When you set up a website for your business you will need a website host. Your host, or website hosting service, is a company who provides space on a server (computer) for your website.
We tend to think of the internet and its websites as all floating around in the air, but the truth is every bit of data exists somewhere on a server (storage computer). These computers are owned by hosts and as a website owner you are borrowing space on a host’s server for your website. Your host also provides internet connectivity, usually in a data centre, which allows your website to be accessible on the world wide web.
Before you create your website you must decide on a host. Before you choose a host you need to understand the basics of what Domain Hosting is all about and what makes the difference between an mediocre host and a great host.
Just like a host at a party or an establishment – your domain host can make your experience of the digital sphere comfortable and welcoming, or unpleasant and tacky. And it does the same for anyone visiting your website. Needless to say, it’s imperative to good business to have a good host. If you don’t you will find yourself with customers who can’t access your site, functionality that doesn’t work, slow loading times and all kinds of other web issues.
It all comes down to what the host has on offer and how they conduct themselves, their business and ultimately, yours.
What to look for in Website Hosting Company (and what to avoid)
Does the host offer you a simple Setup and Registration Process?
Not everything has to be complicated to be good. A good website host should make the process of choosing your URL (website name and address) and your registration of that address – simple. They should offer similar alternatives to desired URL’s that have already been taken. All you should have to do is choose your name, register your site, choose a plan and then either save and come back later, or start setting up your site.
There should be a Draft Mode / Offline feature
You don’t want potential customers stumbling over your website before you are ready for them. Your host should offer an offline option that allows you to work on and complete your website before it goes live.
Do they offer a Space / Data option that suits you?
Not all websites need the same amount of storage space. Your host should offer various packages at scaled rate so that you can find the exact amount of space you need for a good deal. No more and no less. If you have a lot of large images or video files you will need more space than if your website is copy heavy. Most companies offer a free version that is very small.
Does your Web Host offer (good) Technical Support?
Unless you are a self – hosted web developer and you know for certain that you will absolutely never require the help of someone else – you need to have the option of technical support. Things go wrong. All kinds of things. A good technical support team will help you with all of your problems quickly and effectively, ensuring minimal down time.
The hosting company should provide you with a number of e-mail addresses which are personalised to your website. These are also hosted by them. Usually the number of addresses you can have is related to what size plan you take, and could be anywhere between 1 and 10.
This will start to be really important if your website gets busy. Basically it is a measure of how much data your website can transmit at the same time. Which means how much activity and how many users it can manage at once. When a site has too many users on it at the same time it will either crash or start kicking people off at random, depending on what kind of bandwidth protection measures it has (or doesn’t have) in place. Your bandwidth is measured on a monthly basis. A low plan might allow for around half a gigabyte per month, which means you can serve about 50 000 web pages, depending on how big your pages are. If you are anticipating larger volumes of traffic you will need more bandwidth. There is also something called Bandwidth Overage. This is the plan some companies put in place for the event that you go over your allotted bandwidth. Usually it is more expensive data.
Does the Host Support your Operating System?
Most sights are built with either Windows or Linux. You want a web host who is able to support both of these operating systems. Which of these systems you use comes down to the complexity of your site. If in doubt seek the advice a web developer or your hosts support system.
Blogs, Apps and Widgets
Very few websites these days are just straight text and images. Your host should offer you a wide variety of default apps and widgets to add to your website as you need them. These could include share buttons, comments sections, review sections and contact forms, to name a few.
Your host also needs to offer you the space for a blog onsite. IN the old days (a year or three ago) many websites linked to separate blogs for their company. Today you want it to be integrated, not only for seamless UX, but also because your blog can do wonders for your SEO and inbound marketing strategies.
Final Thoughts on Choosing a Web Host
There are a lot of fantastic options on the market and there are also a lot of less than fantastic options, and in rare cases downright scams. If you feel over whelmed or in need of assistance remember that there is a huge community of people out there going through the same steps as you are. If you are not sure about a company look for reviews by others who have used them. Then share your experiences, too. You may be helping next year’s new website owner to make the right choice and avoid the bad ones.