Depending on the size of your business, you may have a variety of “musts” in a web host—starting with tech support. Small businesses often need more, faster, better and customized technical support in a web host compared to bigger companies. Every second your website isn’t “up” and/or functioning flawlessly, you’re losing revenue. Corporations can afford this, but small businesses can’t. Not every web host offers around the clock, live customer support (although they should). Call during off hours before committing to a web host to gauge the quality of their service.
Also, smaller businesses need to suss out bundled software. Just because your business is smaller doesn’t mean you won’t need specialized applications, from a certain content management system to key shopping carts. You can save money and time by purchasing “bundles” from your host. Many software applications are “natural bundles,” like cPanel and Fantastico, so that’s one less step and a little less cash for you to worry about.
Many smaller businesses need editing tools and script support. Oftentimes, these services are readily available. A web host can often tack on website design and DIY editing tools that are truly intuitive and easy to use. For those who want to utilize scripting languages like Perl, ASP and the like, make sure that the web host you’re considering “works” well with what you have in mind (not all do).
Finally, don’t forget about uptime and reviews. A web host can’t offer 100 percent uptime, but a great one should certainly be able to guarantee well over 99 percent. Read the fine print and see what the compensation is if your host doesn’t deliver the uptime they promised—compensation should be handsome since downtime can cost you an incredible sum.
Today’s Word of Mouth
Take a look at a few reviews on third party sites to make sure the web host you’re looking at is generally respected. It’s unrealistic to want all positive reviews, but (just like uptime) the majority should be positive. Having no reviews is also a red flag, unless the web host is brand new. Still, you want to rely on a host that’s at least been around the block a couple of times. Most people stick with their web host for at least a couple of years, and you want to know your host will be around that long.
Avoid any web host that tries to upsell you or starts discussing dedicated servers, which you don’t need, want and can’t afford at this time. There’s a plethora of free and very low cost options out there because shared hosting (what small businesses need) isn’t what brings home the bacon for web hosts. They can afford to offer shared, free hosting because they make profits in other ways. This is one time that the mantra “you get what you pay for” simply doesn’t ring true.
Budget should be one of many considerations, but it’s an important one. Write down what you need/want in a web host and let that guide your way. If you can get it for free? Even better.