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What is PCI Compliance?

What is PCI Compliance?

Nowadays, where online shopping is as common as physical one, ensuring the security of payment card information is paramount. This is where PCI Compliance comes into play. But what exactly is PCI Compliance, and why should you care? Let’s dive into this essential aspect of cybersecurity.

PCI is an abbreviation for Payment Card Industry. The PCI DSS (Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard) is a security initiative that provides a unified approach towards safeguarding credit card holder information for all types of credit cards to merchants and service providers. It prevents credit card fraud, cracking, and various other security threats and vulnerabilities.

PCI compliance is a set of security standards designed to ensure that all companies that accept, process, store, or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment. Essentially, it’s about protecting cardholder data from breaches and fraud.

Why is PCI Compliance Important?

Protecting Sensitive Information

At its core, PCI Compliance is about safeguarding sensitive information. When you swipe your card at a store or enter your details online, you trust that your information is secure. PCI Compliance ensures that businesses uphold this trust by implementing robust security measures.

Avoiding Financial Penalties

Non-compliance can lead to hefty fines from credit card companies. These penalties can range from $100,000 per month, depending on the size of the business and the severity of the violation.

Building Customer Trust

Privacy is such a sensitive topic these days, that a mere data breach headlines major newscasts. Customers are increasingly concerned about the security of their personal information. Being PCI compliant can enhance your reputation and build trust with your customers.

Levels of PCI Compliance

PCI Compliance isn’t a one-size-fits-all. There are different levels of compliance based on the volume of transactions a business processes annually.

Level 1

  • Merchants processing over 6 million transactions per year.
  • Annual Report on Compliance (ROC) by a Qualified Security Assessor (QSA).

Level 2

  • Merchants processing 1 to 6 million transactions per year.
  • Annual Self-Assessment Questionnaire (SAQ).

Level 3

  • Merchants processing 20,000 to 1 million e-commerce transactions per year.
  • Annual SAQ.

Level 4

  • Merchants processing fewer than 20,000 e-commerce transactions per year.
  • Annual SAQ.

Understanding PCI Compliance for E-commerce Stores

While achieving PCI Compliance is crucial for businesses that handle payment card information, it’s important to note that not all e-commerce stores need to host their own PCI-compliant servers. In fact, many businesses opt for a simpler and equally secure solution: using a PCI-compliant payment processor.

PCI compliance is mandatory for the payment processor you are using. However, it is not required for the hosting of your entire website. This is because PCI compliance is a highly complex process with multiple levels, and meeting all these requirements would involve significant costs, making it very expensive. For most small businesses, this expense is considered unnecessary as long as they use a PCI-compliant payment gateway.

The typical setup of an E-Commerce platform usually involves using a third-party payment processor like Stripe or PayPal. The notable takeaways of this type of payment setup are:

  • Your website does not directly handle the transaction but instead receives “tokenized” data from the payment processor.
  • Your store is not involved in the actual payment process.
  • Your server doesn’t store any Credit/Debit Card information, thereby reducing the need for a PCI-compliant hosting.

Some PCI-Approved Scanning Vendors, who verify the compliance of your website, infrastructure, and payment processor setup, may require certain ports to be closed. SiteGround can assist with these specific hosting server requirements, which may incur additional costs.

To be certain that your website can facilitate such services on SiteGround, contact our support team who can examine the requirements.

Additionally, you may need to purchase a dedicated IP address for the specific website.

SiteGround clients can quickly get a dedicated IP from their Client Area > Marketplace > Hosting > Additional Services > Dedicated IP. To choose the service, press the corresponding GET button.

The Role of PCI-Compliant Payment Processors

What is a PCI-Compliant Payment Processor?

A PCI compliant payment processor is a third-party service that handles the payment transactions on behalf of your e-commerce store. Such a processor is already compliant with PCI DSS, meaning it has implemented all necessary security measures to protect cardholder data.

Benefits of Using a PCI-Compliant Payment Processor

  • Simplified Compliance: By using a PCI-compliant payment processor, you offload the responsibility of securing payment data to a trusted third party. This simplifies your compliance requirements significantly.
  • Cost-Effective: Implementing and maintaining PCI compliance can be costly. Using a compliant payment processor can save you a lot of money on security infrastructure and audits.
  • Enhanced Security: These processors are experts in payment security and are regularly audited to ensure they meet PCI DSS standards. This means your customers’ payment data is in safe hands.

How It Works

When a customer makes a purchase on your e-commerce site, the payment processor handles the transaction. Here’s a simplified flow:

  1. Customer Checkout: The customer adds items to their cart and proceeds to checkout.
  2. Payment Information: The customer enters their payment information on a secure form provided by the payment processor.
  3. Transaction Processing: The payment processor securely processes the transaction and returns a confirmation to your website.
  4. Data Storage: The payment processor stores the payment data securely, ensuring it complies with PCI DSS.


In a world where data breaches and cyberattacks are all too common, PCI Compliance is not just a regulatory requirement—it’s a critical component of your business’s security strategy. By understanding and implementing the PCI DSS, you can protect sensitive cardholder data, build customer trust, and avoid costly penalties.

While PCI compliance is essential for protecting payment card information, it’s not necessary for every e-commerce store to host their own PCI-compliant servers. By using a PCI-compliant payment processor, you can ensure the security of your customers’ payment data without the complexities and costs associated with maintaining compliance yourself. This approach allows you to focus on running your business while leaving the security of payment transactions to the experts.


Q1: Do I need a PCI-compliant server if I use a PCI-compliant payment processor?

No, if you use a PCI-compliant payment processor, you do not need to host your own PCI compliant server. The processor handles all sensitive payment data, ensuring it meets PCI DSS requirements.

Q2: What are the benefits of using a PCI-compliant payment processor?

Using a PCI-compliant payment processor simplifies compliance, reduces costs, enhances security, and builds customer trust by ensuring their payment data is protected.

Q3: How do I choose a PCI-compliant payment processor?

Look for a processor with robust security features, verified PCI compliance certification, easy integration with your e-commerce platform, and reliable customer support.

Q4: Is PCI compliance only necessary for large businesses?

No, PCI compliance is required for all businesses that handle payment card information, regardless of size. However, using a compliant payment processor can simplify the process for smaller businesses.

Q5: What additional security measures should I take for my e-commerce store?

Use HTTPS, regularly update your software, implement strong password policies, and monitor for suspicious activity to enhance your e-commerce security.

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