Small, Fast And Not Expensive Hosting For E-Commerce Site (Not SiteGround)

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Small fast not expensive alternative to SiteGround

Here’s another article that I wrote using the email correspondence with one of my readers. He asked me to suggest hosts which could suit his needs. He needed a fast and not expensive host for a new e-commerce website he is about to build. He would like a small host (not as big as SiteGround) and with an adequate support.

When writing this article I modified the text of our emails a bit to make it smoother. Also I added a bit more information that I think would be useful. Also I added links to my other articles and affiliate links to the hosts I recommend. I changed the name of my vis-a-vis to Jon to keep the private information.

By the way, here’s a disclosure: There are some affiliate links on this page. In other words, I get paid if you click on the links and make a purchase. All such links open in new window/tab; no software/program will be installed to your computer. (This is a standard notice required by hosting companies.) Besides, my recommended hosts are here.


Hi Michael / Raah

Hello Michael,

I can’t recall how I came across your website but seems you’re one of the few who really can be trusted for unbiased expert opinions.

Long story short: I’m lost in the search for good hosting provider. I chose cs-cart as shopping cart, after really long time of searching and testing virtually all available free and paid platforms possible (tried thoroughly on localhost with XAMPP and Visual Studio). When I started all this, I had no idea what XAMMP or Visual Studio are and how they work – a long and quite painful and time consuming learning 🙂

Anyway, here’s what I’m after:

  • cs-cart will be the platform (not so popular unfortunately, but a great cart)
  • hosting with NGINX or LiteSpeed (not sure which one would be better)
  • CDN or good page load speeds worldwide (or at least North America, Europe and Russia)
  • hosting budget is not specifically set but it’s not “unlimited” 🙂
  • fully managed hosting, since I’m total novice in this and no enough experience/confidence in Linux OS.

There are few hosting providers which passed my initial selection, based on customer reviews on Trustpilot and alike, and full page loading times to my pc. I’m currently in Shenzhen, China, behind the bloody GFW so everything outside China loads slow, if it loads at all.

What would be your suggestion? What would be your pick, aside of SiteGround?

Would I need CDN later?

Is it better to start with a good shared hosting first, or go directly to VPS and avoid the potential risks of switching servers, if such risks exist? I found that good shared hosting is not much more expensive than basic VPS.

That’s all for now.



Hello Jon,

Thanks for contacting me. I’ve read your email and feel sorry that you are behind the GFW 🙁 I can assume this makes the things more complicated for you.
I will try to help you as much as I can. I will tell you what I know, and what I don’t know I will tell you so directly.

> cs-cart will be the platform (not so popular unfortunately, but a great cart)

I have not heard of this cart before, but a quick search (this and this) showed me that it’s recommended to use a VPS or a dedicated server or a similarly powerful managed solution (most shared hosts are not the option in most cases and a VPS-grade hosting is more recommended for a production and effortless experience). Actually this is not a surprise because any shopping cart is pretty resource-hungry. And whereas a shopping cart can work on a shared hosting, the experience would be slow for users even if there’s just one user online.

> hosting with NGINX or LiteSpeed (not sure which one would be better).

Actually this is not as important as which hosting you choose. A hosting will play a much bigger role in your application’s speed than the configuration. So, first choose a hosting, then play with the configuration. Prefer a technically-oriented hosts rather than beginner-user oriented hosts because it will be cheaper for you because of less support costs at such hosts. You mentioned NGINX or LiteSpeed. It means you know these words and you are not afraid of them. This is good and it’s likely that you don’t need someone at the technical support to hold your hand all the time like total newbies love 🙂

> CDN or good page load speeds worldwide (or at least North America, Europe and Russia)

Whereas CDN can make your application load faster, a shopping has a bottle neck of a compute power. In other words, even if your static content (which is served by a CDN) like images, CSS and even javascript files are loaded very fast, the slowest part is your hosting server CPU performance (as well as RAM which plays a big role in it too especially depending on a number of visitors). Thus, a good CDN is always good in most cases, but the most important thing is the server resources dedicated to you at your hosting account.

> hosting budget is not specifically set but it’s not “unlimited” 🙂
> fully managed hosting, since I’m total novice in this and no enough experience/confidence in Linux OS.

Got it. I will suggest you below several solutions for difference price ranges so that you could estimate the options available in your case considering performance, support and price.

> Do you think jsDelivr is a good alternative to CloudFlare if I would need CDN later?

Unfortunately can’t say anything specific about it. It needs testing on your application, your caching system (i.e. your hosting). But anyway, as I said above, a CDN is less important than a hosting, especially if you consider a free CDN option at Cloudflare (by the way, I have a research on how it affects a website speed here and here).

> Is it better to start with a good shared hosting first, or go directly to VPS and avoid the potential risks of switching servers, if such risks exist? I found that good shared hosting is not much more expensive than basic VPS.

The point is that if you could manage VPS, then of course, go with a VPS (or better with a cloud provider like DigitalOcean, Linode etc). But as far as I understand you would not like to use an unmanaged hosting. A shared hosting does not require you to manage a server, but for the same price you get much less powerful resources than unmanaged VPS. So, a shared hosting, if speaking very-very roughly, takes a VPS and puts lots of clients on it, and manages it for all of you.

Before giving you particular hosting suggestions, I’d like to give you the general perspective of the options.

Before all, the hosting price is comprised of the two main factors. The first one is the support (the bigger part). And the other part is the server resources. In most cases with managed hosting solutions the server part is a fewer part of your budget if we talk about the solutions for starters).

For example, a hosting with less approachable support (i.e. no phone support) would cost considerably less than a hosting with the same performance (speed) and with a phone support. For instance, SiteGround in this respect is more comfortable hosting (with phone and live chat support which is very beginner user friendly), but such level of support is included in your price (by the way, in case with SiteGround the renewal price is high, whereas its price for the first billing period which can be up to 3 years is amazingly low). Perhaps it makes sense to choose a less approachable support, but with more server resources? If I were you, I’d go the latter option, i.e. I’d choose less beginner-friendly support, but more powerful server.

Okay, here are the general suggestions for you:

  1. Affordable shared hosting (regular prices like less $5/mo). This will give you a slow performance almost in all cases.
    I would not recommend it unless you want just to try and play with your cart, building your website etc.
  2. Expensive shared hosting (prices like about $10/mo or less for a first billing period and upto about $30/mo as the regular price the next billing period). This can give you an okay speed and no headache managing a server. Not all shared hosts with this price range can suit. But some of them can be a good option. The problem with shared hosting is that the good performance for a high-demanding application is not guaranteed all the time on most shared hosts (this is the risk of a shared hosting).

    Also, in this respect I don’t like shared hosting’s so called “unlimited plans”. “Unlimited” can sound good for a person who has multiple websites. But if you have one application, then a typical shared hosting is not a good option because it just does not suit for high-intensive applications (which a shopping cart is).

    However, a good shared hosting can be a great starting option for the first billing period. In other words, you sign up with a powerful shared hosting plan (more RAM, more CPU, less clients per account), pay for the first year or so, enjoy the support and everything that the host provides, and then when the first billing period is over, you migrate to another host (probably less beginner user-friendly, but less expensive and perhaps even more powerful). For example, SiteGround is one of the best hosts I can think of for the first billing period. I know you are not considering SiteGround, but anyway it is a good example for comparison.

    Powerful plans on shared hosts (so called semi-dedicated or high-performance plans) are good options as a middle point between a shared hosting and a managed VPS.

  3. Managed VPS (starting from about $50/mo or sometimes as low as $30/mo if paid annually). This is the optimal option in terms of quality. No headache with managing server. Much faster than a shared hosting (even the most powerful shared hosting plans).
  4. Another one option is Cloudways which is a semi-managed cloud solution (starting from $10/mo). This is in fact a sort of managed VPS (if talking very roughly). But this is cheaper than a managed VPS, because of less quality support or less performance quality (more occasional slowdowns/downtimes that you will have to address to a hosting support which also may be not top-notch all the time).

That’s generally it. You see it – the more reliable hosting solution, the more expensive it is from the first month.

Now let me give you particular suggestions. I assume you are NOT ready to pay $30/mo, at least right now.

1. If you want to go the cheapest way possible for the beginning (while you set everything up, learn the basics of a hosting thing etc) with an option to upgrade anytime, then I’d suggest going with MDDHosting. You can go with as cheap as it seems comfortable to you, and then you can upgrade any time (this host has a good variety of options to upgrade). The greatest advantage is that it includes cPanel for you (it means easy management).

A relative disadvantage of this option is that you have to pay in advance for multiple years ahead to get maximum savings.

Also, if your shopping cart produces performance peaks (and it’s likely that it does), your application will be slow on these peaks (or you will have to upgrade to a more expensive plan get more server resources). Many other shared hosts can “tolerate” your peaks if they are not so frequent.

HawkHost’s cheap shared hosting plans are not powerful enough for a good experience with a shopping cart (although it can be good as a very cheap starting point while you set everything up, learn the things etc).

However, HawkHost’s semi-dedicated plans are good and affordable for the first billing period (and include a control panel which is very good for you to make the management easy).

Also HawkHost offers Cloud Compute plans which are ideal for what you will want from hosting, but if you need a control panel it will cost you $17/mo and above.

Another option that I’d suggest considering is GeekStorage‘s Performance plans. It has less variety of the options to upgrade compared to MDD, but it should be enough for your needs. This is like HawkHost’s semi-dedicated plans – they are more classic shared hosting options (compared to MDD). And it means that they are generally cheaper, but it’s performance is comparatively less predictable (because there’s more “shared” nature in its hosting).


  • Consider MDD‘s most affordable plan (if you are not sure how powerful plan you need) and upgrade when it’s needed. It’s a good option if you don’t want to bother migrating to another host in future and if you want to have lot’s of options to upgrade.
  • Consider HawkHost‘s Semi-Dedicated Plans. This is a solid choice.
  • Consider GeekStorage‘s Performance Plans to go cheaper than MDD or Hawks.

2. The basically other option that is worth considering is Cloudways. Although it has very different reviews on its support, it can be an affordable option to get what you really need. This is much more comfortable option than unmanaged VPS, but obviously not as comfortable as fully managed hosts that I mentioned above.

Many developers and owners of resource-intensive applications without Linux knowledge prefer Cloudways for its performance. They can’t manage VPS themselves, and at the same time they can’t afford going with a managed VPS. So, Cloudways helps to solve this dilemma quite efficiently.

The first advantage of Cloudways is that you don’t need to commit for a long periods (1-2 years) like with managed hosts I mentioned above. With Cloudways you pay each month.

Another advantage of Cloudways is that you can pay for the used resources directly (i.e. you pay not for months, but for the used CPU). It can make sense if you have few visitors or you still develop things.
Managed VPS is like the middle point between managed hosting (expensive option) and unmanaged hosting (affordable option).

At the same time, Cloudways is a more risky option from a support point of view (it’s more likely to get not a satisfactory support with Cloudways than with the managed hosts mentioned above). Cloudways requires more technical skills than the managed hosts like Hawk, MDD or Geekstorage, but at the same time much less technical knowledge than if you go with unmanaged VPS.

According to the feedback I get from my readers who followed my hosting suggestions, HawkHost is the most often praised host because it’s quite cheap to start with and gives a very high quality for this price. In your case I’d suggest going with its semi-dedicated (Nestling) plan. Migrating of your application should not be a complicated task if you decide to move away one day. By the way, most hosts offer free migration if you use cPanel (and with managed hosts like HawkHost you get cPanel included in your plan).

Hope, this long email did not complicate the things for you.

Creator of


Hi Michael,

Your reply was more than helpful. It also made me feel a bit more optimistic and confident that good things can happen to people like me too. A huge thank you for that!

Right now I’m looking at few more hosting providers, following your guide lines. I’ll contact you again in a day or two for one final expert opinion and I must take the leap for one hosting perhaps next Monday or Tuesday. I found that Google helps very little in this matter, since the monsters have done excellent SEO job and one find himself going in circles… same names, same BS. After reading your reply, I managed to break out from that circle by changing the methods of searching, so I ended up with few more good (obviously) hosting providers, who actually invest into hardware and technologies instead of marketing. For sure I feel more optimistic now that I have a chance to get a good start.

I’ll definitely write you again for help to choose one provider and perhaps to keep you updated how it’s going later, if you don’t mind.

Thank you again, Michael!


Sure, Jon!

Glad I could help you 🙂
Feel free to let me know your questions and how it goes.

Creator of


Hi Michael,

which provider would you choose, regardless of price? HDD or Hawk in terms of reliability, customer service, downtime, etc.?


Hi Jon,

Both hosts are on par in my opinion in terms of performance. But my readers prefer HawkHost tens of times more often.

I personally like support at Hawks better (looks like more support people work at Hawk which can be important in case of massive issues on a hosting).

On the other hand MDD offers a bigger line of the hosting options. Hawk is less flexible from this perspective.

Also, Hawk allows to abuse the server for a short period of time, whereas MDD throttles the CPU if you load server too much. I’d say HawkHost can be a bit more preferable in your case (because you have a high-performance application that can generate short peaks of performance). But at the same time, MDD Hosting should have more predictable performance because of this strict management (if you have peaks of performance you will have to upgrade with MDD Hosting whereas HawkHost can tolerate it to a certain extent).

If flexibility of hosting plans is important to you (e.g. you want to upgrade step-by-step gradually later), then I’d go with MDDHosting. It’s the strongest advantage of MDD.
Otherwise Hawk is a bit better in my opinion.

Creator of


Hi Michael,

I’m trying to order the “Nestling” plan from Hawk with additional 1GB RAM, all for 1 year contract.


Hi Jon,

Great to hear that. Feel free to keep me updated!

Creator of

P.S.: The links for further information and my affiliate links to the mentioned hosts and security products that I recommend:

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