In establishing your online presence, website hosting is a critical piece of a complex technological puzzle.
To help make this process easier to navigate, Be Locally has assembled a basic informational guide to help you understand the ins and outs of finding the ideal host for your business website.
A Web Hosting Primer
Web hosting is the term used to describe the process of accommodating and maintaining all of the electronic data that makes up your website.
Long, long ago (before about 1995 or so), you had to use your own computer server to host your website. And it was one expensive and highly complex endeavor.
As technology advanced, shared hosting services began to spring up. Thanks to web hosts, the process became significantly simpler and less expensive. For a monthly or yearly service fee, the host maintains the servers necessary to host your domain and keep it secure.
Domains and Servers and Encryption, Oh My!
The convoluted lexicon of Internet technology is enough to give most of us a headache, so let’s look at it metaphorically.
Making your company’s website available to the world is a bit like opening up a shoe store. First you need an address for your store, so people can visit you and try on shoes. For your website, you also need an address, called a URL (Uniform Resource Locator).
Your URL is the numerical address that leads to your site, just like a street address, city, state and ZIP code lead to your store.
When you choose your (catchy and memorable) domain name, it links to your URL. When people type www.BuyCuteShoes.com into their browsers, the Internet knows where to find your virtual store.
Next, someone must “build” your virtual location’s structure, just as a contractor would build your brick-and-mortar store. All the computer code, electronic files and images must physically live somewhere, and this is where the web host comes in.
The hosting company provides a virtual plot of land in cyberspace for your site, complete with all the roads and infrastructure that allow your customers to reach you.
And just as you would never build a shoe store without an alarm system and solid locks on the doors, your website needs electronic encryption. This ensures that criminals can’t find their way in and steal all your wares in the middle of the night!
Identifying Your Company’s Hosting Needs
You need a web presence for your business (who doesn’t?), but your needs may differ significantly from those of a huge, multinational conglomerate or tiny startup.
Along with your website itself, however, you may need a few extra features. You definitely want email addresses, but you may also need backup capabilities, extra security, e-commerce features or the ability to process payments.
Shared Versus Dedicated Hosting
If you opt for shared hosting, your site will live on a larger server with many other sites, like a shopping mall. This is a highly cost-effective option and it works for most businesses.
Dedicated hosting means you control the entire server yourself. This is a great option if you truly need all those resources, but it’s expensive. It’s also probably overkill, unless you have multiple sites and consistently heavy Internet traffic.
Today, you also can select cloud hosting and virtual private servers (VPS), but these specialized applications aren’t appropriate or beneficial to most small- and medium-sized companies.
How to Select the Right Website Hosting Provider
Jumping around between hosting companies is a complicated process, so it’s important to find the right provider and stick with it.
Reliability is the most important consideration. If the host’s servers experience a high percentage of downtime, your customers won’t be able to connect with you online. And that’s bad … very bad!
Depending on how involved you will be with the setup and maintenance process, you may want a company that offers free customer support. Also make sure their customer support matches your preferred means of communication. If you’re a fan of phone support, avoid hosts that only offer online chat or email support.
Check out potential hosts’ pricing plans and payment policies, renewal fees and available add-ons too, to be sure you can select all the features you’ll need.
Finally, explore your potential for future growth. As your company grows, so will your site. If you can’t scale up later on down the road when you need to, switching to a different plan or host could be a nightmare.
You will find no shortage of potential hosting companies in cyberspace. Proceed with caution! Always do your homework to determine how long they’ve been in business and how likely they are to be around in the distant future.
Check a trusted consumer reviews or ranking site for a side-by-side comparison, such as this one, recently published by PC Magazine.
Don’t Try to Tackle the Web Hosting Process Alone
Because this level of technology is beyond the scope of most business owners’ experience, you’ll be best served to bring a trusted advisor or consultant into the process. Or at least be sure you select a web hosting service that can help you with every step along the way.
At Be Locally, we usually recommend that our clients use an established, user-friendly hosting company like GoDaddy. The prices are reasonable and the menu of options you can select should cover all of your needs, now and in the future. They also offer an exceptional level of customer support.
As Internet marketing and web development experts, Be Locally can assist you with every aspect of creating, maintaining and optimizing your website. We specialize in responsive website design, and our advanced SEO services ensure that the right prospects can find you online.
We take a customized approach to determine your needs, then translate them into the reality of an engaging, functional site that offers an exceptional user experience.
Don’t let the complexity of Internet technology prevent you from claiming your share of online customers. Contact Be Locally today for answers to all your questions about Internet marketing and website hosting.