What makes a great WooCommerce hosting provider? Customer support, user experience, and thoughtful service design are important, but it is the data center that matters most of all. The data center is the foundation on which hosting services are built. So the real question is this: what makes a great data center? To answer that question, we have to look past a hosting provider’s branding and marketing to focus on their facilities.
One of the first aspects to consider is the relationship between the hosting provider and their data center. They may own and operate their data centers, colocate servers in data centers owned by a third party, or resell hosting services provided by another hosting provider.
WooCommerce hosting providers that own and operate their data center have the greatest control over server and network infrastructure. They can optimize for specific hosting types and respond quickly to hardware issues. Hosting providers with colocated servers have little control over connectivity and power, but they have root access to servers and can use the system administration services of the data center provider (remote hands). Resellers don’t have control over infrastructure or servers, but they may offer value-added services.
Hosting providers with any of these relationships may provide excellent services. However, with colocation and resellers, you will have to look past the hosting provider to the data center operator to make a considered assessment of the data center’s reputation and capabilities.
So, what data center qualities provide the performance and reliability WooCommerce retailers should expect?
What Does A Great Data Center Look Like?
Network distance is a measure of the number of network hops between the data center and your customers. It is related to geographic distance, but it is not the same. A request to your WooCommerce store travels across several networks to reach the data center, and the response makes a similar journey the other way. The more networks involved, the longer the request-response cycle takes.
It’s difficult to measure network distance accurately, but you can get a good idea by looking at the data center’s bandwidth providers. Bandwidth providers come in various shapes and sizes. The largest bandwidth providers can move lots of data around the world quickly, and they tend to have direct peering relationships with other large bandwidth providers — peering is the fastest type of connection.
Local bandwidth providers may connect to regional providers, which connect to national providers and so on. That means data may take the long way around and incur many more network hops. For the lowest latencies, check for fiber connectivity to major bandwidth providers.
Geographic distance matters too, both because longer geographical distances correlate to longer network distances and because the further data has to travel, the longer it takes. Ideally, the data center should be located somewhere near the majority of your customers. It makes no sense to choose a European data center when most of your customers are in Japan.
Finally, connectivity should be redundant. This means providing more than one route for data to leave the data center. The better data centers provide redundant connectivity to two or more major bandwidth providers. If something goes wrong with one route, there is no service interruption because data can take another route.
While we’re on the topic of redundancy, servers also need power. Most data centers take power from local utilities, but that is almost certainly not reliable enough to maintain acceptable levels of availability. Look for evidence that the data center has redundant power supplies backed by generators that can take over in the event of a disaster.
In summary, when choosing a hosting provider, look past the branding to assess their data centers. Research the data center’s network and geographical distance from the customers you intend to serve. Additionally, ensure that the data center offers adequate connectivity to major bandwidth providers and that it is provisioned with redundant power and connectivity.
About the Author
About Graeme Caldwell – Graeme is a writer and content marketer at Nexcess, a global provider of hosting services, who has a knack for making tech-heavy topics interesting and engaging to all readers. His articles have been featured in top publications across the net, from TechCrunch to TemplateMonster. For more content, visit the Nexcess blog and give them a follow at @nexcess.