At the outset, small businesses have plenty of decisions to make about their websites. What kind of image are they going to project? Are they going to sell products directly? How much information are you going to share? Will you add a blog? All of these decision involve writing and design, and are in many ways exciting. Yet there’s one aspect of a business website that often receives little attention, even though it’s of massive importance.
Few people really seem to care about the web host.
True, in some instances a web host might not matter all that much. For a placeholder website that receives infrequent updates, a simple hosting plan will probably work. You can just purchase a simple plan, put it on auto-renew, and let your website stick there for the tens of people who will see it. But for businesses that dream bigger, choosing the right web host can be as important as, or more important than, the website’s design and content.
Why web hosting matters
Since web hosting is normally managed by a third party, we often underestimate its importance. Yet it’s exactly because it’s managed by a third party that it’s more important than we often think. The website — your website — is hosted in someone else’s data center and is managed by another company’s staff. Don’t you want to know what you’re getting into when so much rides on someone else’s equipment and staff?
Shoddy hardware can mean unreliable uptime status. An inattentive staff can mean slow responses to your problems. Failure of either aspect can be detrimental to a budding small business website. They can lead to slow-loading or even non-loading websites. Your company then sees less web traffic, which can lead to fewer sales and a poorer reputation. In other words, web hosting matters, because without it your site won’t be able to do what you intend it to do.
Get it right from the start
For almost any small business launching a website, a basic hosting plan will do just fine. That is, you can find any number of companies offering one-year hosting deals for between $80 and $100. Those are good enough to power a low-traffic site, even one with a blog. Entry level e-commerce sites can often use these at the start as well. Yet choosing the right host is still important at this stage.
When you need to upgrade, staying with the same company is far easier than switching. To migrate all of your website data, including SQL databases, can be a lengthy and expensive process. It requires a fair amount of technical knowledge, meaning not everyone can do it. To pay someone to move web servers is money that can be better spent elsewhere. Finding a web host that you can grow with makes a big difference, then.
How to find a good web host
The best way to find a high quality web host is simple: ask as many people as possible. Contact other businesses (preferably not direct competitors) and ask about their web hosting experiences. If you plan to host a blog, ask bloggers about their experiences. If you plan to run e-commerce, it’s even more important to find people who have reliable hosting. Downtime for an e-commerce site can be detrimental to sales.
Reading online reviews is another way to get more information on web hosts, but it’s a tricky process. Since people are more likely to leave a negative review of a bad experience than a positive review of a good one, reviews in general tend to skew negative. There are even entire websites dedicated to trashing poor hosts. If you do pore over reviews of web hosts, put more weight on the better written and thought out ones. If they provide articulated details, chances are they’re more accurate.
When it comes to building a website, few people want to focus on the technical end. Designing the site and building the content is the fun part. Researching web hosts is relatively boring. Yet it might be the most important decision you make with your small business website. Picking the wrong host can cost you time, money, and business. Picking the right one means a smooth sailing ride, enabling you to focus on what really matters to your business.
About the Guest Post Author: Joe Pawlikowski edits several tech blogs across the web, including the BlackBerry site BBGeeks.