How To Find The Right Host For Your Website
When I started my small business venture I very quickly realised that I would need a website if I were to be seriously competitive and get my services out there into the marketplace. My technical knowledge was limited and I was daunted and confused by the sheer number of would-be providers out there.
In the light of my own experience, here are some tips to help you find the right web host for your small business without being tripped up along the way.
What type of hosting is best for me?
When you first start up, a small website with a landing age and basic information about your company and what you have to offer may be all you need. If so, then a ‘shared hosting’ package should be more than adequate.
When your business grows and you find you need a full-blown e-commerce site you may find that a VPS (virtual private server) is better suited to your requirements. This will offer greater capacity to handle greater traffic volume without unwanted downtime.
How much would I expect to pay?
Most small businesses are operating on a limited budget to begin with and it can be tempting to choose one of the many low-cost or free hosting offers out there on the net. From personal experience I would swerve this option for the simple reason that you really do get what you pay for. Cheap hosting packages often come with poor service levels, lack of reliability and excessive downtime for which you will probably not be compensated.
Check the small print of the Service Level Agreement offered by your potential web hosting company and consider what’s guaranteed in the lowest cost package they offer. You can always upgrade later on if you need to as your business grows and develops.
Read existing client reviews
You must research the potential provider carefully and take note of reviews on the services they offer. Steer clear of review sites though. Very often they are run by people who are affiliates of the companies they feature so the reviews they provide are usually not to be relied upon. The host’s website should have testimonials from existing clients featured on it and you can back check these with the source to make sure they are genuine.
What about support?
How important is it to your business that you can pick up the phone outside of usual business hours if you have a problem with your website? Be aware that many hosting companies that purport to offer 24/7 support outsource cover to an overseas call centre operation out of hours.
You will also need really good technical support so check that you will be able to speak to well-qualified, knowledgeable technicians for help, not just call centre staff working from a script.
What’s the host’s uptime record like?
You should expect a minimum uptime of 99%; anything less than this is unacceptable. Check out www.webperf.net; this holds uptime records for many companies both in the UK and US although the list is not exhaustive.
Storage and bandwidth
Many hosts make offers of unlimited storage and bandwidth included in the packages they provide. Be aware that ‘fair usage’ policies contained in the SLA will effectively limit the ‘unlimited’ claim. You are quite within your rights to ask the host for more information about these policies and enquire about what charges they make should you exceed the prescribed limit.
What about upgrades?
Plan for the future and make sure there are upgrade options available which will enable your site to cope seamlessly with increased traffic as your company grows.
Is the hosting local?
Loading speeds may be affected if your website data is held in a different country. Make sure you know where your data will be held. If you hold personal client information in a database on your website make sure that the hosting company is covered by the same data protection laws as your company. This could be a problem if your host is based in a different country.
Longevity and security
Find out how long the company has been trading and see if it owns its own data centre. Do a thorough background check to make sure that the company you’ve chosen is not a re-launched previously failed operation which could disappear again tomorrow.
About Alison Page
Alison is a small business owner, freelance writer, author and dressage judge. She has degrees in Equine Science and Business Studies. Read her full story at http://www.theladywriter.co.uk