One often overlooked, or less considered, item when thinking about your small business website is who should provide web hosting services.
What is a web host?
Let’s first quickly discuss what web hosting is and the role it plays in your website. A web host, or web hosting company, is responsible for providing the hardware needed to display your website on the Internet. That means they provide the computers (servers) and all other hardware that it takes to successfully link your website to the world through the Internet. It also means providing the technical support for all that hardware and the proper operation of your website. Lastly, the web host will provide a way for you as the client to interact with your account if you so choose. That means you will have a way to view and edit your website, create email accounts, and various other tasks. The web host is your technical team that keeps things running smoothly behind the scenes.
Depending on the web host you choose, they may also offer extended services. Services like, searching for a new domain name, adding a storefront to your website, web building tools, and more. It doesn’t matter if you want to be hands off or if you want to dive right in and do some of the tasks yourself. A good web host will have options and features that fit your situation.
The high points
What are the main or most important services to look for? There are many variables but Small Biz Media does think a few of them stand above the rest.
- The type of web hosting you need – This really boils down to either dedicated or shared hosting. Dedicated hosting means having your website sitting on a server by itself. This option provides the most flexibility, web space, and security. However, it is also very expensive by comparison and is necessary for only a small minority of business needs in our opinion. Shared hosting, as the name implies, is having your website on the same server as many other websites. This is the most common and least expensive option. The web host is responsible for all technical aspects of the shared hosting environment meaning you don’t have to have, or supply, any technical staff.
- Going national or staying local – You of course have options when it comes to choosing where you want your web hosting to take place. You can choose a big national company like GoDaddy, 1and1, BlueHost, or many others. You can also find local companies who will provide similar services as the national brands. Many web designers and web design companies offer web hosting as part of their services package. The perceived convenience of having both your web designer and your web host in one local spot is enough reason for many small businesses to choose that route. On the other hand, the feature list, technical expertise, and lower overall cost model makes going with a national brand an excellent choice. Which is best for you? Small Biz Media always recommends a national web host to our clients. We do this mostly because national brands have large, experienced, and dedicated technical support staffs. They are available 24/7/365 to fix a problem or answer a question. Local firms don’t usually measure up in any of these technical areas and are typically more expensive as well. Less availability for more cost is nothing we would advise our clients to shoot for.
- The cost of web hosting – Among the national brands, yearly costs usually run between $10 and $30. Most are closer to the $10 mark. So the real difference is what they offer in their hosting package, not the actual dollars spent. As mentioned above, if you choose a local web host the cost will probably be much higher with fewer features and benefits being offered. One way local web hosts can even the playing field a bit is to offer hosting as a bundled deal with web design or as part of their support packages. This “bundling” might help on the cost front, but still does not address the other drawbacks discussed previously.
- The must have features – There are some baseline features that your web host must provide. If they don’t offer these must have features, move along because you have options.
- Right at the top of the list is 24/7 phone support. Things can go wrong anytime, make sure your web hosting is ready to spring into action. Everyone else might be asleep at 2:00am but you might be trying to put the finishing touches on a new project and need a question answered or task done. Get a web host that is available when it is convenient for you.
- Live chat is great for a quick question and you don’t want to wait in the phone queue. This feature gives you back the time and you still get your answers.
- One click installation of CMS systems like WordPress. The service is called Managed WordPress and means that the web host takes care of the technical requirements for keeping your installation up to date with changes or patches to your content management system. Other examples of popular CMS systems are Drupal and Joomla. Just a word to the wise though, choose WordPress.
- A large amount of disk space. 100GB of space may seem enormous, and it is for a typical small business website. Nevertheless, that amount should be your baseline. Many web hosts offer unlimited disk space as part of their $10 package. The rule here is simple… more is better.
It is your property!
One very important thought on web hosting. Small Biz Media routinely talks to clients that have had a bad experience with their previous web designer and/or web host. In fact, it is the number one reason clients choose to make a provider switch. Local web hosting companies are notorious for going out of business and leaving clients stranded. They also quite often hold clients hostage from a technical point of view when it comes time to switch to a new provider. They sometimes even refuse to divulge account details to their own clients! Your web hosting environment belongs to you. You paid for it; you own it. Never allow anyone to hide information about your plan. Insist on having “admin” level access to all aspects of your web hosting plan. This included all URL’s, id’s, and passwords. This is yet another reason to choose a national provider.
If you want Small Biz Media to bottom line it for you, we will. Choose a national brand like GoDaddy, 1and1, BlueHost, or HostGator. Study their hosting packages and choose the one with the most advantages for your particular situation because as we said, the cost will be roughly the same across the board.
We have presented a lot of information but it has really only covered the basics. The job of the web host is to make sure your website is available on the Internet as close to 100% of the time as they can manage. After that, a good web host will be there 24/7 and provide you with all the technical services you need so you are free to run your business. And finally, a great web host won’t charge an arm and a leg to deliver said services to you.
Small Biz Media only deals with national brands, and will help you choose the right web host for your situation. You will always have the “keys to the kingdom” and rest easy knowing you have the technical expertise and availability that your small business website deserves. You can of course contact Small Biz Media on this, or any other website or Internet marketing topic!