Last updated on April 18th, 2019. Posted in Web Design For Business.
Setting up web hosting is quite obviously a critical aspect of getting your business online and bringing it to life. But web hosting can often be a confusing and daunting issue. On top of the litany of terms, hosting plans, options, and add-ons, there are a huge number of companies and packages to sift through and choose from. Which one is right for you?
In this tutorial, we'll be clearing the clutter and zeroing in on the three key features that are most important—that a web hosting company must have for us to consider them for our business website. I call these three items critical web hosting features. We'll go through them one at a time, and I'll provide you with lots of information about each. After that, we'll talk about the swath of additional web hosting extras that, while perhaps being nice to have, aren't actually necessary. Finally, we'll take a look at minimum hosting requirements that you'll need for your website.
By the end of all this, you'll have a firm grasp on exactly what you need from your web host, what key features matter most for you and your business, and the minimum requirements you'll need from your host. Along the way, I'll make some recommendations for web hosts that you can look into further.
As for specific things you should be looking for in a potential web host, I delve into that in another tutorial, Small Business Web Hosting Feature Rundown: The Critical, The Helpful, And The Completely Useless. Give that tutorial a look as well.
Alright so I hope all this sounds good. I look forward to helping you get some clarity, and revealing to you what's most important when it comes to web hosting. Let's jump in!
As promised, we'll start off with a look at the three most critical features we need from a potential web hosting company.
In order to clarify the confusion that surrounds web hosting, we'll boil everything down to the most important web hosting factors: Cost, customer service, and reliability. That's it. That's all we need from our hosting provider. All other factors (including things like storage space, migration services, data backups, etc.) are all secondary considerations.
If a hosting company can't offer decent pricing, good service, and solid reliability, then all other "extras" and "features" they're throwing in are irrelevant. All of these additional extras are non-starters, because they don't give us what we really need for our businesses.
To me, finding a great hosting company is a matter of finding a perfect balance between these three crucial factors. To get started on the right foot, take a look at Web Hosting Hub. They have great customer service, low cost plans, and excellent reliability. You can also take a look at SiteGround as well.
Now, let's take a look at each of these three crucial factors—cost, customer service, and reliability—one at a time, so you can see why each is so important.
The key word here is reasonable. I think it's safe to say that you and I don't mind paying a lot of money for something, so long as we're getting equal or greater value in return. The same holds true with web hosting.
What we don't want to do is pay too much (obviously!) for services that are beyond our needs. On the other hand, if we pay too little then we might not be getting the level of service that we want. This is why it's so important to know about the six different types of web hosting that are available. Choosing the right kind of hosting for your business is essential.
But for now, let me give you a rough idea of web hosting costs. You can expect to pay anywhere from about $5/month up to around $30/month (sometimes even higher) depending on the type of hosting you choose to go with. We definitely don't want to go with the cheapest hosting option (because that introduces a whole range of other problems) but as said, we also don't want to overpay either.
So that's our web hosting costs. Now, let's take a look at the second critical web hosting factor, customer service.
With costs out of the way, next up is customer service. Great customer service, especially when it comes to web hosting, is a must. The best web hosting companies provide customers with several different points of contact, including telephone, support ticket, live chat, and email support 24/7. Web hosting customer service is so important, in fact, that I've dropped otherwise great web hosts who fit all my needs, simply because their customer support was slow and unhelpful.
Here's a quick story: I was with a web host (who shall remain nameless) for almost ten years. I've given them at least $6000 in business. But their support was unhelpful and unfriendly. The only reason I stuck with them for so long was convenience. I was running a few sites with them, there were no technical problems, and it was just easier to leave the sites where they were rather than move them elsewhere. The moment of truth came when I needed some assistance migrating a site. Their customer support was very slow to respond, and it was aggravating to get a straight answer out of them. As it turned out, even though I'd been with them for almost 10 years, they wouldn't help me resolve my problem.
I immediately headed over to SiteGround (a fantastic web hosting company) and opened a chat with a customer service rep. I wasn't even their customer (yet) and got someone on the line in less than a minute, and the quality of customer service was outstanding. They offered to quickly and easily solve my problem, and helped out with a few other questions as well. I've gotta emphasize, I wasn't even their customer yet!
That's the kind of customer service we need from our web host. Fast, friendly, and accurate. Needless to say, I dropped the old host like a bad blind date at a monster truck rally, and haven't looked back since!
Even if you don't need customer support very often, it's more peace of mind—knowing someone's there to lend a helping hand with some technical aspect of your business's website should you need it.
Alright, so we know how about keeping costs under control, and how important great customer service is. This brings us to our third and final critical web hosting factor, reliability.
The last of our three critical factors we need for our small business from a potential web hosting company is reliability. All I mean by reliability is, will the hosting service function most of the time. Let me unpack that...
We of course expect any service that we pay for to work as promised, whether that's oil changes, getting our taxes done, or having a company host our website. That goes without saying.
Unfortunately, especially when it comes to anything technology-related, it's impossible to have things work 100% of the time. After all, when was the last time you had a problem with your computer, a website you frequent, or your smartphone? Mine was yesterday! I'm sure I'll have some other problem tomorrow—that's just the nature of technology.
Pencils need to be sharpened, jet-packs need to be refuelled, and web servers need to be managed.
Now from our web host, we expect that our business is going to be live and on the web nearly all the time. Like, 99.9% of the time. Like, it should be down for less than sixty seconds a year. And that's what great web hosts promise.
Tied into reliability is security. We want to ensure that our web host keeps our business secure and safe from viruses, malware, and hackers. The best web hosts have security and reliability as one of their top priorities, and have redundant layers of safety in place to keep their customer's websites protected.
So there are our three critical components of web hosting, cost, customer service, and reliability. Now that we understand what they're all about, let's take a look at additional web hosting features that you actually don't really need.
We've been talking about the most important aspects of web hosting for our online business ventures. But because competition is so fierce in the web hosting industry, companies are adding more and more extras and add-ons to their plans, all to entice more sales. This is great, but it makes it very complicated for normal folks like you and I to sift through all the options. And a lot of these extra add-ons are things we simply don't need.
When shopping for web hosting, the challenge is cutting through all the noise. But you already have a head start because you know about the three critical web hosting factors. Even still, there'll be a lot of clutter to sort through. You'll see bonus features like web design, SEO services, web site consulting, website builders, advertising credits, data backup all paraded as if they're valuable, even exclusive, add-ons. The truth is, they're not. You don't need any of them.
And I'll be honest, they do this as a way to prey on people who don't know otherwise...just to entice a sale. I'll give you a perfect example: Is SEO and showing up in the search engines important to you? It's important to a lot of people. So web hosts will include something like an "SEO Starter Pack" as a way to entice a sale from someone who doesn't know otherwise. My whole mission with Ten Ton is to demystify this nonsense for business owners just like you, so you can know what's worthwhile, what questions to ask, and what's just smoke and mirrors.
For you and I, we can handle a lot of the stuff that's being touted as extras and add-ons ourselves. Here's another example: Regular data backups. Sounds important, but we can handle that ourselves, either manually or with a free tool that'll do it automatically for us.
So just be aware of this kinda stuff...
Now, beyond our three critical web hosting factors of cost, customer service, and solid reliability, there might be a few extras that might pique your interest as a small business owner. These may or may not tilt your decision in one direction or another. For example, for me, I like the cPanel control console, which is an extra that comes with many web hosts. It's simply a control dashboard that makes managing and handling your website easy. Another extra I like is add-on domains. Site migration is another nice one, and so is automated site caching. But that's about it. Nearly all other add-ons and extras just aren't very useful.
Extras like SEO consulting, advertising credits, website builders, and so on might sound interesting, but they can all be safely ignored. You very likely won't use any of them—especially if you stick around Ten Ton and I show you how to do it all yourself!
Now sometimes you might see a web hosting company offering a free domain name. That's fine if you want to take advantage of it, but know that it's meant to entice you to buy—it's a value-add being offered by a company that doesn't specialize in domain name registration. You're much better off keeping your business's domain name and web hosting separate. I put together a detailed tutorial series on exactly this, which you can check out right here.
Register your domain name with a domain registrar. Use a proper hosting company for your web hosting. Do your own website backup, handle your own web design, and so on. This keeps you free and in full control of your business online.
Wow, we covered a lot! I'm hoping the biggest take-away for you is clarity—getting clear on what you need most importantly from a web hosting provider. And having covered the three most critical web hosting features (cost, customer service, and reliability), you now know exactly what that is.
We talked about keeping our costs under control (not paying too much, but not paying too little and getting under-serviced), and we also talked about what we need in terms of great customer service. What we really need here is fast, friendly support with multiple points of contact. And as far as reliability, we know that we need a host who provides guaranteed up-time and redundant layers of security for our online business. This information alone has us off to a great start.
After that, we covered all the extra hosting features that you don't need—bonus features like web design, SEO services, web site consulting, website builders, advertising credits, data backup, and so on. We know that we can safely ignore it all.
So what's next? Well, all the way along, I've been mentioning additional tutorials and resources that provide you with even more information on web hosting, so be sure to check those out if you haven't yet.
Also (and I've mentioned this already but I'll mention it again), all of the web hosting companies that I recommend here on Ten Ton have meet that perfect balance we talked about earlier—that balance between excellent pricing, industry-leading customer service, and top quality reliability and security. And, they all meet or exceed our technical requirements, too. I've spent a lot of time researching, reviewing, and testing web hosting companies over the years to be able to narrow the choices down to just a few. If you want specific web hosting recommendations, then check out the Top Web Hosting Companies For Small Business.
Whoever you wind up using for your web hosting, just make sure they tick all the boxes that we've learned about here.
Happy web host hunting!