Finding a host for your company’s Web site is one of the most crucial steps in taking your business online. Not only will your Web host be responsible for placing your company’s site on the Internet; it will also be responsible for keeping it there and making it available to potential customers.
Follow these seven steps before you start asking potential hosts about the price of their services:
1. Create an online plan for your site. Sit down with pen and paper and figure out the nuts and bolts: If you’re going to do e-commerce, think about what you are going to sell, the number of items you plan to offer, payment methods and the features of your site. Then consider the possibilities for the site’s expansion over the next six months, the next year and the next five years. It’s easier to find a host that can meet your needs if you already know what your needs will be.
2. Find out what other business owners have to say. Spend some time talking to people who own online businesses similar in size to yours. Ask about their experiences with hosting services and note which ones they recommend.
3. Once you have a list of potential Web hosts, submit a request for a proposal to each one. Ask for a detailed description of how the host can accommodate your needs. Make sure you get it all in writing.
4. After you receive your responses, narrow the field down to the five most promising candidates. Many of the hosts you contacted won’t respond by the deadline — but that can be a blessing in disguise. Their apathy says something significant about the way they do business.
5. Get references. Take your short list of hosts and ask each one for the names of several clients. Then pick up the phone and see what the clients have to say. Be sure to ask them how good their host is at making their sites available online.
6. Take the service for a test drive. Since your host will play a crucial role in the success of your online business, it’s important to know that it can deliver what it promises. Pick up the phone and dial customer support at 2 a.m. Or drop them an e-mail to see how fast they respond to requests for help. Do whatever it takes to feel comfortable with your service provider before you enter into a business relationship.
7. When it comes down to making a final decision, trust your instincts. It’s the best way to find a host that takes your business as seriously as you do.