How to choose the right web hosting for your business

Looking for web hosting for your business? Find out what you need to bear in mind when choosing your next web host.

For most businesses today, your website is your shop window to the world – whether it’s a static site or a busy e-commerce hub. So it’s important that you choose the right web hosting services.

Exactly what you need from your web hosting will vary from business to business, but business writer Patric Vernon outlines some considerations every business needs to bear in mind.

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Cost

As business web hosting is relatively inexpensive, it wouldn’t be very wise to choose a company purely because it offers the lowest price.

Yes, you can get your site online free of charge through some hosts, but they’re usually free for a reason – and you may find yourself regretting your choice when your site loses your customers via downtime and slow download speed.

You’re usually better off paying a small monthly or yearly sum for a more reliable provider with better customer service. So do your research before making this important decision. Look too for providers who offer you other services you may need, complimentary site-builder software, unlimited email addresses, SEO support and bulk domain name registration, to ensure that no customers slip through the net.

Bandwidth

Your website is hosted on a server, or servers. There are four principal types of server option:

  • Dedicated Servers.
  • Shared Servers.
  • Cloud Servers.
  • Virtual Private Servers (VPS).

Each offers different advantages and disadvantages. If you anticipate high volumes of traffic on your site, you would probably be better off looking at a dedicated server or a VPS, so you have the whole thing to yourself, or at least a similar effect, giving you faster page-loading times.

Storage

A dedicated server also gives you greater storage capacity which is useful if, for instance, your site features large numbers of images or videos.

Many hosting packages will offer unlimited storage, or unlimited bandwidth, but bear in mind that unlimited doesn’t always technically mean “unlimited”, and that once you reach a maximum capacity you will be encouraged to move on to a new cost-bracket, or risk your site underperforming.

Scalability

You want a web host that won’t hinder your company’s growth. How easy will it be for you to make changes to your website? Can you do everything yourself through your own control panel, or do you need to go through the host?

Spikes in bandwidth caused by seasonal sales could cost you too – is this taken into account? And can you easily upgrade your hosting package if you feel you have outgrown it?

Reputation

When choosing a web hosting company, check how long they’ve been business for? And who are their other clients, and what do they have to say about them?

It’s worth digging around online and on social media to see if you can find word-of-mouth recommendations, as personal experience is often the best guide to a company’s reliability and lets you know the things they might not mention in their promotional material.

Security

One of the biggest IT issues that businesses face today is the emergence of DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks. It is depressingly-easy, it seems, for a hacker to knock your website offline for a few hours.

Often however, this can be nothing more than a smokescreen, something to occupy your IT department’s time and attention while someone is breaking into your network to steal data.

So another consideration when choosing web hosting is security. What methods does your web host have in place to prevent or counter DDoS attacks and other threats from viruses to malware affecting your business, and do you consider them to be adequate?

Support

It’s vital to know that you can contact your web host when you need them. Whether your site is mysteriously offline, or you need help installing a software patch, or just want some advice on managing a predicted spike in traffic that will take you above your bandwidth limit, can you get hold of them easily?

A good web host will make itself available to customers 24/7, by a variety of means – from email to telephone and chat features.

Things to keep in mind when choosing a web host include:

  • Is its data centre within reach if you need to go and visit it?
  • Is it based in the same country or timezone as your customers?
  • How often does it backup your website (ideally you want this done several times a day if you sell through your site, but daily is a minimum)?

Don’t be afraid to question your web hosting company about the services it provides to you – there are many competitors out there that would love your business. If you’re not satisfied, begin looking around when your contract is due to expire.