Sunday, April 24, 2011

How to Find a Web Host - Web Hosting for your Business

By Bryan Haines, Guide

Seems like a simple enough task: Choose a Web hosting company. Maybe you could just Google it ... 193,000,000 search results for "Web host". Now what?

Before you touch your mouse you need to determine two things:

What Do You Need?
You can speak to your Web designer or another tech savvy person and determine just what you need. Do you need a Linux or Windows server? What about a basic static website, or a dynamic site written with e-commerce functionality?

What’s Most Important?
From the list below, decide first what you really need. Some Web hosts offer a unique angle. It’s easy to get "taken in" by a great website, some seemingly sincere testimonials or quirky marketing. Know what you are looking for first, and it will make it easier when you get buried in the fluff many companies try to confuse you with. With your list in hand (and this article on screen) you’ll be able to methodically sort through the options based on your specific criteria.

Some of these companies are profiled in Cheapest Web Host article. Reading specific reviews can help sort through the options.

Eight critical points to consider:

Up-time Percentage
Tech Support
Storage Space
Blog friendly
Number of Domains / Domain Pointers
Number of Emails, FTP accounts / Databases
Here’s why they’re important:

Up-time Percentage
Up-time is important because when the server is "down" your store is closed, and clients cannot order or view products, or even contact you via your site.

Up-time is often measured in nines. "Five nines" means 99.999%, which means roughly five minutes and fifteen seconds per year of downtime. Interestingly, a percentage of "three nines", that is 99.9% means an annual downtime of eight hours and 45 minutes. When the server is down your website is closed.
Imagine your prospective landlord happily telling you that over the next year your office space would be locked tight at random times over the year, for a total of almost 9 hours. No sales, no customers browsing – nothing.

Up-time = Your Online Business Hours

Tech Support
Arguably one of the most important features of your hosting space is back end support. If you aren’t able to keep your site live or to fix problems as they arise, then the other features are pointless.

The Internet is open every hour of every day. It doesn’t close or have business hours so your Web host tech support shouldn’t either. If you are browsing the Internet at 11:30 p.m. and realize that your site isn’t working properly, you should be able to call Tech Support and get a real person and get a solution. Otherwise, they aren’t really support.

Often support is available by email, chat or phone. If you’re new to Web hosting, having phone support is crucial. There will always be something that you need to call and clarify.

Storage Space
Unless you’re selling downloadable training videos, streaming live video feeds, or have a catalog of thousands of products with high resolution images, you probably don’t have to worry about this. Many basic sites, even with catalogs of products and downloadable documents are less than a few hundred megabytes. A few gigabytes should be sufficient for the majority of websites. If you have (or plan to have) huge video, audio and image libraries, then you’ll need significantly more space. Some hosting companies now offer in excess of 600 gigabytes in their basic package. This is more than most companies will ever need.

Bandwidth measures the amount of data transferred from your online site to clients downloading it. Often highlighted as a primary feature by Web hosting companies, but for the average site this isn’t a significant concern. Similar to storage space, unless your business sells downloadable video and high resolution images, you won’t need to worry about this.

This is where larger hosting sites are important. The smaller hosting companies don’t offer the quantity or quality of tools that the big players can. Shopping cart software, ecommerce tools, database builders and secure servers are all crucial to the success of your online business.

Blog Friendly
Some hosting companies have one click installation of WordPress blog software which is a great feature, especially if you’re doing your own install.

Number of Domains / Domain Pointers
Initially new business owners imagine having just a single domain, but many find that their collection of domains tends to grow over time. Sometimes groups of similar or misspelled versions are purchased and pointed to the actual one; sometimes business will have multiple functioning sites operating at the same time on the same hosting package. Either way, it’s smart to ensure that your hosting company will allow multiple domains within one package.

Number of Emails, FTP accounts / Databases
With any luck, your business will grow over time and you’ll add more staff. With the right host and package, you can give each staff member (and department) their own domain based email address. Each blog requires its own database, and it’s a good idea to assign unique ftp accounts to different sections of your site (blog, product catalog, general website).

Because their offering is so similar to the others, many companies try to differentiate with things that don’t really matter or are completely worthless. Here are some examples:

Free $25 credit to Google AdSense
Ad credits to MySpace and Facebook
Free 60 day trial to Constant Contact
Free white paper on "How to ..."
Web host with great marketing or quirky colors
"100% Guaranteed Uptime" – impossible by any estimation.
Once you get your shortlist of two or three finalists run this simple test to see how good they really are. Even the best company will get complaints, but notice the volume of complaints. Simply Google the name of the hosting company you’re considering with the term "complaint" or "sucks" after it. For example: "godaddy sucks." Don’t forget the quotation marks, and please excuse the choice of words. To see what people are saying, you need to Google with the words they use.

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