Step 1: Find A Webhost And Domain
I wanted to start this section off by addressing a few philosophical issues. One question I get asked all the time is why should I host my own website and shopping cart when there are so many services available that will allow me to use their own proprietary shopping system for free? Why wouldn’t I just want to open an Ebay or Yahoo store? Why not just have an Amazon store?
I always answer this question with another question. Would you ever place your future and destiny in the hands of someone else who doesn’t share your same interests?
Not only do services like Ebay charge an arm and a leg to sell items (you forfeit up to 15% of your profits with Ebay), but they can mess with you whenever they feel like it. In fact, Ebay has raised their fees without warning on a number of occasions which has driven smaller stores out of business. Don’t fall for the allure of using someone else’s setup. You want to own your store. You never want to be tied down or forced to use a specific service provider. With this concept in mind, let’s move on to the guts of this section.
Register Your Domain
One of the most important aspects of your online store is your domain name. If you already know what you want to sell in your online store, make sure you choose a domain name that is short, catchy and memorable with no dashes in the name. I use GoDaddy.com to register all of my domains but certain webhosts such as Bluehost will give you a domain for free upon signup.
Choosing A Webhost
When you first launch your online store, you aren’t really going to need a powerful webhost. Initially, you aren’t going to be attracting enough customers to bring a shared hosting account down. (Although there is an exception to this rule depending on the shopping cart software you choose. More on this later). As a result when you are first starting out, your main focus should be on reliability, support and saving some cash.
For example, when I first started out, I looked for the following attributes in my potential webhost providers
Are they cheap?
Are they reliable? Do they have a decent uptime?
Do they have good technical support?
Do they load one machine down with too many users?
Do they offer the features that I need to run my online store.
I probably researched over 20 different shared webhost providers and narrowed the field down to 2, Hostgator and Bluehost.
Ultimately, I decided to go with Bluehost because they won me over with the responsiveness of their tech support. In fact, I ran my online store on Bluehost for 2 straight years paying only $6.95 a month until I outgrew my shared hosting account a few years ago.
Bluehost offers a very cheap plan for $6.95 a month that pretty much covers anything you’ll ever need in a shared host. There is only one type of plan and you can host as many domains as you would like with unlimited SQL databases and bandwidth.
It might seem like a long ways off, but eventually you will want to transition your store to dedicated hosting. For dedicated hosting, I highly recommend StormOnDemand which is what my wife and I currently use for our online store.
The other reason I’m bringing up dedicated hosting early on is because certain shopping carts require more horsepower to run. For example, the Magento shopping cart (I’ll be covering shopping carts later), pretty much requires dedicated hosting right from the start in order to run a usable storefront.
In any case, selecting a domain and webhost provider isn’t a big deal. You can sign up for very little money and start your store for practically nothing.