Picking the best web hosting for your business website can involve a tangle of technical issues. To help unravel them, consider these top questions before deciding between hosting companies.
Budget will be a major determining factor, but it is sometimes difficult to know ahead of time whether you’re going to get what you pay for. The cheapest hosting companies might not end up being bargains, especially when they could demand more of your time and frustration in setup and maintenance. For that reason, you should consider the true cost of hosting, including your time and your staff’s time.
When you have web developers or other web pros on your team, you’ll want to ask for their input. Often, web professionals have experience with specific hosting companies. It will be easiest for them to use control panels they might already be familiar with, and their learning curves will be shorter. Saving their time will save you money.
For dedicated hosting, an entire server is used exclusively for your website and no others. Dedicated hosting will cost more than shared hosting. Depending on your goals, the number of visitors to your website might well determine its success. Your server needs to be able to handle the volume of data transfer necessary for all of those visitors, especially at peak hours. Good server performance results in fast response times and quick downloads.
You’ll want the best and most reliable web hosting uptime you can find. Obviously, your site needs to be always available for your visitors. But server downtime can seriously impact your site’s ranking in the search engines as well. To maintain a good position in Google, for instance, your site needs to be live every time its robot, Googlebot, checks your pages. When a site goes down for the robots, it will negatively impact its search engine placement.
The physical facilities of the best hosting companies will be state-of-the-art. They’ll have implemented measures such as advanced security for the building itself, climate control to prevent overheating, fire suppression systems, and unlimited power supplies and battery backup systems in the event of power outages. In addition, some hosting companies maintain a second data center located in a different part of the country to provide emergency coverage if the primary center experiences some sort of severe problem, such as a hurricane or flood.
What technologies do your hosting services need to provide? Do you have 1-year, 5-year, and 10-year plans for your site? What new technologies will you be introducing? If your current website does not use databases, for example, you might think that you do not need SQL server hosting. However, you should consider whether you’ll need those capabilities in the future. PHP, SSI, ASP, ColdFusion, Ruby On Rails, and private CGI-BIN are typical of the types of technologies supported. In general, you’ll want to arrange for website hosting with as many technical features as possible, so that your future website development will not be limited.
You’ll want to monitor your web traffic statistics, especially important when determining the success of your promotional efforts, such as an email marketing campaign. There are different types of tracking and statistics packages, some easier to use for web stats analysis than others. Some hosting companies have demos available so that you can preview exactly what is tracked and how their reports work. The more feature rich and customizable the tracking options are, the more likely they will meet your needs. Also check whether the same web traffic statistics packages are available for all sub-domains and add-on domains that you might add to your master hosting account.
Many hosting plans include standard email features, but the security and reliability of those features must be adequate for your organization. For example, an option for convenient web-based email accounts would allow you to access your business email account from any web browser with an Internet connection. Other variables include the number of accounts included, spam filters, anti-virus protection, and the level of technical support for email-related issues.
An experienced web developer will not need the same level of technical support that a newbie will require. Once you’ve determined how much support you are likely to need, you can evaluate which hosting companies have the capacity to provide that support. A 24/7 toll-free phone line will not help unless it is consistently staffed with knowledgeable specialists. Email response times can be misleading, especially when based on automated replies that state your case has been assigned to a technician who will reply within 24 hours. That’s too long to wait on a critical problem.
For any company that expects payment for 6 or 12 months of hosting in advance, you’ll want to check on their refund policies. Are there provisions for you to obtain a refund for unused portions of the term? When you discover a problem with your dedicated hosting provider, you should be able to switch to a new host without forfeiting the entire balance of your prepaid amount.
There are hundreds of dedicated web hosting companies. Knowing what questions to ask and doing your research will go a long way towards untangling the technical issues and helping you determine the best web hosting to fit your specific needs.
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