As the new owner of an eCommerce site, choosing a web host can be daunting. Hosts compete on prices, resource allocation, uptime, license costs, support, and convenience. The best place to start is to choose the web application and then select a host based on your budget and customerís needs. 

For a product-oriented site, your application is your product catalog and eCommerce site. Your application showcases your products, includes search and marketing functions, integrates with your credit card processor and provides a quick and easy shopping experience for your customers. Many hosting providers, called Application Service Providers (ASPs) allow you to ìrentî their application along with hosting. These sites offer the quickest startup and ROI, although the application may prove inflexible over the long haul. 

Once you have your application, find out what technical specs (including Operating System, database, and disk space) it needs to run optimally. When looking at host resources, consider what your worst case would be for an overage bill. Large overages typically come from disk usage and bandwidth transfer. As you compare hosts, you will see some with very low prices. Consider that some of them may only offer next business day e-mail support. If your website is down on a Friday afternoon, can you live with a two-line e-mail response on Monday morning?

Avoid resellers. When you speak with a prospective host, confirm they own their own equipment. If you can afford a dedicated server, it will serve you best for a high-volume website. If you have a shared hosting account, you are sharing a server with potentially hundreds of other websites. 

Unfortunately, when you are shopping, it is impossible to tell which host has the best reliability and performance. To test these, sign up for an evaluation month before you commit to using the host.