What to Look for in a Web Host

By Melissa J Luther

Many small business owners put a lot of effort into their Web site, but almost no thought into their Web hosting. However, your Web site host is just as important as the site itself. Different hosts offer different benefits, or lack thereof, and an unreliable host can torpedo your online marketing efforts.

A good hosting company should offer, at a minimum:

Stability and Reliability

While nobody can guarantee 100 percent uptime (the amount of time your site is functional), it should be very close. The very lowest uptime your hosting company should guarantee is 99 percent, and preferably 99.5 percent.

Sufficient Disk Space and Data Transfer (Bandwidth)

Most paid hosting plans actually do offer enough of both, with the possible exception of some starter or basic plans. If you do start with one of these small packages, make sure the company will automatically upgrade you when your usage exceeds the plan’s limits.

Good Customer Service

This should include 24/7 technical support. Things can and do go wrong on holidays, weekends and at 1 a.m. Your host should be able and willing to take your call or answer your email and get your site up and running again, no matter what time it is.

Email

If you are paying for a domain name and hosting for that domain, you want your email address(es) to match. This provides a sense of professionalism to your entire business.

Control Panel

Make sure you can make your own changes to your Web site as well as add/delete email accounts and passwords. It quickly becomes a hassle to have to go through technical support to every little change.

Room to Grow

As your business grows, you may need more space and bandwidth. Make sure your host offers several levels of service. At some point, you may even want the added control and functionality of a Virtual Private Server (VPS) or even a dedicated server. If your host offers multiple hosting packages, you won’t have the hassle of changing hosts every time your needs change.

Keep in mind that cost is a poor indicator of a quality Web host. Some inexpensive hosts are quite feature rich, and some expensive hosting companies offer very little and are unreliable. Evaluate your hosting choices based on your needs today as well as potential future needs. Also, find some Web hosting forums and see what members have to say about any hosts you are considering. You owe it to your business to give your Web site a reliable home.

About the Author

Melissa J Luther, owner and founder of LookSee Information Solutions, LLC helps small businesses create and maintain a strong online presence. She takes a multi-channel approach, with a well-optimized Web site as the center of an online presence that includes content creation PPC advertising, linking and social media as appropriate.