8 Factors To
Choosing a company to provide hosting for
your business website is an important decision. The
right choice can provide you with a hassle-free
implementation and ongoing support that assists in
answering even your most trivial request. The right
decision can also prevent forced downtime to your
website from becoming a major or recurring problem. On
the other hand, making an incorrect decision can leave
you with effectively no web presence for extended
periods of time, poor customer support, missing emails,
and lost revenue. Making the wrong decision for the sake
of saving a few dollars a month could prove fatal to
your online success.
1 – Network Uptime Guarantee
Virtually every host and every website
suffers from some periods of downtime. It can happen for
any one of a large number of reasons and in a lot of
cases there is little you, as Webmaster and site owner,
can actually do to reverse the situation. However, when
choosing a host you can choose one that offers a
reasonable network uptime guarantee. A network uptime
guarantee as the name would suggest is a guarantee that
the entire network of websites will remain online for
that length of time.
Network guarantees are measured in
percentage and can range from mid 90% with very poor
performing hosts to 99.999% with the most secure. The
amount of downtime with the latter guarantee is
virtually negligible and is certainly the preferred
option if you can find it. Do be aware, though, that a
network uptime guarantee is just a figure displayed on a
website unless you can find some kind of confirmation.
There are many web host reviews on the Internet
including those on this site. Make the most of them to
determine whether the uptime guarantee is worth the
website it is printed on.
2 – Planned Or Unplanned Downtime
If you do intend to use a host that
offers a comparatively low network uptime guarantee, and
remember that while a 99% guarantee sounds impressive it
means that every website suffers an average of one hour
every four days, find out whether any of this is planned
downtime. It is much easier to cope with planned
downtime even if it is inconvenient.
This is a question that can, once again,
be answered by consulting online reviews but you may
also consider emailing or phoning the support desk to
find out. What it does mean if the majority of the
downtime is planned, is that for the remainder of the
time you are unlikely to suffer the effects of unplanned
Your website being down is a huge revenue
loss if you depend on your website to make money in any
way. Even if you use it as a source of information for
your customers they will not believe your company to be
a professional one if your site is down when they visit.
3 – Account Limits
Every hosting account has its limits, in
terms of bandwidth and disk space that you are able to
use. This is even true of unlimited accounts that claim
to offer unlimited traffic and unlimited website size.
The fact is that both are exhaustible commodities and,
as such, they can be offered as freely as this. In most
cases it will just be a case of looking at the features
page of a website to determine how much space and
traffic you are entitled to.
Always ensure that this figure is
comfortably higher than the amount you, or your web
designer, believes you will need. You should attempt to
future-proof your site at least to some extent. By
future proofing we mean that every site will inevitably
grow to some extent so choosing a package that barely
covers your current needs you are putting yourself at
risk of having to either pay a premium for extra space
and traffic or moving host supplier.
Remember to check other limits such as
email accounts, the mailbox size, number of FTP
accounts, and anything that may be relevant to the
running of your website. Also, if you are looking at an
account that offers any unlimited features check the
terms and conditions page. Usually you will find the
limit to unlimited bandwidth in there.
4 - Account Features
Again, look at the account features page
to find out what exactly is offered with your account.
Determine whether a specific account plan offers
everything you need. If necessary determine whether you
can pay for add-ons or whether the next account up might
be more appropriate for your requirements. Again, it is
likely that you will need help from your web designer,
unless you are doing it yourself.
Features can vary massively from one
account to the next, never mind from one host to the
next. This means you should pay very careful attention
to what exactly is included and precisely what you need.
If you require FTP access then ensure that you receive
it. If you need FrontPage extension support then ensure
that you receive it.
5 – Compatibility
Compatibility is important in everything
related to computers. If you have any particular scripts
or applications that you want to install on your website
then make sure that the account you eventually decide on
offers program support to cover it. If you want to
include streaming Windows media then you may need to
look at Windows hosting plans. If you want to use MySQL
then ensure that the accounts you are considering offer
While the majority of servers use Linux
or Unix operating systems, there are Windows packages
available. If you need to use a Windows plan then you
should be aware that you are likely to receive much less
disk space and bandwidth for your subscription.
6 – Support
Support is vital. It is almost inevitable
that your website will suffer from periods of unplanned
downtime. In this case the most important information is
how long the site will be down for and what can be done
to fix it. Downtime caused by your network is only one
potential pitfall with a website especially if you are
inexperienced in all matters related to hosting a site.
Support from hosts can vary in a number
of ways. Telephone support is often the most vital when
you have an emergency call you need answering. Email
support is handy and often it is answered relatively
quickly but nothing says “I need help now” like a phone
call. Many hosts though have turned down the route of
using support ticket help desks. These can provide
useful in non-emergencies but again if you have a
mission critical website and are suffering from a loss
of service then telephone support is the most important
7 – Network Security
Some networks are more stable than
others. This is also true when it comes to host
networks. While it is generally very difficult to
determine from a website and even from phone calls
whether a network genuinely offers the level of security
you need it is possible to take a few precautions.
Some scripts can cause a serious breach
in server security. Check that allowed scripts are ones
that you feel comfortable having run on the server where
your site is hosted. It only takes one website on a
server to be compromised and every other site on the
same server could potentially fall foul of the same
8 – Future Proof Account Structure
When choosing a hosting account you
should try to ensure that the limits of that account are
beyond your current means. That said paying for a lot
more than you need is cost inefficient. When you decide
on a hosting account you should, as far as possible,
attempt to ensure that there is some room for movement
should you reach the confines of your chosen account.
Find out how easy it is to upgrade to the next account
level should the need arise. Alternatively find out if
you are penalized for exceeding your current limits and
whether you can purchase extra features or extra limits
for a reasonable price.
Running a website gives you another
potential avenue for revenue. It can operate as a source
of information for your existing clients or it can be
used to generate new leads and even make sales. In a lot
of cases your website will act as the first face of your
business so should be a reflection of how you want
potential customers to view your business.
Ensuring reliability, ease, speed, and
the features you require makes your site and therefore
your business appear professional. This is the kind of
image you want to portray. If your site is directly
responsible for product or service sales then a slow
loading website or one that suffers from downtime will
directly lose you large portions of revenue. Avoiding
these potential negative aspects of running a business
online can be avoided by choosing your hosting account
and your hosting provider carefully.