As a professional web design company, one of the things we ask clients is if they already have a web host service provider in mind. Finding the right web host is important because your site’s speed, stability and security will depend on your choice of service provider. If your web host turns out to be unreliable, you could end up losing key opportunities for your business. On the flip side a reliable web host will make life and work so much easier.
We’ve seen it all before. Clients come to us complaining how their web host has led to headaches and prolonged periods of stress. The reality is, changing web host service providers isn’t easy. Migrating a website to another host has its own set of challenges.
Choosing your web host can seem like a daunting task because there are thousands of web host providers out there. You can get caught up with all the advertising and marketing and realize later on there is another one better.
The purpose of this article is to simplify the process for you. We break down everything you need to know to make an educated choice. Hopefully you will come away with enough information to confidently choose the right web host for your business.
What is Web Hosting?
A web host company maintains specially configured computers called servers which run on a variety of operating systems such as Windows or Linux. The purpose of these servers is to connect websites to the Internet. You are able to view the content of a website by connecting with its server and accessing it with your browser.
To make an analogy, a web host is like an apartment manager. You rent a space on his server (the apartment complex) and in exchange, he will host your website from there. Once you place all your files on the server, the web host will open it up to allow Internet users to access your content.
If the web host is your apartment, the domain name is your address. When you sign up for web hosting services, you will be given an IP address which is presented as a series of numbers such as 123.456.78.987. Your IP address is where people will look to find you.
But numbers can be difficult to remember which is why you need a domain name. Thus instead of typing 123.456.78.987, people can just type a domain name like www.mountaintopwebdesign.com and they will be redirected to your IP address.
Determine the Needs of Your Website and Host
The search for your web host starts with knowing what your website needs. Even if you find a service provider with the best references and highest number of recommendations, it will underperform if it cannot meet your site requirements.
Here’s a checklist of questions we go through with clients so we can pinpoint the type of web hosting service they need:
- How will the website be built? – There are different ways to approach web design. We could use WordPress or static HTML and these will have their own technical specifications which the web host should be able to accommodate.
- Does your website require more security features? – An e-commerce website which processes credit card payments and houses personal information will need more security features than a blog site. If you’re planning to put up an e-commerce website, the web host should have the ability to support high level security features.
- How would you want e-mail hosting managed? – Having your own domain name gives you the distinction of a personalized e-mail address. In business, a branded e-mail address is perceived as more professional than using a yahoo.com or gmail.com address. It tells clients how invested you are in your own business and it helps with your branding strategy. But you do have a choice of having another provider manage your webmail. Check with the web host company to see if its current e-mail accommodation plan suits your needs.
- How much data would your website be storing and serving? – Data that is predominantly text-based will require less storage capacity than one which is image heavy. The size of your data will determine not just the amount of storage space but also bandwidth.
- How much traffic do you anticipate? – At the start, you can safely assume low volume of site traffic. But you should have plans in place when your business begins to gain traction and traffic volume becomes heavier.
- What is your budget for hosting? – If your budget is limited, you will have to do away with some extra perks. Review your monthly budget carefully and assess if stretching it out a bit will significantly affect your cash flow.
Once we have ironed out the details of the website, you can now shift your focus to finding the right web host for your business. It will be easier and clearer for you to review the different website hosting plans presented by each service provider.
Types of Website Hosting Plans
Here are a few website hosting plans you might come across during your search for the right web host:
- Individual Plans – These are highly affordable plans best suited for websites that don’t require specialized features or a high volume of traffic. Individual plans are limited in terms of the number of domains to be supported, Internet bandwidth and data storage capacity. Individual plan subscribers share server space with other webmasters.
- Dedicated Servers – In this hosting plan, the web host company will provide your business with its own server. Obviously, this plan will cost significantly more than an Individual subscription but it lays down the contingencies should your business grow faster than expected. Before signing up, make sure the web host allows a transition from Individual to Dedicated subscription.
- Reseller Accounts – If you plan to set up several other small websites, the Reseller Account could be the subscription for you. This gives you the option to establish multiple individual plans in a single account.
When choosing the type of web hosting plan, always think of your business as a dynamic, ever-evolving entity that will be a constant work in progress. With the Internet and social media, the challenge for a business is to keep track of changes in tastes, trends and demand preferences of consumers. Your website has to be ready to accommodate these changes without missing a beat.
How to Qualify Your Web Host Service Provider
Hopefully at this point, you have a clearer picture of what you are looking for in a web host service provider. You know what web hosting does, what your website needs and an idea of the subscription packages most service providers carry. It’s time to sift through the list of web hosting services and find the one that will support the requirements of your website.
Here are the key points to consider when qualifying your web host service provider:
- Cost – Entrepreneurs and small business owners especially those in the process of launching startups have good reason to prioritize cost. What we like to advise our clients is to view the cost of web hosting not as an expense but an investment. The performance of your web host will have a direct effect on the performance of your website. Don’t hesitate to shell out a few more bucks per month for a web host with features that can ably service and support your online business.
- Customer Reviews – These are valuable references for qualifying service providers. There are customers who will gladly take the opportunity to heap praise upon a vendor for excellent service or vent their ire on one that came up short of expectations. Take your time to read as many reviews as possible. Keep an open mind and don’t be swayed by biases toward a particular vendor. Note down the pros and cons shared by the reviewers and bring these issues up with the vendor during discussions.
- Customer Support – It does not matter whether you are a beginner or an experienced online business proprietor. You will always need good, reliable customer support from your web host service provider. Customer support should be accessible from multiple points of contact. The web host company should have chat support, e-mail support and inbound calling services available 24/7.
- Script Support – You may also want to look for a web host service that offers support for a variety of popular scripts. It should make it easy for you to install your choice of platform. For example, if you want to use WordPress, there are web host services that limit the number of MySQL databases you need to create in order to support this platform.
- Security – All websites should install their own security measures. But it would be great if the web host company can provide additional security features as well. Find out if they offer firewalls, malware detection services or if their servers can monitor for suspicious activity. On the Internet, you can never have too many security measures in place.
- Backup Support – The thing with hackers is that they will always try to be one step ahead of security. Despite the best laid-out plans, hackers will find ways to shut you down. You should never get complacent when it comes to protecting the integrity of your online business. An important consideration when choosing your web host provider is the availability of backup support. There are companies that factor in frequent backups to make sure if something happens, they can help you restore your website.
- E-mail Availability – Most web host companies offer e-mail support. Just the same, ask how many e-mail accounts are provided so you will know for sure if it will be enough to accommodate your needs.
The effectiveness of your website is contingent on the ability of the web host company to give consistently reliable service. There are many outstanding web host service providers in the market. If you find one that best fits your website needs, it will make your business run smoothly, efficiently and trouble-free.
Our years of experience working with different web host providers and designing websites have given us valuable insights on what clients need. Thus at Mountaintop we do more than just design quality websites. We also offer web hosting services that fit your budget and the needs of your business. If you want to learn more about our web hosting package, give us a call or drop us an e-mail. We would be happy to discuss how these services will benefit your business.