Choosing a web hosting package
What do you need to consider when making a hosting decision?
It's not just price and functionality you need to consider when choosing a web hosting package. You also need to consider the amount of support you'll receive when things are working as expected.
The IT skills involved in maintaining and developing a website can get quite complicated. If you're busy running a small business you probably won't have time to learn all the ins and outs. Therefore the support that you get could be crucial and it is in this area that dedicated web hosting companies often have the edge.
“Within web hosting, customer support is a major differentiation between companies. Most companies worth their salt will be able to offer good connectivity but you should also be able to get hold of someone if you need to,” says Mike Gordon of Virtual Internet.
Business advisor Willie Herdman agrees that running a website is an ongoing process. “Once your website is posted, that's not the end of the story it's the beginning. Your web hosting company should be a sort of technical mentor that will help you as you become more familiar with the internet and develop your site.”
Do your checks
Look for features such as a 24-hour helpline and also speak to the technical staff to see how clearly they can explain things to you.
You never really know how well a company is going to host your site until you've been with them for some time. However there are some simple checks you can do to minimise the chance of any disasters.
Ask some business partners or friends about their experiences – there are few things more reliable than a personal recommendation. Also ask the hosting companies to give you some names of their clients that you can contact. If they're not prepared to give you any, then there's something wrong.
Bear in mind how long the company has been around. The internet sector is littered with companies that appear and disappear in a matter of months. If your website is hosted on one of these companies, it could have serious consequences for your business.
“If the company that's hosting your website folds, your website will go down as well. More than that, it could be difficult to get it back, leaving you to pay for someone to redesign it,” explains Graham Clarke, IBM small business programmes manager.
There are certain details you'll want to know when choosing a hosting package. A good way of comparing different packages on offer is to ask the hosting company the following questions:
How many visitors can access the site? Some hosts put limits on web site traffic and the amount of information that can be downloaded in a month. You don't want to find yourself in the situation of successfully attracting visitors to your site only for them to be turned away by traffic restrictions.
How fast is the server? Will visitors have to wait an age to download a basic text page, or will pictures and animations load relatively quickly?
How secure is the server? This is especially important for e-commerce businesses, or sites that collect personal information. Make sure the server supports secure socket layer (SSL) security.
How much space is included? The amount of information you want to store on you site – text, pictures, video, blogs – may increase over time. Make sure you have enough space included in your package to store it all.
Will you get web analysis reports? If you want to measure your traffic, find out your sales conversion rates, and determine your visitor numbers you'll need access to this web data.
What is the level of down-time? This is the percentage of time the web page in inaccessible to visitors. Another important thing to consider is how often the site is backed up should anything happen to the server it's stored on.