GB for the WooCommerce plans — and access to 24/7 customer service.

Hostinger logo

Sarah Tew/CNET

Hostinger is a rapidly growing web hosting company that offers two types of e-commerce hosting: an AI-powered e-commerce website builder and managed WooCommerce hosting. WooCommerce support is also included in Hostinger’s managed WordPress plans.

Both types of e-commerce hosting from Hostinger include a free domain for one year, SSL certification, firewall protection and email hosting for up to 100 email addresses.

Plans

Hostinger’s e-commerce website builder offers both an AI-powered site generation process — building a site for you based on simple information you enter about your business — and a self-created website option that is based on 150 templates.

The e-commerce site builder also features SEO tools, marketing integrations, inventory management tools for up to 500 products, appointment scheduling and 20-plus different payment methods.

For managed WooCommerce, Hostinger offers four plans with one-click WooCommerce setup, LiteSpeed caching, auto-updates and automated daily backups. More advanced plans include benefits like built-in WooCommerce integrations and AI content generation tools.

Pricing

Hostinger’s e-commerce store builder plan starts at $4 a month (plus three months free) and renews for $9 a month if you choose a four-year plan. The $4-a-month introductory rate applies to all plans of one year or more, but renewal costs vary based on contract length.

Hostinger’s managed WooCommerce hosting starts at $4 a month, with renewal pricing as low as $9 a month for the most affordable plan. The $4-a-month introductory rate applies to all plans of one year or more, but renewal costs vary based on contract length.

Ionos’s main e-commerce offerings are an online store builder and WooCommerce hosting. Both include a free domain for at least one year, an SSL certification, firewall protection and access to 24/7 customer service via live chat or phone. 

Plans

Ionos’s online store builder includes manual and AI-driven site-building tools, including a customizable checkout with options to add upsells to encourage people to upgrade their products and cross-sells to encourage people to buy related products. A variety of payment processors, shipping rate calculation tools and promo/coupon creators are also included.

All online store builder plans from Ionos include free email hosting for at least one email address and the ability to list at least 500 physical products in your store.

Ionos’s WooCommerce plan includes preinstalled WordPress and WooCommerce, plus an AI-powered setup wizard that builds a site for you based on basic information about your store. 

Ionos’s WooCommerce plan also includes a caching plugin, Jetpack backup, automated WordPress updates, unlimited product creation and email hosting for 10 accounts.

Ionos also offers managed hosting plans for Magento and PrestaShop, two moderately popular e-commerce platforms.

Pricing

Pricing for Ionos’s e-commerce site builder is complicated. The Plus plan starts at $1 a month for six months but rises to $30 a month after those months, and you must sign up for a year to get the discount — so you’ll pay $30 a month for the second half of your term. The Starter plan, on the other hand, starts at $6 a month for six months but only rises to $24 a month afterward.

As for WooCommerce hosting, there’s only one plan, and it costs $10 a month for the first year and $20 a month after.

Magento plans use cloud hosting and have hourly billing rates with monthly maximums, the lowest being $7 a month.

You can also save money by purchasing one of Ionos’s highly affordable shared hosting plans, with the lowest tier starting at $4 a month and rising to $6 a month on renewal. If you choose this option, you’ll have to configure and maintain your e-commerce store on your own. 

PrestaShop plans are similar to regular shared hosting plans, with the most affordable one starting at $4 a month and rising to $6 a month.

SiteGround is known for its excellent WordPress hosting and award-winning customer service. SiteGround offers a variety of WordPress plans, including three WooCommerce plans.

Plans

All of SiteGround’s WooCommerce plans include unmetered bandwidth, a free domain for the first year, permanent SSL certification, WordPress auto-updates and daily backups.

SiteGround also offers top-notch security features, including a constantly updated firewall, AI anti-bot tools and a custom security plugin. Combined with a content delivery network and highly optimized servers, these features ensure excellent site and server performance.

Pricing

SiteGround’s least expensive WooCommerce plan starts at $3 a month and rises to $18 a month on renewal. The most expensive WooCommerce plan starts at $8 a month and rises to $45 a month on renewal. You must sign up for one year to get the full introductory discount, and there is no option to keep the discount by signing up for a two or three-year term.

Buying regular shared hosting from SiteGround won’t save you money, either — the prices for both regular shared hosting and regular WordPress hosting are the same as SiteGround’s WooCommerce hosting prices. 

A2 Hosting is an independent web host with a 4.6/5 star rating on TrustPilot with over 2,500 reviews. A2 Hosting also performed well in our hands-on review, with excellent ease of use, a good variety of plans and great server performance — even on a basic plan without added caching tools. Customer support via phone and email was slow, suggesting that it may take a significant amount of time to address complex issues.

Plans

A2 Hosting offers several WordPress hosting plans and one WooCommerce plan. A2 Hosting WordPress plans include optimized WordPress installation with automatic setup for essential pages and plugins, plus server performance tools like LiteSpeed caching. These plans also include daily backups, SSL certification and an advanced firewall with distributed denial of service and brute force protection.

Pricing

The lowest-tier WordPress hosting plan from A2 Hosting starts at $10 a month and rises to $26 a month after renewal. The one plan with preinstalled WooCommerce starts at $40 a month, with a renewal cost of $62 a month. Discounts are only available with a three-year plan.

You can save money with a regular shared hosting plan — starting at $2 a month and rising to $13 a month for the lowest tier. These plans still include excellent security and WordPress features, but some of them don’t include daily backups or performance tools like LiteSpeed.

Nexcess offers top-tier WooCommerce hosting and fully managed Magento hosting. All of Nexcess’s plans feature SSL certification, firewall protection, automated daily backups and an above-average 99.99% uptime guarantee.

Plans

Nexcess’s managed WooCommerce hosting plans come bundled with plugins like Yoast SEO, Astra Pro and Beaver Builder Lite bundled directly into its hosting packages for improved performance.

Nexcess’s managed WooCommerce hosting plans also include automated updates for WordPress and all plugins, plus a plugin performance monitor to track the impact plugins and themes have on site performance. Object caching and image compression are also included to further improve performance.

Nexcess’s fully managed Magento hosting plans include robust developer tools and caching for accelerated site speed.

Pricing

Managed WooCommerce hosting through Nexcess starts at $8.40 a month, with the most expensive plan costing $438 a month. There is no introductory pricing.

Fully managed Magento hosting through Nexcess starts at $37.52 a month for the first three months and rises to $67 a month after those three months. The most expensive plan starts at $539.01 a month for the first three months and rises to $1,017 a month in following months.

Factors to consider when choosing a web host for e-commerce

Website builder vs. content management system

A website builder is a visual design tool for creating sites without using code, installing extensions or managing software updates. Most website builders are front-end editors, so you can see what your site edits will look like to the public in real time. Website builders also tend to be proprietary, making it difficult to switch hosts later on.

A content management system or CMS is a tool for creating, managing and organizing content like blog posts and landing pages without needing code. These tools are typically open-source, so you can use them with most hosting companies and plans. They also tend to have more customization options than website builders, but you may need to install extensions to access these options. WordPress is the most popular CMS, powering 43.4% of all websites.

If you want the simplest site building process possible, choose a website builder plan. If you want maximum flexibility and you’re capable of dealing with more complex software, choose a third-party hosting plan with a CMS like WordPress.

Shop management system

The shop management system is the tool you’ll use to create your online store, product pages and checkout experience. If you’re using a website builder, this will be built into the software. If you’re using WordPress, you’ll probably end up using the popular WooCommerce plugin.

Other shop management platforms include Magento — recently rebranded as Adobe Commerce — and PrestaShop. These are essentially content management systems built specifically for e-commerce. Some hosts, including Ionos and Nexcess, offer specialized hosting plans for these tools.

Hosting types

Most website builder hosting plans from traditional web hosts use shared hosting, which involves splitting a server’s resources between many sites. This lets hosts keep shared hosting prices low. Data storage, which includes how much space and bandwidth you have for things like images and blog posts and how much monthly traffic your site can accommodate, is limited on these plans.

If you choose a CMS, you’ll be able to pick between a few types of web hosting. Shared hosting is the most affordable, though basic shared hosting plans will require you to set up your e-commerce software yourself. Many web hosts also offer specialized shared hosting plans that are optimized for WordPress and/or the popular e-commerce plugin WooCommerce. These specialized plans are often more expensive than regular shared hosting.

As your site grows, you might want to switch to virtual private server hosting for dedicated bandwidth and storage. This lets your site accommodate more monthly visitors — often several hundred thousand — and store thousands of large files like images and videos. You’ll also get some server customization options, like the ability to choose your operating system.

Large e-commerce sites can also choose dedicated hosting. Dedicated hosting gives you an entire physical server, often including enough bandwidth to handle millions of monthly visits and enough storage to upload hundreds of thousands of large files. Dedicated hosting also offers more server customization options.

Both VPS and dedicated hosting have managed and unmanaged hosting options. Managed hosting tends to be more expensive, but includes server software maintenance. Unmanaged plans are typically less expensive, but require you to maintain server software yourself (or hire someone to do it).

E-commerce tools

A website builder for e-commerce should include:

  • Store design tools, including product page and checkout customization
  • Payment processing capabilities
  • Search engine optimization — SEO — tools
  • Coupon creation

An e-commerce plan from a traditional web host should include:

  • A preinstalled CMS (typically WordPress)
  • Preinstalled plugins or extensions for online store creation, such as WooCommerce

Security

At minimum, your e-commerce site should have the following security measures in place:

  • SSL certification: This protocol encrypts data sent to and from your website, such as customers’ payment information.
  • Firewall: This software attempts to filter out malware attempting to infect your site.
  • DDoS protection: DDoS attacks flood a site with fake, malicious traffic to overwhelm the server. High-quality web servers are equipped with software to protect them from these attacks.

Some hosts may also provide things like two-factor authentication, malware scanning/repair and automated backups to further protect your site.

Performance

The best web hosting services for e-commerce provide at least 99.9% uptime, meaning your site won’t go down for more than 45 minutes a month due to server issues. This is important because every minute your site is down is a minute you could be losing traffic — and if you’re running an e-commerce store, losing traffic equals losing money.

Many web hosts also offer tools to improve site speed and other aspects of performance, such as caching tools that store your data in users’ browsers so they can access your site faster on repeat visits.

Customer service

Customer service should be available 24/7 via live chat, email and phone. You also want customer support to be fast to respond and knowledgeable enough to assist you with any problems you encounter.

Reading third-party reviews is important, as web hosting companies will always play up the quality of their customer support. Looking at reviews from real people helps you understand whether or not the host you’re considering follows through on the promises made on its website.

Pricing

Consider what hosting fits within your budget, as the company and plan you choose will majorly impact your operating budget. Web hosting — especially e-commerce hosting — pricing can be confusing.

Here are four things to look out for:

  • Annual/long-term payments: Most web hosting companies display monthly prices, but you can often only access the lowest price by paying for one to three years at once.
  • Renewal pricing: Many web hosts’ listed prices are introductory rates, meaning you’ll be charged more per month when your service renews.
  • Transaction fees: Some e-commerce-focused web hosting services charge transaction fees on some or all of their plans.
  • Additional fees: Many web hosts provide a domain for the first year but require you to pay for your domain separately in subsequent years.

How CNET tests web hosting

We extensively research every web host we include on lists like this one. We start by reading their websites to evaluate the quality of their plans and pricing. We also read reviews from third-party sites like Trustpilot and check the Better Business Bureau for complaints about the service.

We’re currently conducting full reviews of popular web hosting companies to provide our hands-on, expert assessments. These reviews use our framework for testing web hosting services, including:

  • Uptime monitoring for one week
  • Speed tests over the course of five days
  • Calls and emails to customer support to determine things like waiting time, professionalism and expertise of the customer support teams

Notes from these reviews are included in the listings for the relevant hosts. This page will be updated regularly with new notes as we publish more reviews. 

Other web hosting we’ve tested

HostGator

HostGator Web Hosting logo HostGator Web Hosting logo

Sarah Tew/CNET

HostGator is a popular web host that powers over 707,000 websites. HostGator’s two WordPress-based e-commerce plans include several preinstalled plugins for e-commerce and marketing, automated WordPress updates and automated daily backups.

HostGator delivers decent security features with all plans, including SSL certification and an advanced firewall with DDoS protection.

In my testing, I found HostGator’s site setup and management tools easy to work with. Benchmarking showed that HostGator’s servers offer decent performance. Customer support was inconsistent across channels, so you might want to avoid HostGator if your site is complex and/or you expect to need a lot of support.

Pricing: Online Store plan starts at $10 a month and rises to $25 a month on renewal; Online Store + Marketplace starts at $13 a month and rises to $40 a month on renewal. You can save money by purchasing a shared hosting plan ($3.75 a month to start, $10 a month on renewal). All of these prices are based on the purchase of a three-year term. 

Read our HostGator review.

GoDaddy

GoDaddy logo GoDaddy logo

Sarah Tew/CNET

GoDaddy is the biggest player in the web hosting space, powering a full 15.6% of all websites. You can get many types of web hosting from GoDaddy, including shared and WordPress hosting. The company also offers Managed WooCommerce Stores that include hosting, automated WordPress/WooCommerce updates and shipping discounts of up to 84%.

GoDaddy’s Managed WooCommerce Stores also come with SSL certification, an advanced firewall with DDoS protection and malware scanning. This is notable, as many of GoDaddy’s hosting plans don’t include these features.

During my hands-on assessment, I found GoDaddy frustrating to get started with, but this was balanced out by excellent server performance and customer service. There are a lot of open complaints on GoDaddy’s BBB page, so you might want to avoid GoDaddy if your site is complex or you expect to need high-level support.

Pricing: The most affordable WooCommerce Store plan starts at $25 a month, and rises to $30 a month on renewal. The most expensive WooCommerce Store plan starts at $130 a month and retains this price on renewal. All WooCommerce Store plans from GoDaddy come with 2.9% plus 30 cents card transaction fees in the US and 2.7% plus $0 card transaction fees in Canada.

You can save a lot of money by choosing a regular shared hosting plan — starting at $6 a month for the most affordable option, with a renewal price of $10 a month — but you’ll be sacrificing a lot, including basic security features like a firewall.

Read our GoDaddy review.

Which hosting service is best for an e-commerce website?

Hostinger is the best hosting service for an e-commerce website, with both website builder and WooCommerce plans available for affordable prices. Hostinger offers AI site and content creation tools, email hosting and 24/7 customer service.


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What is the No. 1 e-commerce platform?

Is GoDaddy good for e-commerce hosting?

GoDaddy is a reasonably good choice for e-commerce hosting, offering managed WooCommerce plans with heavy shipping discounts available for some regions and shipping methods. Starting prices for GoDaddy’s WooCommerce plans are high, and non-WooCommerce plans lack key security features.


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