Small Business Web Hosting - How to Choose a Commercial Host
Who you choose for your small business web hosting is an important decision. There are a number of options available that we compare, so making the right choice depends on reviewing certain criteria that can have an impact on your site, depending on your goals and budget. Lets dive into some things to consider.
Web Site Building Tools - the Right Choice for You?
If you are a novice when it comes to building your own web pages, you might find the idea of a web host that offers an easy-to-use site building interface attractive. However, it's important to understand that if you opt to use a site builder, there is a possibility that you will not be able to back up or download your web pages in the event you wish to move your site to a different web host. This will mean that if you build your site with the site builder but find out that the web host isn't living up to your expectations, you will have to start from scratch somewhere else.
Some web hosts do allow you to download your web files that were built with their site builder and keep them; however, these files often have been built utilizing proprietary coding techniques that only work within that hosts framework, which could render your files useless on another host's servers.
If you feel this could be a concern for you, you may wish to hire a web developer to build the files for you utilizing W3c standards of open web platform for development. This way you should have no trouble hosting your files on a variety of web hosting options.
What About WordPress?
If hiring a web developer is simply too pricey for you at this time, you may want to utilize your own content management system (CMS) like WordPress. You can build a website, a blog or both. It's an ideal option that is both powerful enough to give you flexible design options that can look quite professional and all for free. You can also jazz it up a bit by hiring a designer for a nominal fee to enhance the wordpress deisign so that it has the visual impact you are looking for.
What's particularly attractive about WordPress is that they make the search engine optimization piece of the puzzle much easier, provide an unlimited number of plug-ins to enhance functionality of your site, and an extensive support community that actively helps webmasters troubleshoot problems. Plus, virtually anyone can learn how to load content onto a WordPress platform without having to rely on their web developer.
You can select a free theme from WordPress, or can purchase one with more functionality depending on your goals and vision. And . . . a majority of the web host available will provide options for easy installation of your WordPress theme.
The beauty of this option is that it doesn't require web development skills, and you can easily back up your site and take it with you anywhere by simply installing WordPress wherever you go and then uploading your data.
Important Criteria for Assessing Your Web Host
Web hosts offer a variety of services and advertise different features that are important to any website owner.
Don't believe the 99.9% uptime guarantee that all web hosts claim, but just because a website can load doesn't mean that it loads quickly. In fact, some websites are painfully slow loading, and many people will bounce from a site if it doesn't pull up within a reasonable period of time. Check out our test results to see how various reputable web hosts stack up against each other.
The purpose of the cPanel is to allow you to manage some of the various tasks that may come up, such as managing your email addresses, changing passwords on your account, or creating backups of your site on your own. Most hosts use a standard cPanel that looks familiar across the board, making it easy to negotiate because it is a familiar component in web hosting. However, some web hosts do not have a cPanel, which can lead to the headaches of manual configurations and application installations.
Also called traffic or bandwidth, data transfer refers to the amount of data transferred from your site to the visitors' browser when they browse your pages. Many web hosts advertise "unlimited bandwidth" which for an average site would certainly be the case. However, it always pays to check out the fine print on the package you are considering. In general there are limitations to the idea of unlimited bandwidth, particularly as it relates to what the web host would consider abuse of bandwidth used.
Most web hosts understand that most websites do not achieve high traffic volume, which is why web hosts feel free to advertise "unlimited bandwidth." But - if your site really takes off, and you rely on bandwidth-hungry technologies like video, you may want to have a backup plan, either in terms of upgrading packages or finding a host that offers the bandwidth necessary for your needs. Nothing is more unprofessional looking than a "bandwidth exceeded" message when someone pulls up your site. Therefore, if you are building a very large and complex site you may want to consider a dedicated server or a virtual private server. We recommend that you read our white paper on how to compare reseller web hosting vs. VPS hosting in order to get everything you need to make the best decision for your needs.
Unless you plan on having a site that is loaded with video or music files, this particular attribute is probably not important to you. Some packages are delineated as number of files (or web pages) as opposed to disk space. Most web sites use less than 20 MB of space, so a web host advertising 100 GB of space understands that most consumers will not come close to that.
In other words, data transfer and disk space promises are generally not realized by most customers because of the amount of traffic and the size of the websites.
SSL (Secure Server)
Anyone who is planning on setting up an eCommerce website that accepts credit card payments should look for SSL services. The majority of consumers today will not even consider adding personal information like a credit card number to a site that does not have an https:// web address. If you plan on only doing business via a payment gateway like Paypal, you don't need SSL. Most web hosts will charge extra for this service.
Features: FTP, PHP, Perl, CGI-Bin Access, .htaccess, SSI, SSH, Telnet, MySQL
Features and functionality are important. While we won't go through an exhaustive explanation about the function of each one of these features, it is important if you are paying for a commercial web host to make sure you have access to them. For instance, being able to install PHP, Perl or CGI scripts for specific features on your site that cannot be achieved through html, using .htaccess in order to manage a 301 redirect or define other rules on how and who your website should be served to, will likely become very important at some point.
Unlimited Domain Hosting
If you wish to have multiple domains or subdomains hosted through your account, or if you wish to sell web space, you will want a package that allows for this. Incidentally, you should understand that not all web hosting companies actually own or even lease their own web servers. In actuality, they may be reselling space they have leased.
Unix vs. Windows Option
Unless you have a specific reason to use a Windows server, like wanting custom application objects, sessions objects, or any other function that requires ASP files to work together for server-based applications, most people opt for Unix systems running Apache, which are generally cheaper, more stable, and have tons of features. Additionally, Apache web servers allow you to configure various must-haves on your website without having to ask the host to implement, including error pages, blocking IP addresses, etc.)
Technical Support: Phone, Email and Chat Options
Some web hosts advertise technical support 24/7, but in reality may fall woefully short during off-peak times. This is an important feature . . . just like Murphy's Law states, it's amazing how things go wrong on a website when you are not expecting it to go wrong. In general, however, if they offer phone or chat options, you can expect to get a person on the other end of the conversation.
Adequate Email Options
Particularly if you have a professional site, you will likely wish to have email addresses that are at your domain, like firstname.lastname@example.org. You will want to ascertain whether the web host allows you to set up emails through your domain. Many domains either provide a mail box on the web hosting account itself, or you should be able to set up POP3 (Post Office Protocol3) configurations to have the mail held until you download to your email program. Other features may include autoresponders, which are preset messages that are sent in reply to anyone sending you an email.
The old adage "you get what you pay for" is a good rule of thumb when considering price points of web hosts. However, the most expensive hosts aren't always the best, and can provide features that aren't necessary for your objectives.
Small business web hosting is not much different from any of the shared hosting plans that we compare. Our comparison of best web hosting sites not only details important criteria to help you make the right selection, but it also lists special offers currently available. We also provide links to each host's websites so that you can further research your options.
At HostingAndBackup.com, we are passionate about helping consumers find the best options for their online needs, whether they are looking to put up a blog or website, start an online business presence, or just back up their important files.
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