A web host is like a partner in your business more than just a vendor. Without the proper support, features, and products from a web host, your small business website cannot thrive on the world wide web as it should.
But what kind of features and extras do you need to ensure that your small business website has the proper hosting package? Below we supply you with the 5 most important features we feel your small business needs. Use these to determine if you have the right hosting plan or if it's time to find a new and better host.
Cost vs Time Commitment
If you are paying for a shared-server hosting plan, you are probably saving a great deal of money, especially compared to paying dedicated server prices. But do you really save money by purchasing 3 to 5 years of hosting in advance?
Many web hosts will entice you to buy their rock bottom price by paying up front for 3 years or more. However, the world of hosting technology changes so fast and competition is so fierce that prices drop on a regular basis. You may be getting a bargain now at an average of $5 per month, but if your host drops their price (like they tend to do every 4-6 months) to $3 per month, you're locked in to the old rate.
Also, if you pay upfront for 2, 3, or more years, then find that the host is unsuitable during that time and want to change web hosting companies, you are stuck paying the unused portion of time.
The best practice is to pay 12 months in advance. 24 months is acceptable if the price is reasonable and the hosting is excellent.
What good is it to have an online eCommerce business if the website is continually down? If your host experiences even 5% downtime on a regular basis, your business website could be losing up to 2 days a month of business.
Be sure you go with a web host that offers a guarantee of uptime with recompense of monthly charge if they break it. 99% uptime or better is standard.
Do you have a company blog, as well as a small business website? Do you want a start a customer bulletin board to stimulate conversation? These types of additions are easy to "plugin" to a website through many web hosts.
Check to see if yours has a list of free software plugins available with your hosting plan. A reasonable list will include:
Does your web host help you with your online business? Most top-rated web hosts offer free eCommerce tools to help businesses conduct transactions online. Most will include at least one, if not a choice, of shopping carts. While these may be very basic and have a limit of the number of items you can list, it is a good start to get business going online.
Plus, many hosts will offer help with conducting PayPal transactions, and even offer merchant account consulting. Be sure your host offers these options.
Is your small business poised to grow? Shared hosting may save you a lot of money and provide many great features. However, the downside is that you have to share resources with possibly hundreds of other websites on the same server. If your online business picks up and traffic exceeds your host's "unmetered" limits, you may want to consider buying up to a Virtual Private Server (VPS) account, or a full dedicated server plan.
VPS plans are a cross between shared and dedicated. You get lower costs (usually around $30 and up per month), and share a server with only a dozen or so other accounts. Plus you get a dedicated unique IP address, which can save you SEO grief from other rapscallion spamming websites on your shared hosting plan.
Dedicated server plans usually start around $150 and up, and there are many quality hosts who offer all these plans for easy scalability with your growing business.
The hosting plan you choose can make or break the success of your online business. Be sure your host has the above recommended features.