Choosing a host for your website is an important decision for any small business, but it can be fraught with difficulties. Rachel Miller offers a guide to help you choose the best home for your business website
Technical jargon and complicated pricing can make choosing the right website host a challenging task. At the same time, it’s vital to get it right — your business may well depend on your website and you can’t afford any major problems. What’s more, moving hosts is not that easy and you can get tied into contracts. All in all, it is a big decision for any small business to make.
“Your website is your shop window in a virtual world,” says Stuart Harling. “Having your website offline for any period will have a detrimental effect on your business.”
When you compare hosting deals, it soon becomes apparent that prices vary widely. But the cheapest deals may have hidden costs, warns Harling. “Like everything, you get what you pay for. If you pay too little up front, you’ll only have to pay more later. There are firms that can design you a website for less than £100 but if you want to change anything, they’ll charge you £50 an hour.”
Choosing an off-the-shelf design and hosting solution can be restrictive as your business grows. “Those hosts that charge lower fees tend to offer simple website templates whereas other firms might offer a custom-build service,” says Harling. “If you spend a bit more you can have a better website that you can update yourself easily.”
When it comes to finding the best host, the watchwords are security, reliability and flexibility. “Security is important,” says Harling. “You should have an SSL certificate to allow you to do online transactions, for example.”
Look for a host that offers a content management system so you can easily change content and add new pages yourself.
Every web host will make lots of promises but it is worth doing your homework to make sure they are as good as they say they are. Ask to see examples of work, check out customer testimonials and see if they work with other firms of a similar type and size as your own business.
When it comes to e-commerce, web design and hosting is a significant investment. “E-commerce sites aren’t cheap,” agrees Harling. “But the internet allows small firms to compete with big brands online. A small business in the Yorkshire Dales, for example, can have a big brand presence online.”
Your website is important, whether you trade exclusively online or not. So when it comes to shopping around for a web host you need to make sure you are not seduced by low prices or false promises. Do your homework and you should find a reliable host that won’t let you down.
Find further information on finding a web host on the IT Donut.