Without a reliable host that offers a range of services to support your online business, your website could let you and your customers down. Here are ten things to think about when choosing a host for your website
- Service: Look for a hosting company that offers 24-hour service and allows you to speak to staff on the phone, not just via email. By talking to a real person, the host company is less likely to pass the buck and any problems should be resolved quickly. Are they good at keeping customers informed about technical issues and new services?
- Technical expertise: Your host must offer good technical support so it can deal with any problems quickly. Be sure they have multiple internet connections so the server that hosts your website can keep running even if one goes down. Ideally, your prospective host should guarantee 99% ‘uptime’.
- Price. Don’t be seduced by the lowest price, as you may well end up paying more later. Check the small print; do you have to pay for any extras? If so, are they worth it?
- Online security. Make sure you get an SSL Certificate if you are selling online and that your shopping system is secure and easy to use. Ask about protection against spam, viruses and trojan horses. Which firewalls and routers does the company use?
- Flexibility. As your business grows, your website will grow. Ensure your web host can support any changes to your website such as adding blogs, video, databases, picture galleries or even simply more sections. Are they geared up to integrate new technology? Consider your future plans, not just where you are now.
- Compatibility. Check the systems and software you currently work with are compatible with your host. A good host will support most website software. Be wary of hosts that try to tie you down to their own bespoke software — what will this mean if you want to move to a different host?
- Back-up. How frequently does the hosting company back up the information on its servers, including the server that hosts your website? This should be a task that is carried out daily; if it’s not, ask why not. All it takes is one server to malfunction and you could lose important information, customer data or orders.
- A proven track record. Ask to see testimonials and examples of other websites they host. Check that they work with other businesses like yours. Google the host company to check what others are saying about them.
- The contract. Look at the terms and conditions. Are refunds available if you are not satisfied? Is there any flexibility in what is being offered? How long is the contract? Can you get out of it if you want to?
- Moving hosts. A good website hosting company should offer to transfer your site from your existing host to their service. Check that they can move all of your files, images and data to the new host location easily and, above all, quickly. Keep your hosting and domain name registration with separate providers so that you don't have everything tied up with one provider. It will also make it easier change providers in the future, should you choose to do so.
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You can also find a wealth of advice on web hosting on the IT Donut.