Online businesses have their own special concerns when they are looking for good web hosting. For an online store you will most likely need a product catalog connected to a shopping cart, and some kind of payment processing.

Product catalogs

An efficient and easy to update product catalog is driven by a database, so a good ecommerce web hosting account includes database access. Common databases are MySQL, Microsoft Access and MS SQL. Besides database access, you need a scripting language to communicate with the database. All common scripting languages, like PHP, ASP and JSP, can do this job just fine.

Shopping carts

Any good online store has a shopping cart, so you need one too. There are plenty of free shopping cart solutions available, and most ecommerce web hosting accounts come with one or more shopping carts available. And consider the integration between shopping carts and product catalogs.

Payment processing

Unlike other ecommerce necessities, this is normally not included with ecommerce web hosting. There are 2 main options. Get a merchant account and charge your customers credit cards yourself, or leave it to a 3rd party payment processor company. This is most often done without any involment from the web host, but they may help you by recommending merchant accounts/payment processors.

If you are planning on getting a merchant account and to the CC processing yourself, you need access to a secure server. A dedicated server is also an advantage, specially if you want to store your customers CC numbers. Dedicated servers are just far more secure than a shared server, and you don't want to be responsible for what happens if someone hacks into your server and steals the CC numbers you have stored.

3rd party payment processing is easier, and you have less to worry about. It is easy to set up, and the CC processing company does all the hard work. On the downside, it is more expensive, and it looks less professional if some other company's name shows up on your customers CC bills. Make sure you tell your customers what is going to show up on their CC bills to avoid any chargebacks and confused customers.