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23 Important Questions Every B2B eCommerce Company Needs to Ask Its Hosting Provider

Hosting is an area B2B or Wholesale companies with an eCommerce solution occasionally leave to their web developers or agency. Here are 23 key questions B2Bs should put to their hosting company - today!

Mark Reilly (CTO) Written by Mark Reilly (CTO) 28 Nov 2017.

If you’re a B2B company with an eCommerce website, you’ll need to familiarise yourself with a number of things.

Leaving any of those things to chance can be a recipe for disaster.

One vital area is where and how your eCommerce website is hosted.

Blindly assuming that your hosting provider is going to be providing the highest quality of service is definitely not advised.

Asking these 23 questions of your hosting company is a good starting point. The answers you receive will give you an idea of the common pitfalls when it comes to hosting — and more importantly, how to avoid them.

Questions B2B eCommerce Companies Need to Ask About Their Hosting Environment

First things first, you need to know as much as possible about the environment in which your website is hosted.

Typically, when you contract an agency to build your website, they will rely on another provider to host your website. B2B eCommerce or Wholesale eCommerce solutions are sometimes no different. It’s always worth checking where and with who your site will be hosted, and what should your role be in with engaging with that company.

For some open-source projects there are dedicated environments which “specialise” in hosting particular applications. This is good because it likely means that the system architecture is optimized for your application.

  • Question 1: Who is the hosting provider?
  • Question 2: What, if any, is my role in engaging with them?
  • Question 3: Who is responsible for the system architecture and optimisation for my eCommerce site?

Questions to Ask About Software

As your role is the merchant, asking questions about what the operating system or what software is running on the server, is about as useful information as knowing the brand of cement used in your warehouse foundations. It’s generally down to the builders' preferences.

Or in this case programmer preferences.

The more prudent thing to know is that (a) the software is fit for purpose and (b) that it’s regularly updated. (Hopefully unlike your building foundations!)

It’s also important to know that what you’re not the guinea pig! The setup being provided should be tried and tested. You don't want to be the first out on a new setup which no one has experience in running.

  • Question 4: Is the software on my hosting environment up to date?
  • Question 5: Who is responsible for updating the software on my hosting environment?
  • Question 6: How often are these software updates carried out? 
  • Question 7: How much experience do you have in running this software for my use case?

Questions to Ask About Infrastructure

Okay, so let’s hope we’ve got reliable and satisfactory answers to those first seven questions about the overall hosting environment and server software for your B2B eCommerce site.

Those answers will leave you much better placed to make a decision on whether to go with that particular hosting provider, or look elsewhere.

But we’re not out of the woods just yet.

Making sure all the environment is up to scratch and that the software on the server is up to date is a good start. Next thing is the infrastructure. This is the underlying hardware which your application runs on.

The infrastructure needs careful consideration also — as already discussed, the agency or developers of the software aren’t always in control of the infrastructure it runs on and rely on a third party to manage this.

Similar to the software side of things, you need to ensure that the same security concerns are applied to your hardware.

The other critical thing to watch out for is the reliability of the data centre the server is hosted in. All too often, when issues arise, they're related to the data centre, rather than your actual machine or the software running within it.

  • Question 8: Do you provide server infrastructure updates to the hardware itself?
  • Question 9: Will there be downtime when those infrastructure updates are being applied?
  • Question 10: Is there a schedule for those server infrastructure updates
  • Question 11: If so, will I be informed of that schedule?
  • Question 12: Will the hosting company make those updates overnight in order to limit any discernible impact on your business?

Pending the answers to all those questions, another one might present itself.

If server updates are to be carried out during working hours, or even worse the hosting company is not responsible for doing them at all, you’ll need to think about an alternative arrangement in order to mitigate all those risks.

  • Question 13: What are my options for investing in an infrastructure that scales properly so that I don't need to worry about downtime during updates? 

Question to Ask About Scalability

Now we come neatly to issues about the scalability of the software you’re running.

The infrastructure might be well set to scale, only for your systems to fall down because a software issue. So once you're satisfied that the infrastructure is solid and scalable, it pays to ask about scalability of the software on the server.

  • Question 14: If I invest in a scalable infrastructure, what are the possible knock-on effects for my eCommerce software — for example on performance, stability and security?

Questions to Ask About Server Capacity

Let’s say things are ticking over nicely for your B2B eCommerce or Wholesale business, and your digital arm has grown to the stage that perhaps 20-30% of your customers are regularly processing orders online.

That's a decent spot, but you'll also know that number is only likely to grow as you further enhance and invest in your systems and your customers behaviours shift steadily towards digital ordering.

Successes like those present their own challenges. They're nothing insurmountable, mind, but a few things need to be catered for. For example, what happens if all of your online customers decide to log on to the site at the same time?

  • Question 15: What is the concurrent capacity of my infrastructure? (I.e. how many simultaneous users can it handle at any one time?)
  • Question 16: Can you run stress tests to measure this capacity?
  • Question 17: If capacity is low or stress tests show some issues, what are my options to upgrade to a more powerful environment?
  • Question 18: If I want to go ahead with an upgrade, will the hosting company assist with the migration to the new machine or environment?

Questions to Ask About Ongoing Maintenance and Server Upgrades

Let’s say everything is well set up, completely scalable on a new machine or cluster of machines, and things are running smoothly.

That is a GREAT place to be!

One thing to be aware of, though, is that those new machines are still in the cloud and publicly facing, so while they’re more polished and more powerful, they still need to managed and maintained over time to ensure everything continues to run smoothly.

For instance, every time a new version of the operating system is released, you will have to make plans.

  • Question 19: When a new operating version is required, will you, the hosting company, help migrate my system to that new version?
  • Question 20: After migrating, will you run tests to make sure all your software is compatible with the new OS?

Questions to Ask About Downtime

Now it's time for further risk assessment!

With websites and web servers, there is always the chance of downtime.

When that happens, what happens?

You need to know, so it's good to ask.

  • Question 21: What is the procedure if my site goes offline?
  • Question 22: Is there a procedure for out of hours notify and response if downtime happens at, say, 4am?
  • Question 23: When downtime happens, will there be follow-up to clarify what happened, how it happened, and what has been put in place to prevent it happening again in future?

Bonus Question (Which Could Make All Other Questions Irrelevant)!

If you’re a wholesaler looking to introduce or optimise an eCommerce offering, you could take a different direction by asking just one question:

  • The Question To Answer All Other Questions: Aphix Software, can you help?

The Aphix Cloud Platform is specifically designed and developed for B2B and Wholesale Companies — and as a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution, our cloud system means you might never have to worry about hosting problems again.

Why?

Because it's all included in one affordable monthly fee!

We work with more than 100 B2Bs and Wholesalers around the world, in industries from food and catering supplies, electronic and electrical supplies, PPE and safety wear, agri parts and supplies, fashion and retail distribution, pharmacy, jewellery and cosmetics supplies and lots more.

Aphix is multiple-award-winning, totally for wholesalers solution from Aphix Software which powers digital ordering via web, mobile and apps for hundreds of wholesalers and B2B eCommerce around the world.

Want to learn more about the power of the Aphix Cloud Platform suite of eCommerce, digital ordering and mobile apps, and how it can make a massive impact on your bottom line?

Book a demo today