How to choose the best web hosting provider for your business

Any business that owns a website will need it to be hosted. This can be done in-house if the business has got the right infrastructure and expertise. However, many businesses find it far more advantageous to entrust the website hosting to an external provider. There is a wide range of web hosting companies out there though. So it is imperative to plan carefully before choosing one to make sure you choose the provider that best suits your individual commercial needs.

What is web hosting all about?

Web hosting providers supply their clients with housing, serving and maintenance services for one or more website. They manage secure, stable storage spaces from which their customers’ websites operate. Hardware known as web servers store the data and files that websites need to operate and be accessible to online users. This data can include HTML files, images, videos etc. The hosting service also links your website to the internet browsers so that it can be found in online searches. It can also have a large effect on how well your website performs – or otherwise – with regards to security, speed and SEO (search engine optimisation).

Finding the best web hosting provider for your business involves researching a number of different aspects of the services on offer. Here are some key areas to consider when choosing a web hosting provider for your website.

Work out what you need

Not all website are equal. Some require larger storage capacity or speed of response, such as photography based website. Others might need to focus on bandwidth and security, for example an e-commerce business. Think about what content management system you use, or wish to use – check that your proposed web hosting service supports the same format. Do you need additional services, such as email addresses or mobile internet functionality?

Check what the contract says

Never sign a contract without thoroughly reading and checking it out first. The contract must reflect what you need and expect to get out of the business relationship with the web hosting provider. For example, how long are you tied into the contract? Is there an option to extend it for another year or more? What level of service will you get for the agreed hosting fee? Are there any penalties for leaving the contract early?

How reliable is the provider?

Do your research around how other customers have found their experience with the web hosting provider. Are the online reviews good? Can you talk directly to anyone else who uses the company? If there are any stats available around server reliability, uptimes and downtimes, service interruptions etc, read these carefully. Make sure that you are happy with their accuracy and the authenticity of their source.

Issues and interruptions

Clarify what happens when the host server goes down or there are other problems with service provision or accessibility. What is the provider’s policy on refunds and how do they handle business interruptions? What back-up plans do they have in place. Your website is only valuable to you while it is online and available for future customers to see and read up on what you can offer them. Ask what service guarantees there are in place for the web hosting provider’s customers.

Upgrades and alterations

Find out at the start what your options are for upgrading the services you are being provided with. You may not need the full suite of features and services to begin with. However, as your business grows and you consider new directions and services of your own, it will be much more convenient to stick with the same web hosting provider. So long as you are happy with their services, that is. For example, you may need additional email addresses later on, or an SSL certificate. You might want to add multiple websites, or introduce an e-commerce function to an existing site. How can the web hosting provider help you do that?

Ground control?

Finally, it is essential to find out how much control you will have over your website, once you entrust it to your chosen web hosting provider. Can you make changes to your website whenever you like, or are you constricted to set dates or number of times? How user -friendly is the control panel, and does the provider offer training to help you get the most out of it? What limitations are there on your website, such as bandwidth, traffic flow and number of pages or amount of data? All of this is important to understand well in advance of signing the contract and getting fully underway.

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