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Ecommerce is an abbreviation for “electronic commerce,” and it chiefly refers to the practice of conducting business over the Internet. The merchants who conduct ecommerce may be referred to as etailers or emerchants, and the place from which they do business is usually a website, rather than a storefront. Like all websites, these ecommerce sites need hosting — the servers, software, and functionality to run a business on the Internet. Since ecommerce websites have special needs that don’t arise for people with personal websites, the specialized designation of ecommerce hosting has arisen to specify those webhosting firms that specialize in providing the services that etailers need.
Because ecommerce involves businesses in a wide selection of industries and aiming to achieve a wide variety of purposes, ecommerce hosting generally provides far more solutions than any single business needs. Ecommerce may be used to sell services, digital downloads, products that are shipped, licenses for use of online software, and an ever-growing number of other purposes. Some businesses combine a storefront with an online presence and need to integrate the two. Each of these particular ways of conducting business online has different ecommerce hosting needs.
Despite the differences, there are some basic applications that nearly every emerchant requires. These include email, databases, a shopping cart program, FTP, and a payment system. Other applications that some sites might use and others might not include blogs, live chat applications, and a website builder.
All ecommerce hosts provide support, but the manner, means, and quality of the support can differ markedly. The types of support offered may include a knowledge base, a support forum, live chat, and phone support. The fullest support includes 24/7 phone support, in addition to a knowledge base that features video demos of commonly performed tasks, as well as step-by-step articles.
Ecommerce hosting providers are plentiful. The packages they offer differ in price and the specific applications and amounts of their offerings. Key differences include the operating system of their servers, the number and type of databases they offer, the bandwidth and disk storage space limitations, the version of PHP and Perl they are using, multimedia features, and the availability of various plug-in scripts that might prove useful when merchants want to create message forums, mailing lists, surveys, image galleries, etc. Specific ecommerce features that may or may not be offered include password-protected directories, SSL Secure Server, and a variety of shopping cart programs.
Other concerns for ecommerce hosting are redundancy and reliability. Redundancy refers to the reduplication of materials, for example, backups. Reliability refers to the network’s “uptime” maintenance, security, and the efficiency of the host in resolving any problems that arise. Some ecommerce hosts have a guarantee of uptime.