How to Choose the Best Web Hosting Plan for Your Businesses
Your website is often the primary point of online contact for potential customers, and as such, is the digital face of your business. Web hosting is the foundation that your website is built on. A foundation always has to be strong, to support the structure above – similarly, your web hosting has to be robust to be able to support your website efficiently and ensure smooth uninterrupted browsing.
Why You Need Web Hosting
Technically it’s possible to connect your computer to the Internet and make it serve pages. But a home-based connection is not powerful enough to serve several users simultaneously. To be able to have web servers connecting to the internet powerfully enough to allow many users to access your site, you would need unlimited funds – which a small business is not likely to have. The answer? Web hosting companies, who maintain powerful servers to store web pages, and use powerful connections to the internet; they charge others a certain fee for allowing them to store their pages on their servers.
There are tons of options available today. So then the question arises, how will you choose the best web hosting for your business? It’s not an easy decision to take; you have to do thorough research before you select your hosting service. Being a small business, we can safely say:
- Your time is precious, and limited
- Your budget is limited
- You can’t afford to waste too much time on ensuring your website is working well
- You don’t mind paying a touch more so that you don’t have to set it up and manage it
Based on those facts, here are some tips to choose the right company to host your website:
- Search for and then shortlist a few names. Then you need to do a comparison study.
- Take a look at the price; not just how much it is when you sign up, but also the renewal price. Most hosting service providers will hike up the charges at renewal. See if you will be able to afford the renewal hike. Also find out if you’re entitled to a refund if you want to cancel after the trial, and if there are cancellation charges. But don’t let the cost be the deciding factor – if a low-cost solution results in you spending more time and money in the long run, you’ll end up defeating the purpose!
- Does the hosting service offer domain name along with the hosting? Does it support more than one domain name? A virtual host offers this service – with each domain name being handled separately on a single server. These are other questions you need to ask of your service providers.
- Are they offering any freebies? A free domain name or beginners’ discount that will free up money for you to spend on marketing your site; perhaps they offer additional backups, dedicated IPs, SSL certificates, and so on. Make a thorough study.
- A good server hosting provider will offer tech support. Find out how you can contact their support executives – via chat, email, phone, etc. The more options available, the better. Also check if they offer documentation, so that you don’t lose time or feel frustrated!
- Check how good the control panel is by testing it – just like taking a car for a test drive. It must be easy to use and understand, should have help links and provide a quick way to reach tech support. Several web hosting companies offer a comprehensive control panel that allows you to access your files, upload pages, change passwords, add/delete accounts, check statistics like how much bandwidth you’ve used, and so on, instantly. You also have control panels that enable quick addition and installation of new plugins and tools on the website, including CMSes and eCommerce software. With an all-encompassing control panel, managing every important aspect of your website becomes simple, and you won’t have to use an FTP, or learn to program or write code. If you want to host your ecommerce site, make sure that web host will provide ample support for your ecommerce features like shopping carts, processing business transactions and so on. Check if you will get a dedicated IP address, SSL certificates and single click shopping cart software installation for your ecommerce site.
- Check the location: the nearer the hosting service is to your own location, the better. However if you are targeting visitors from another country, then you would do well to choose a host from there.
- Check the technical details like bandwidth, disk space storage, RAM, number of email accounts, disk space for each email account, IMAP, SMTP POP3 and so on being provided by the hosting service. It’s likely that each provider has different types of plans. Also find out what OS the server hosting uses. Most use Linux as it is cheap, and works well with most CMSes or PHP. Most sites are based on these as they offer better integration capabilities. But if your site is based on a Microsoft programming language like ASP.net or C#, you would need Windows hosting.
- How reliable is the hosting company? Check with others using their services to find out how much down time they face with this host. It’s a no-brainer that you want a server with the least down time. Your website being down when a visitor is just about to make a purchase could do more damage to your business than you not having a website! You can check out the server uptime scores to determine the reliability.
Once you finalize your web hosting company, you need to decide what type of hosting would you choose for your website: shared, dedicated, hosted platform, or virtual private server? Most companies may offer you all types; all of them have their own advantages and disadvantages. So take some time to understand each one before making a final decision.
This is the cheapest, and most commonly used hosting. It’s also pretty easy to use, and there isn’t much price variation across hosting companies. Being a general hosting solution, it also supports a variety of website software. But before you happily sign the dotted line based on the low price, understand that here, low cost also translates to low quality, and low security. The control panel is also likely to be a bit confusing. You will also have to optimize the website performance, implement caching, handle the security, backups, and so on – all of which can really eat into your time, and not allow you to focus on your core business activities. This is not really the solution for serious business sites; however it is ideal for personal website hosting, like blogs, hobby sites, or merely informational sites.
Virtual Private Server (VPS):
This is also called managed dedicated hosting; kind of a cross between dedicated and shared, if you will. It is not as expensive as dedicated hosting, but costs a bit more than shared hosting, and offers more options and resources than shared hosting. You still need a certain amount of tech savvies to set it up and optimize it, and also cache, ensure security and so on.
This type of hosting is the most inclusive; it goes one step further than dedicated hosting. Companies that provide this service for hosting a website, usually manage all the technical elements of your website, the design, optimization, security and the like. Since they are highly specialized, they also tend to be a bit restrictive. For example, Shopify serves online stores only. This hosting solution is also very user-friendly, but being restrictive, if you have special needs for your site, it may not be suitable. It is fine for a regular website, and everything will be taken care of for you.
To be able to quickly check what you in your website hosting service, we have provided you with a checklist:
- Is the initial and renewal cost something I can afford?
- Are they willing to refund if I cancel?
- Is the server location close to that of my visitors?
- Does the host offer a domain name?
- Does the provider offer robust tech support?
- Are there any extras being offered on signup?
- Is the documentation comprehensive and easy to understand?
- Is the OS of the server what I need for my website?
- Am I being offered plenty of bandwidth?
- Is there sufficient disk space and RAM being offered?
- Are there sufficient email accounts and space per account?
- Does the server have a good uptime score?
- Have previous users left good feedback for the provider?
- Is the control panel comprehensive and easy to use?
- When I scale up my site, will this service suffice?
We hope this makes your hunt for the ideal web hosting service easier. Good luck!
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