If you’ve just started a new business, or are planning to, your list of tasks to complete is probably already pretty long. I really don’t want to stress you out by giving you something else to worry about, but choosing the right webhost can make all the difference to your success in the critical first few years.
If you’re thinking that your business is an old-fashioned one, and you don’t need a website just yet, you’re wrong. Even if you are just selling car parts, in the age of the smartphone people will expect you to have some kind of web presence. Your website, especially right at the beginning, need not be huge and complicated, but you should at least describe your business and give people your contact details so they can get in touch.
The first step in setting up a website is to choose a webhost, and that’s what I’ll take you through today. Though you should be aware of the very basic terms I’m going to use first, beyond this there are some key factors that should influence your decision. Let’s take a look at a few.
Shared vs. Dedicated Hosting
The first decision to make is whether you want shared or dedicated hosting. Shared hosting is generally cheaper, because you are sharing data storage and bandwidth with a number of other users. For most small businesses, especially in the first few years, the low price of shared hosting makes it the best option but beware of downtime with cheaper hosts.
However, as your traffic grows and your site gets more complicated, you might want to look into dedicated hosting, where you are guaranteed your own dedicated server space. This increases speed and reliability, and if you are relying on web sales is a necessity.
Find a Host With Free SSL
SSL is a security feature that is offered by many webhosting companies. It essentially secures data moving between your own computers and your webhost’s servers by encrypting it. If you are running an online shop, and want to allow customers to pay on your website, this is an absolute must, in order to protect their personal data. However, even if you are not selling online, the extra security provided by SSL is highly recommended.
The problem here is that a lot of otherwise quite cheap webhosts charge a fortune for SSL. You should therefore look for a webhost that provides SSL capability at no extra charge. Doing a little bit of research into hosting speeds tests like those at Aussie Hosting is definitely worth your time. You don’t want to build your website with a particular host, only to find later that you need to pay a lot of extra money for the functionality you need.
Avoid Hidden Fees
One of the most annoying things about trying to choose a webhost is that the pricing structures used by these companies are often very difficult to understand. What seems like an excellent deal at first can quickly turn into an expensive argument as you try to get extra capacity or capabilities incorporated into your website.
There are essentially two ways around this problem, and which one is right for you will depend on the size of your business, and how important your website is going to be in driving and handling sales.
If you think that, now or in the future, your website is going to be your major source of sales, you need to get a webhost that includes everything you are going to need in one price. Features such as SSL, as I’ve already mentioned, are important. However, you should also look for a webhost that provides a lot of storage space as standard, multiple domains and email addresses, and is able to give you some stats about the reliability of their server.
Consider a Free Web Host
If, on the other hand, you don’t think that your website is going to become an important part of your business, you can take the other option and get free webhosting. This might sound too good to be true, and be warned that it often is – if you don’t pay for a webhosting service, you can’t expect it to be as good, or come with as many features, as a premium, paid, service.
That said, a free webhost is definitely the best option for some businesses. If you just want a page with some information about your business and your address, you really don’t need all the fancy features that an expensive webhosting package will provide to you.
In short, my advice would be this. Make sure you get SSL, but beyond this your choice of webhost will be largely dependent on the size of your business. If you’re going to be making a lot of inline sales, pay a bit of money to make sure you get a decent level of service. Otherwise, if your business is quite small, it’s possible to get away with free webhosting.