Let’s start by stating the obvious – every business, big, medium or small, needs a website. A website used to be “a nice touch,” something to make your business seem modern and sophisticated. But that was way back when internet wasn’t so vastly present in our lives. Today, if you have even the slightest intention of succeeding (and we imagine that you do), you absolutely need to have a website. It’s not even optional. It’s a must.
Big corporations have entire departments that take care of this sort of thing. Small businesses and startups are, well, only just starting, and they are probably starting from scratch, which means they need to build and host a website from scratch. To do so, the first order of business is to find a web hosting provider that will host your website, and, hopefully, take good care of it, make it secure, reliable and functional.
Unfortunately, this is easier said than done. There is a myriad of web hosting providers out there. There are some major international ones, ones with impeccable reputation and a long track record, newer ones that are extremely competitive in their efforts to woo the customers and reach the top. What they offer may seem similar, but it’s not. There is a lot of difference between providers and especially between their plans, and the price is just one part of it.
If you are a small business owner looking to set up a website, here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing the perfect hosting provider, as well as the actual type of hosting.
Look for Reliability, Rating and Track Record
Big names can be deceiving, since sometimes well-established major companies start slacking and providing less-than-ideal services, hoping that no one would notice, and they still get plenty of new customers thanks to their name alone. So don’t rely just on the name and the reputation – do your research. Ask around, see what other people have to say, and research some basic company info, for instance how long have they been in business, do they have any accreditation, awards, and so on.
Understand Your Hosting Needs
It’s vital that you sit down and pen down what exactly it is you want from your website and how much traffic (visitors) you’re expecting to have on a monthly basis, will you be having Windows or Linux applications, is there going to be any special software, and so on. Also, decide whether you want a common platform like WordPress or something else. Most small businesses opt for shared hosting, at least initially, since this kind of hosting should be able to meet their needs.
Match your Needs with the Features Offered in Different Plans
When you figure out what it is that you need and want, it should be fairly easy to find the provider and the plan that work for you. Simply look at the feature lists and don’t stop until you’ve found the perfect match.
Some of the things to keep your eye on include disk space, bandwidth, processing speeds, email and security protocols. Note that many providers only say they offer unlimited hosting (unlimited storage and bandwidth) when it fact it’s anything but unlimited. On the other hand, there are providers that truly do offer unlimited bandwidth and storage, even unlimited websites.
Also, if you are going to have an online shop on your website, look for plans that specialize in that, or at least include plenty of e-commerce tools.
Look for Excellent Customer Support
This is very important because, as every person who has ever owned a website will tell you, you will absolutely need it, no matter how skilled you are, and especially if you are not skilled at all. When it comes to hosting services, customer support is an essential part of the package and should be top notch. This means live support (chat, phone) and not just e-mail or support ticketing, and it also means decent response times. Locally based support is preferred to outsourcing (using support that is physically located in a different country). Also important are the knowledge base and tutorials and instructions.
Price is always one of the most important factors in choosing any kind of service or product, and hosting is no exception. What you need to keep in mind is that the prices that are shown on the providers’ websites are usually just sign up prices. That’s why they are so low. This means that you sign up for hosting at one price, and when the time comes to renew your plan, they give you a whole different price (renewal price), which can be several times higher. Make sure to ask for both signup and renewal prices, in order to get the clear picture of the overall hosting costs.