When you’re looking for a web host for your new business website, or you want to change your current web hosts, there are thousands of companies who are ready to take your business… And your money! So how do you pick the best web hosts for your business?
Reliability and uptime
Choosing a web host that will satisfy your needs is vital for your business, because these days your business website is probably your most important marketing communications tool. If your web host is unreliable your website may be down regularly, which could lose you customers. Reliability is also important for email, because your web host is also is your conduit for email. So check the claimed reliability of web hosts – anything less than 99.9% is not good enough.
Cost is an obvious factor but for businesses it shouldn’t be the major issue in your decision making. For example, while it is possible to acquire extremely cheap and also free web hosting, it’s important to remember that you do often get what you pay (or don’t pay!) for. It’s not reasonable to expect a service that costs next to nothing to be reliable and provide a first-rate support service. On the other-hand, most small businesses don’t need to spend anywhere near $100 a month to get a web host that will meet their needs.
Service, or lack of it, is something most of us love to complain about and if you’re in business, good service is even more important. After all, who has time to wait for an email from a web host to fix an urgent issue or stay on hold on the phone for an hour?
When looking for a new web host, look for companies that provide the support you need. If you’re reasonably savvy when it comes to web hosting, you might not need phone support but you will be looking for management facilities that allow you to control your hosting service; if you’re not technically savvy, a service that offers a phone help desk is definitely worthwhile.
It’s also important to check the knowledge and helpfulness of support staff. Again, your needs will dictate what you are looking for. If you know little about web hosting, support staff that recognise this and will guide you through the necessary details without throwing endless jargon at you is vital; if you know a reasonable amount about web hosting you want support staff who know even more than you do – after all, that is their job.
A good piece of advice is to test the support systems before committing to a web host. Send a support email and phone the support desk. Do it twice or three times. If your needs aren’t met quickly enough then look elsewhere.
How quickly your website pages load is more vital now than ever because people are too impatient to wait for a web page to appear. While your website’s design can play a major role in page load times so too can your web host. Before deciding on a web host, ask to view some of their currently hosted websites and check to make sure page load times are reasonable.
Meeting your needs
There are other factors to look at when choosing a web host, including security and virus protection, plus there may be other factors specific to your needs. For example, if you’re anticipating your business and website will grow, make sure your chosen web host has the plans to grow with you. Factors such as online payment systems and other applications may be important for you – check that whatever applications you need are available before you commit to a web host.
It’s also worth noting that many small businesses organise their web hosting through their web designer, who generally is simply on-selling via a commercial web hosting service. This is fine, but make sure you do your research to ensure the web host he or she is choosing on your behalf will meet your needs. Plus, ask how much the mark-up is and what you get for this extra payment. Paying $100 a year extra can be money well spent if you can simply phone your web designer to sort out any web hosting issue, but paying $100 a month extra (and I have seen this more than once) rarely is good value. It’s also a good idea to make sure you have full control over your web hosting by knowing your account details, just in case your have a falling out with your web designer.