Web Hosting: Selecting the Right Host!
By Joelene Wickens-Orlando
Choosing a web hosting company is a very personal decision based on your own unique needs. Web hosting is what places your website into the World Wide Web, where anyone can access to it 24 hours a day. In other words, without placing your site onto a web hosting service, you won’t get the visibility you want. Most small business owners will most likely go through a web hosting company rather than invest in acquiring their own servers, which is very expensive and difficult. On top of the expense that is involved with having your own server, you need to have a strong educational background to be able to deal with the technical aspects of implementing your own server, or having your own technical computer staff on hand to deal with the process. (And those programmers don’t come cheap either!) If you’re a new online business or looking for ways to expand your market reach, web hosting is definitely the way to go.
Which web hosting service do you select? There are two key things to keep in mind when you begin your search for an appropriate web hosting service: (1) Find a web hosting company that meets your needs for today, (2) Make sure that this web hosting company you choose can grow with you as your business expands. Another important factor you want to know up front about hosting services, is that once you choose one, and decide it doesn’t pan out for you, to switch to another service will be a very painful and a lengthy process. It’s just not worth the mistake to make!
Check out these tips in how you can select a web hosting service that has the most qualities such as flexibility, service, and growth capabilities along with a strong background in technical abilities that you’re seeking, at a price you can afford.
Shop and Research
Do your surfing on the net. Shop around and compare the services between the different web hosting services. Ask other businesses what hosting companies they’re using. Make sure you check out businesses that have made statements in testimonials about the particular web hosting company they’re using. Follow up by contacting them and have a series of questions to ask, and see how they respond to your questions in regards to those services. Still don’t know where to start? Check out the web hosting directories on the net, which will save you hoards of time, because the real good ones will be the ones on the first, few pages, www.webhostingrebates.com could be a good place to start.
Cost and Fees of Web Hosting
This is a pretty good area to begin as well. You need to know what you’ve set aside to pay for this service, since it’s a vital part of your business, therefore, it needs to be part of your marketing plan. Make sure when you’re doing your homework on web hosting services, get a clear cut picture of what the fees and upfront cost of everything you can possibly think of. For example, is there a set up fee? Are there extra fees for having a ‘secure transaction’ feature? Will it be extra to have multiple URL’s? Auto-responders, additional email addresses, how much more will it cost to upgrade to a better plan? Once you decide, just have it in writing and be specific as possible as what your expectations are from any particular web hosting service. You should know exactly what you’re shelling out for.
Many web hosting companies will offer a cheaper rate for longer contract timeframes. If you decide to go with a two-year contract, since they know they’re getting a commitment from you, may offer you a deal. The only risk with that, if you find that you’re not pleased with their service…it may be tough to get out of a contract you are obligated to follow through the duration of the contract. Just be clear about the length of your commitment and how often you are required to pay on your contract. Some do it monthly, quarterly or bi-monthly. I would recommend that when starting out, hoping you never change web hosting services, that you settle on a one-year contract. Just understand what you’re getting into before you sign any dotted line.
Depending on the type of site and business you’re in will determine how much disk space will be required for your website to function properly. You can pretty much estimate your disk space needs on the amount of space your site takes on your own computer. The reason why this is important to know, is for example, if you’re an online store that offers free movie downloads, you will need lots of space for all those large video files.
Assess Service and Support
A good web hosting company will have excellent customer service and a support center where you can call to trouble shoot your concerns about your site. Without good customer support, you can smell trouble for yourself and your business down the road. You don’t want to ultimately hamper your business growth because you overlooked on customer care and technical support from your web hosting company. A good way to test web-hosting services, before you make that splurge, is to send them a test email, and see how quickly and professionally they respond to your email. Make sure you send out emails on weekends and evenings to see if they respond to those off-peak inquiries. Think about it, you’re not going to run into problems only from Monday through Friday, from 9 to 5, right? See how accessible and how they address issues that may arise during the off-hours is a good way to see how serious they are about customer care and support. There should be a technical support phone number on their site, and some hosting companies do not list their phone numbers…so who do you call when you’re site is down? Not those ones! I think you get the gist of that one.
Traffic and Files
Traffic (also called data transfer or throughput) is the combined size of all the files transferred from your web-hosting computer to your customer’s browsers. Depending on the traffic that comes to your site, and how much detailing is involved in your html pages, determines how much the cost of traffic fees you will be expected to pay. For example, adult sites usually generate much traffic, and because of this, many web site hosting companies have special and inflated pricing plans for these sites to handle the number of visitors hitting on the sites.
Email Accounts and Auto Responders
You should know how many email accounts you can have on the same domain name, where you would have one email account that allows customers or visitors to email you, another email account for another department such as billing or accounting, one for each of the number of staff you have on hand. Make sure that they give you enough accounts, and what the additional fees are to add on new ones if you’re staff base grows or you end up creating new departments within your company. This type of email address will reflect your company, www.companyname.com. It is important that you use your own domain name for all your mail. Do not use another source such as hotmail.com or AOL.com for your business emails. (It looks like you’re a very inexperienced website business owner, doing things half-assed!) Pardon my French. Auto responders are emails that are sent back automatically to the user that has a standard response to anyone who queries them. It can be a simple message such as, “We’ve received your email and we are currently looking into your request. You will be notified shortly with assistance.” Sometimes auto responders are used for specific things, such as if you requested a pricing list, documentation, product specifications and photos, you would have a separate email account for each subject, and if a visitor inquired about one of these categories, and the auto responder would immediately send them a spec sheet within 5 minutes or less. The possibilities are endless with auto-responders, and it’s a nice quick feature that meets the customer’s needs right away. Find out how many auto responders are included in your package, and what the additional fees are for more.
CGI=Common Gateway Interface are small programming scripts that add functionality and interactivity to your web pages. Most hosting companies have libraries of standard CGI scripts you can use for free. Many web hosting companies will not allow you to input your own scripts, so if this is a specific area where you have some scripts that you would like implemented, then you obviously will need to locate a web hosting company that will allow you the flexibility to do so.
Monthly and Daily Usage Statistics
This is the standard service of good web hosting companies. Run clear of any web- hosting companies that aren’t providing this basic service. Although each web hosting company has their own format and styles in how it’s presented, you will have to do some research to find which ones will be the most useful and beneficial to your business plan.
Make sure that the web hosting company can upgrade your plan as your business grows. If you get big, some web hosting companies may not be able to handle your account on their servers. This is important to find out how reliable their servers are and what their capabilities are in regards to how many accounts and/or websites are they handling at any given time.
References and Check those References
Get at least 3-5 references of online businesses that are using the web hosting company you’re considering and find out exactly how they feel about that particular web hosting company. This will be your saving grace. Don’t skip this process.
You now have a serious decision to make about which web hosting service to go with. With these handy tips and questions in your hands, you should be able to find one that fits nicely within your budget and meets your business needs. It’s important that you find a happy home for your website, and establishing yourself as a real online business entrepreneur is a good place to start. As a matter of fact, it’s the only place to start.
Ensuring that you choose a reliable web-hosting provider should be your number one priority. Selecting the right web host provider will be one of the most important decisions you will ever make. The wrong host can have a very devastating impact on your business and let’s make sure that you understand everything you need to know hot to go about picking the right web host provider so you may never find out the hard way.
How do I relate to the story?
Contacts and talking with people along the way have given me the opportunity to become acquainted with their horror web hosting provider experiences with some unfortunate consequences. There is so much detail and continuing education revolving around selecting the appropriate web host provider that emphasizes how important it is to gather the right facts and questions to begin your research.
About the Author
Joelene Orlando is a Web enthusiast and a staff writer/consultant for http://www.emarketinganswers.com with a broad knowledge of topics covering Internet marketing and communication strategies for both consumer and small business owners. eMarketingAnswers.com is dedicated to providing free emarketing resources and online promotion tools.
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