Traffic Creates Issues
Every now and then I jump into a WooCommerce facebook group. And not surprisingly, there's someone in there asking about WooCommerce hosting. Who should I use? What do you think about this hosting company? And the answers are all over the place. But you know what doesn't come with the answer? The traffic their own site is seeing.
Answers and opinions can be all over the place. And that $4/month hosting may be working great for someone. But if that site isn't getting any traffic, does it really matter? Is that the advice you want?
I don't think so.
Now, before I go further, let me full disclose that I work at a hosting company. More importantly, my team designed the WooCommerce hosting product that we sell. So either that means I'm biased, or it means I know a little something about this space. Only you can make that determination.
But what we can all agree on is this:
Traffic creates issues.
Without traffic, any hosting will do. When you get a lot of concurrent traffic, you realize that your needs might be different than you previously thought.
That's why I want to dig into the three WooCommerce hosting mistakes that you might be making right now, and how to fix them.
WooCommerce Hosting Mistakes
How do you pick from all the different WooCommerce hosting mistakes out there? Well, I kept away from the silly stuff like “stop paying for $3/month hosting,” because it's too easy a target. Instead I wanted to focus on the stuff you can take action on right away. Not to switch your host, but to have a better conversation with your host. And if you're a merchant, to help you have a talk with your developer.
You're counting on caching plugins to solve high traffic moments
Whether you're an eCommerce developer, a freelancer helping a merchant friend, or a merchant yourself, you've likely been told that caching plugins will help “speed up” your site. It's not bad advice. But it is a mistake.
First, your store isn't like a normal WordPress site. There's a lot more interactions with the database than a traditional site or blog. So while a caching plugin can help, it also may not do what you think it's going to do if you have a large catalog of products. Caching plugins save and re-use some queries, but that doesn't help if the next ten customers all ask for different things.
Also, caching can hide the actual issues your store may have. And hiding them doesn't mean solving them. It simply means you won't notice them until it's too late and your store is under heavy load.
Which takes us to the next mistake….
You've never tested your site under heavy loads and don't know its limits
If you're a merchant or developer who has been told by your hosting provider that you're “all good,” you should be nervous. How in the world can they tell you that without knowing what kind of traffic you'll have? And what kind of paths that traffic will take?
When we test load on customer sites, we have multiple models of traffic. Are they doing research (category browsing, digging into and out of product pages)? Are they clear on what they want (search > cart > checkout)?
Most importantly, some performance effects won't appear with low traffic or low order volume. That discount coupon that makes sure it isn't used more than 50 times is much faster on a database with 100 orders than on one with 20,000 orders. Right?
So how will you know if that coupon is killing you? Or if your comment plugin is killing you? Or if your upsell or cross-sell will time out your site under heavy loads?
The only way to know is to test. And if you're not testing, then you don't know where the gotchas are. And if you don't know where the problems are, you're bound to discover them at the wrong moment.
I know I put this second but the truth is that this is the biggest of all WooCommerce hosting mistakes I see on a monthly basis.
You've been promised auto-scale but don't know how it works
From the first moment you heard about auto-scale technology, it sounded so wonderful, right? You'd never have problems with traffic because your server would just automatically grow.
But wait, how does that work? A physical server doesn't naturally grow. So what's going on?
Too many people, from merchants to developers, have no idea how auto-scaling works with their specific host. Some don't even know how it works at all.
I briefly explained our auto-scale approach at Nexcess before, but the point is that you should be asking how it works for your host, not mine.
- Are there delays before your store sees the benefits of auto-scale?
- Is there any cost and how much is the cost when your store auto-scales?
- Is there a limit to how much scaling occurs without manual intervention?
- Will your store have to move to another server to auto-scale?
- Will your store have to get migrated to another underlying provider?
All of these questions and more should be asked when you're being promised that you don't have to worry about scale. No one likes surprises.
How we built Nexcess Managed WooCommerce Hosting
When we first launched Liquid Web's (now Nexcess) Managed WooCommerce hosting plans, they started at $249/month. That was 10x the price of other hosts offering a solution that looked (at first glance) comparable. The difference? One of the big ones was that it was designed for high concurrent traffic.
For large stores, we pushed all reporting out to Glew. For abandoned carts, we pushed logic and email to Jilt, and now use Recapture as well. The point was to leave the server to focus on carts and not all the extra stuff. Reporting, cart abandonment, email sending are all things that can slow your cart processing down and we didn't want that.
I'm not going to add it as a fourth mistake, but most folks building stores ask the server to do far more than it should. You should focus its duty as narrowly as possible.
The good news is that we didn't leave it up at the $249 level. Once we got more things in place, we were able to offer Nexcess Managed WooCommerce hosting plans starting at $19 – and they still offer auto-scale. (That plan is great for small or starting stores doing less than 500 orders an hour.)
The bottom line is the same regardless of who you're hosting with. Just make sure you're asking the right questions, doing the right due diligence, and working closely with your host.
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