Having a reliable online presence for your business is vital in today’s economy where a quality website lends both credibility and value to your product or service. Selecting the best website hosting provider for your business can seem a bit overwhelming as there are so many options, but it doesn’t have to be that difficult.
Why A Website Hosting Provider Matters
To get your website up on the Internet you must select a host. A website hosting provider is a server that contains the space you have rented for your business to sit in. Think of it like a strip mall; you rent a space
and put up your sign (domain) and then you build your store, restaurant or site to meet the needs of your business. The Internet is similar. First you select a website hosting provider (your space), then you put up your sign with your company name (your domain), and last you build your site files or website design. You have to have a host, or rented space, to begin to build your site and put up your domain.
Understanding the Types of Providers
There are three types of website hosting plans that providers offer.
- Individual Plans – Also called “shared hosting plans,” these are great for single domains with small sites. They are affordable but also offer limited space and options.
- Dedicated Servers – These cost more but offer the most flexibility and growth for your site and the services your site will need to provide.
- Reseller Accounts – These are good for businesses that want to run several small individual plan sites.
Selecting the plan type that is best for your business depends on your needs. If you only want to have a basic online presence with minimal interaction and without selling products from your site, an individual plan might be right for you. Dedicated servers are a bit more investment but offer you the ability to expand and do not limit what types of media or space you can use. Going back to the strip mall analogy, an individual plan gives you a relatively small space to work with and then tells you that you can paint within certain limited options and put up some shelves but only so many, and you can’t have more than a certain number of people visit your site per day. A dedicated server says paint any color you want, put up all the shelves you want and even redesign the front entry to suit your needs. A dedicated server lets you have as many visitors as you can pack in, lets you expand your services and how you interact, and lets you bust down a wall and expand your space when you discover you need to. Reseller plans are like renting multiple micro-size spaces in the same strip mall; for some businesses this makes sense as they can manage several different types of small business or even allow family members to “sublet” from them for their small business.
What to Consider When Selecting a Provider
What Do You Need
First and foremost, you should know what you and your business need from your website so you can best select what type of plan to purchase. If you chose an individual plan but know there is a chance of growth, look for a provider that offers both individual and dedicated server plans and makes it easy to upgrade when you are ready.
The second concern is reliability. The best website hosting provider for you will be the one with a great uptime record – meaning they operate reliably 24/7 with no downtime or slow connections. Experts say anything below a 99% uptime record is unacceptable.
Cost is obviously a legitimate concern. You don’t want to waste money, but you also need to realize that sometimes cheap (or free) means that’s the quality of service you will also get. Another downside to free hosting is they often subsidize with advertisements – and you do not want to be advertising anyone else’s services or products on your website. Individual plans start around $4 a month but can go much higher, and usually have contractual agreements for a minimum number of months or even years. Dedicated server plans cost considerably more – often over $100 a month – but as stated offer far more space and customizing ability. Reseller accounts are generally about $10-20 each per month. When it comes to cost, the key is to be honest with yourself about what you need and make the investment that meets that need best.
To make the most of your cost, look also for great customer support. Services that provide 24/7 phone or Internet chat support are the best, and of course they should also offer email support. You may want to test out how their support services actually work before committing. For example, if you email for support, a 24- hour response turn around should be the maximum. If they don’t get back to you until 3 days later – if ever – you don’t want to pay them for a service you can’t rely on.
Make sure to look at customer reviews as well. It’s true that people are more likely to complain than give kudos, but take reviews serious. You might also ask around in your network of fellow businesses and ask to talk to whomever at their company actually works with the website. Ease of use and updating is important if you intend to do the upkeep and updates to your site yourself or through an employee. Customer reviews usually are pretty open about whether they found the host helpful, reliable and easy to use.