Make Your Site at Home: What to Know Before Selecting a Web Host / Technology / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Don't overpay for small business web hosting. Ask these four questions first before locking your business into a hosting provider and save.

Stuck trying to figure out which hosting provider is right for your businesses needs?

Your business has unique needs, which is why it’s critical you select the provider who best meets these needs.

Otherwise, you could end up overpaying for expensive, unnecessary features, or worse, miss out on critical features (like offsite backups) that you do need.

As a digital marketing consultant, I work with many small businesses and entrepreneurs who are confused about their web hosting options, and I completely understand why. We spend a lot of time discussing the ins and outs of what makes a great website, especially onsite optimization. 

SEO, content marketing, and social media marketing are hot topics that garner a lot of attention. “Web hosting” doesn’t have that same allure and doesn’t get nearly as much quality coverage online; consequently, most business owners don’t even realize just how many hosting options there truly are until they get started looking for a provider.

Related Article: Threats to Cybersecurity Increasing: How to Secure Your Network

“Selecting the right web host can be a confusing process, especially if businesses are not clear on their needs,” advises Adrian Read, Managing Director at Smart Hosting. “Start by making a list of what features are most important and then find a plan that fits this wish list. Many plans offer 30 or 90-day money-back guarantees, which is a great way to test drive a hosting company.”

Read on to learn the four questions every business should ask before selecting a hosting provider:

1. How Much Speed Is Necessary?

Shared hosting is great for small businesses that are just getting started and don’t have a huge budget for hosting. While these plans are generally the most affordable, shared hosting also means your site may suffer from traffic and data transfer limitations.

An alternative option is to use a virtual private server (VPS), which is perfect for small businesses that want the power of dedicated hosting without the price tag. Managed WordPress hosting is another option for businesses that uses a WordPress CMS and don’t want to bother with any backend tasks, including updating the CMS and apps and automating backups.

2. How Much Customer Support Will I Need?

Downtime is lost money. For this reason, I always recommend choosing a hosting provider that provides 24/7 support. Even if there’s not always a support phone line open, there should at least be a live chat option.

Forums and help tickets are great, but when it’s peak sales season, you don’t want to wait four hours for someone to fix that tiny glitch in your system that’s preventing successful online checkout.

3. How Comfortable Am I With a Hosting Interface?

If you’re migrating over a site and price is the most important requirement, you won’t need a lot of bells and whistles, so a simple interface should do the job.

If you’re not already familiar with website administration, then you need an easy-to-use, intuitive interface. Some hosting providers even offer tutorials for getting started, which is a bonus if you’re a first-time webmaster.

4. Will I Need Additional Tools to Build Out My Site?

While most hosting providers offer similar packages, some have a greater focus on security thanks to robust anti-spam and anti-malware tools. Other providers are more geared towards e-commerce and offer easy integration with third-party online shopping cart applications.

If you're running your site entirely off WordPress and WordPress plugins, you may not ever need to use these third-party apps. In this case, watch out for providers who include these tools and charge a bit more each month as a result. 

Related Article: How to Identify and Correct Problems in Your Web Design

Bottom Line

If you’re not sure which hosting type is right for your business, start small. You can always upgrade to a more robust package in the future, but there’s no sense in overpaying for features and speed you don’t currently need. Many providers offer a 30-day or 90-day money back guarantee. Do your homework to find whether you can test drive a provider before making a long-term commitment.

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