If you’ve decided that you would like to get online and start building or growing your business, the first step that you will need to take is finding a web hosting company.
While it is possible to build a site on your own computer, without a web host, nobody else would be able to see it!
In this article, I’m going to cover what exactly to look for when choosing the right web hosting company for your first business. This means there is something for any size of business and any level of web design/development expertise.
What to look for in a web host
Choosing a web host is not a decision that you should make lightly. Your web host is the company that connects your site to the outside world.
If your host is slow or unreliable, your visitors might struggle to access your site. While a single outage or error is unlikely to cost you much, repeated problems could harm your search engine rankings and drive customers away.
When choosing a web host you should consider:
There are many different types of web server and many different technologies that can power them. One of the oldest and still most popular is known as the LAMP Stack.
This stands for Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP/Perl. There are other options that use Windows hosting with ASP or .Net, or Linux hosting with Nginx or Lighttpd, and sites developed in Ruby on Rails.
If you simply want an online business card, a website builder might work for you. If you’re planning on using WordPress or another standard content management system, look for hosting explicitly designed for WordPress websites.
If you’re not sure what you need or what your plans are yet, standard ‘Linux Hosting’ should give you the flexibility to get a good website up and running. If you are hiring a web developer, talk to them and ask them what sort of hosting you need.
Storage space and type
Once you have picked out what type of server you want, then next decision is how ‘big’ of a server you need.
Some hosting providers limit space, some offer unlimited space. If you are looking for a host for a ‘static online business card’, where you will upload a small website and won’t be updating it too often, storage space isn’t too much of an issue.
If you plan on running a blog or an online store with a huge number of products, the amount of storage space starts to matter a lot more.
Space is just one part of the question, too. The type of storage may be important as well. Standard hard drives are more than up to the task of serving small web pages.
However, if you are planning on hosting large files for people to download, it may be better to have your website hosted on an SSD.
These drives are much faster than standard hard drives, and SSD hosting can massively improve the performance of your website.
Bandwidth and data transfer allowances
While many people use bandwidth and data transfer allowance interchangeably, these two terms mean slightly different things.
Bandwidth refers to the throughput of the line that your site is hosted on. If you have a high bandwidth connection, your host can serve lots of requests and maintain a high speed, so your pages should load quickly even when your site is getting a lot of traffic.
Data transfer, in contrast, refers to the amount of data that you are allowed to send over the course of a month.
Many hosts limit the data transfer allowance for a website, to ensure that no one customer over-utilises the connection.
Look for a host that has fair data transfer allowances, so that you don’t have to worry about your website getting cut off, or about getting a sudden, large bill from your web host at the end of the month.
If you exceed the bandwidth allowance of your website in any given month, that should be good news since it means that your site has proven popular.
Hopefully, that popularity will be matched with an increase in sales or advertising revenue! Make sure that any host that you choose will be reasonable and work with you in the event of a sudden spike in traffic to help keep you online.
Cost, of course, is an important consideration for any budding online business owner. Web hosting can range from a few dollars or pounds per month up to hundreds.
During the early days of building a website, shared hosting or a VPS should be all that you need, and there’s no need to pay more.
Make sure that you understand what you’re getting out of your package, though, and that there is a clear upgrade path to allow you to grow your website if it does take off.
Uptime and performance
Uptime and performance are perhaps the most important things for your website. It’s difficult to get 100% uptime since there are many things that can be beyond a web host’s control.
However, you shouldn’t settle for anything below 99.9%. If you’re paying for a service, you expect it to be up at all times.
Choose a host that works with Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) to help reduce the impact of downtime and malicious attacks such as distributed denial of service attacks.
Make sure that the host offers enough memory and other resources to support the scripts that you want to run on your site, and ask them if they have a policy to compensate users for extended periods of downtime.
Remember, your site is a part of your business, and it’s ‘mission-critical’ to you, so it should be mission-critical to them as well.
Web hosting can make or break your business website. That’s why it’s essential to know what potential service provider red flags are, what your needs are, and how to pick the right option for your business. I hope this article puts you on the right track. Good luck.