How to Find the Right Web Host for Your Business
Top tips on what to look out for before choosing a website host...
Starting a business can be a daunting process, and often the owner will have limited technical knowledge about how to run their IT services. One important decision is how do you choose the right host and not lose time, money and effort on downtime.
Jack Bedell-Pearce of 4D Hosting has some top tips and questions you might ask before signing up.
What type of hosting do I need?
As a start-up you may have a small website with just the basic information about you and your products and if so a shared hosting option will be perfect for your needs.
However, if you have an ecommerce site you may need more than this and can consider a virtual private server (VPS) that will have more capacity to keep your website running under heavy loads.
What should I pay?
As a small business owner, your budget will be tight and there are lots of attractive offers for low-cost or free hosting. However, watch out as low-cost often translates into low quality services. If you get an unreliable, unsupported hosting package then your potential customers will not be able to find you online. A cheap hosting package may come with an equally poor service level agreement (SLA) and no guarantee of uptime. This can leave you without compensation if the host experiences downtime.
Consider the costs of the non-discounted services and what SLAs and guarantees the host will offer on the lowest package.
Check what existing customers think
Look at reviews and testimonials; hosts which offer a good service will have a testimonial page which will have the reviewer’s name and company so you can check out the source. Do your research; choose a host who is not afraid of allowing bad as well as good comments on their site.
What about support?
Is it crucial to your business to be able to pick up the phone to the help desk after office hours, when it’s less frenetic? Checkout claims of 24/7 support as sometimes the desk will close in the late evening, or be outsourced to another country during the out-of-hours cover.
Test out the support at the times you would normally use it and see if it meets your needs.
Also, remember that building/maintaining a website can be technically challenging, so you want great quality help from UK-based engineers, not just any old support.
What’s the uptime record?
No host can guarantee 100% uptime, but good providers should strive to deliver a minimum of 99%. Look at their uptime guarantee versus their actual record. Although it’s not an exhaustive list you can look at Web Performance (www.webperf.net); it holds records for UK hosting companies.
Be wary of storage and bandwidth limitations
Lots of hosts offer unlimited options as part of their packages, but there will always be fair usage policies limiting the ‘unlimited’ element. Ask about these policies and charges for exceeding them.
What if I grow?
Check upgrade options to allow for your site to cope with increased traffic and ensure that it doesn’t freeze or crash.
Where is the hosting?
Where is your website data actually held, in the local area or in a different country? This may affect the loading speeds of your page if your customers are in the UK but your host is somewhere else.
You also need to consider any data protection issues from hosting your site outside the UK. If you run an ecommerce website do you hold personal information about your clients in a database? If so, you probably want a UK-based hosting company that will be covered by UK data protection laws.
Will the company be around tomorrow?
Do a background check on the potential host to see how long it has been in business and also look at whether it owns its own data centre. This may not be an important factor in deciding who your host is but, if your host owns the data centre it is less likely that the services will be switched off if it cannot pay a bill.
What about security credentials?
Security is probably the most important thing to consider when looking at a hosting provider. What security policies do they have in place in lieu of any official accreditation? Are its staff vetted? Security of any website is not as simple as protecting against online attack, you have to consider physical security aspects too.
Hopefully this has helped you to choose the right host for your needs, one who will allow you to get the best service while you focus on running your business.
Jack Bedell-Pearce is the Managing Director of 4D Hosting