One of the first decisions small business owners need to make is the decide where to host their web site. A web host in the online service where the files that make up your web site will be housed. If you think of your domain name, www.youraddress.com, as representing your mailing address in the world, then the web hosting company is your actual building and property. Like in the real world, you can own your own building if you want, but then you need to maintain it yourself. Unless you are an expert at maintaining web servers, you will probably want to rent space on an outside server. Here are some things to keep in mind.
- Can you host your web site at the same place you registered your domain name? Not necessarily the best idea, but for most it would be the simplest solution. Many good domain registrars have descent hosting as well, and you will only have one bill you need to pay monthly.
- Do I need dedicated hosting, or shared hosting? For most businesses, shared hosting is fine, and much more cost effective. But, if security is a concern, you need a highly customized software environment, or if you are anticipating very high site traffic, you may want to opt for more expensive dedicated hosting.
- Windows or Linux? Most server run on one of these two operating systems. Generally, you would need to ask your web designer what programming technology is needed for your particular project or web site.
- Do I need SSL or other specific add on features? Many hosting companies add on things like SSL certificates or WordPress installs for very little extra cost. This could really simplify your future upkeep. For example, if your hosting company does not offer SSL certificates as part of the hosting package, you would need to purchase the certificate from a third party and manually update it every year. Forget, and your certificate can become invalid. Additionally, if you are using a packaged eCommerce solution, you may be required to host the site on the solution provide’s servers, so check with your web designer.
- How much bandwidth or disk storage space do I need? Most hosting accounts come with a limit on how much monthly bandwidth is allowed and how much disk space you can use. For most sites, a basic account is fine, but if you are hosting very large files, like video, you may want a higher end account.
- Do I need a database? Most hosting accounts come with database access, but you should discuss this with your web designer before making any final decisions.
- What type of customer service do they offer? Inevitably, something will go wrong and you will need to contact the service provider. Do a Google search first, and see if the company you are looking at has had customer service issues in the past. Can you call then at 3 am if your email stops working? How long do they normally take to respond to requests? What is their uptime?