You would think that finding a web hosting service would be a simple thing – Google “web hosts”, find the cheapest that suits the size of your site and “boom”, you have a hosting service on which to place your all-important website.
And therein lies the rub. In this digital age, your website is all-important, which is why you need to put some time, research and thought into the best hosting service for your needs.
Just imagine if the server is down for any period of time – how many potential sales could you lose? Or if the service is unreliable, or slow, deterring customer from coming back to your site (if they bother to go there at all).
So what should you look for in a hosting plan?
Reliability and downtime
No hosting service can guarantee 100% reliability – and if they do, it probably should ring alarm bells. Not only does unexpected stuff happen to affect the server, sometimes downtime is needed for maintenance. And when you have customers worldwide, it’s going to be at a bad time for someone. It will, however, be unlikely to run to more than an hour or so annually. And when unforeseen things happen, the gold-standard web-hosting services will have a back-up plan, which again means
any downtime is limited. So check out the contingency plans and find a provider that gets as close as possible to 100 per cent reliability.
See above in relation to scheduled downtime – if you have a local provider, then their maintenance work is likely to be at a time convenient to your business. Unless, of course, the majority of your customers are in a different time zone. Another advantage of a local provider is that Google tends to favour locally-based websites for local searches. So, for example, if you sell widgets in Melbourne, and have an Australian-based hosting service, you are more likely to come up on the first page for a search originating in Melbourne than if your provider is based in the US.
Customer service and technical support
If your website was to suddenly disappear, or you stop receiving emails, you want it fixed immediately, no matter what time of
the day or night. So you want your provider to offer 24/7 tech support and customer service. Not all of the cheaper, developing world providers have this. And your business can’t afford to be offline for a couple of days while you track someone down. Also, a polite, live person on the end of a phone line doesn’t hurt either.
This is the last for a reason. A lot of small businesses have limited funds, so cost is put higher on the list of must haves. But if the above three tips are not followed, then it really is false economy – you could be paying peanuts and get monkeys, as they say. But it is important that you only pay for what you need. If you have two employees and a three-page information website, you don’t need to pay a premium for unlimited emails and a shopping cart facility. Alternatively, organisations with a lot of content
and a lot of traffic need to be confident their server can handle their business and, to do that, they may need to pay a premium.