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Do Life DifferentDo Life Different
Work-at-home mom: take a deep breath and Do Life Different as you allow these devotions for work-at-home moms to fill the vacuum of your needy heart in the chaos of your busy world.
 
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May
11

Getting Started Online: 10 Things to Look For in a Website Host

By

Making Business Simple blogger Michelle ShaefferOnce you’ve got your domain name chosen the next step is to get your website hosting setup. What is website hosting?

How Can You Choose the Right Website Host?

Finding the right company to host your website can be overwhelming. Where should you begin?

Let’s start with the basics. A website is ‘hosted’ on a server. A server is the computer that holds the files for your website. When a web surfer wants to view your website rhe server sends the web surfer’s computer your website page and their computer displays it in their browser.

What Do You Need in a Server?

  • Do you need a gigabyte of storage space?
  • What IS a gigabyte, anyway?
  • Do you need add-on domains?
  • A shopping cart?
  • Multiple email addresses?

Don’t base your decision on price or features alone. Reliability and support are important, too. So many
things to consider!

You need to know what you need and what to look for before you start shopping. The information that follows will help you become an informed shopper!

Server Uptime

A cheap host won’t be worth the price if your website goes down frequently. Check with friends, family, or colleagues and find out if their website hosts have been reliable. Ask other customers to see if they’ve had issues with downtime.

Server Speed

Overloaded servers or servers without adequate connections to the internet will be s-l-o-w. This means your site will not load quickly and you will lose visitors (and sales). How can you check a host’s server speed? First, don’t judge a company by it’s own website because many hosts have their main site hosted on a different server for good reason (if their own servers go down, their website will still be available so their clients can contact them for support and updates). Instead, you need to check their client sites. Most hosts will be happy to provide references if they aren’t listed on their website already.

Price and Payment Options

A good, reliable host can be found for a reasonable price. It will vary depending on your exact needs, but expect anywhere from $5 to $25/month.

What options are available for payments? Do you want to pay by credit card, paypal, or another method?

Look for a company who offers 24/7 access to billing online. This will make your life easier in case you want to pay your bill at 3 am or need to update your information on the weekend.

Storage Space

How much storage space do you really need? The majority of small business websites take less than 100 MB of storage space. If you have your website already designed, you can add up the file sizes of the files to see how much space it will take. Remember to consider that you need additional space for email storage and more files as your site grows.

Bandwidth

Bandwidth is how much data transfer or traffic hits your website. You can get a rough idea of how much you’ll need like this:

  • Average page size of 5 kb plus 10 kb of graphics.
  • You expect 100 visitors per day.
  • Each visitor views 4 pages of your website.
  • 15 kb total per page (5 kb + 10 kb) * 100 visitors * 4 pages * 30 days in a month =180 MB of bandwidth per month

Find out what the procedure is if you go over your storage space limit or bandwidth limit. There should be an easy way to add more of either to your account for an additional fee.

Basic Features

Here are some of the basic features to look for in a website host:

  • An Online Control Panel (CPanel is a very popular control panel with extensive support documentation available, and includes Fantastico) so you can manage your site and email
  • FTP Access to Upload Your Files
  • Email Accounts and Email Forwarding Features
  • Web based email system and POP mail available
  • A Reliable Backup System (more on this below)

If you plan to build your own website you might also look for a host that includes site builder software bunded with their hosting packages. If it’s included you can save some money on your initial website costs.

Advanced Features

Depending on your needs, you might also look for the following features:

  • Multiple Domain Names: Many hosts are setup to allow you to host multiple domains under one hosting package. You can either point additional domains to your main website, or you can set up additional websites at additional domain names. If you plan to purchase more than one domain name this feature can save you money since you won’t have to purchase additional hosting packages for each domain.
  • Secure Server: If you will be accepting payments online, you’ll likely need a secured server (the exception being if you use a payment processor like PayPal). Most hosts offer what’s called a “shared SSL certificate” at no additional charge. This works well for businesses just getting started. But be sure to also check if you can later upgrade to your own unique IP address with your own SSL certficate, and what the charges are for it. Expect to pay a few dollars more a month for a unique IP, and anywhere
    from $30 to $300 or more for an SSL certificate.
  • MySQL Databases with phpMyAdmin access: If you plan to run an ecommerce shopping cart, newsletter, or forum on your site, youÕll most likely need a host who supports these features.

There are many other advanced features. So just be sure that if you’re planning to use some specific shopping cart or editing software (such as Front Page) that you verify it will work with the host you are considering.

Backup Procedures

Industry standard is to make nightly backups. This way if a server or hard drive fails, or if you accidentally delete your entire website, your host can restore a recent copy. Do NOT host somewhere without nightly backups.

You may also ask your host if you can request a backup restore, as well as if backups are enabled for you to make and save your own. Some hosts disable complete backups so you aren’t able to run one to keep a copy of everything safely on your home computer.

Keep in mind that as with any computer equipment, hardware failure is not a question of IF, it’s a question of WHEN (all hardware will eventually fail). Is the host you’re considering prepared for this event? See if the host you’re considering has RAID enabled on their servers. RAID stands for “redundant array of independent disks.” In a RAID configuration, all files on the server are mirrored. This means there’s a real-time second copy of everything. If one drive crashes, no data is lost and it takes only minutes to get back online.

Support Options

One of the most important things to research about a potential website host is their support system. What options do you have when you need help?

Look for self-help options like flash (video) tutorials that walk you through basic tasks like creating an email address, and for an online knowledgebase that you can search for help.

Check to see what type of support system they offer when you need to contact a tech for help. Do you send an email or is there a trouble-ticket system? A trouble ticket system is a better option since it reduces the chances of lost email, and allows you to track responses online in case your email is down or blocking mail from reaching you.

Also look to see what the general response time is. You don’t want to spend 48 hours waiting for a response from support if something goes wrong with your website. Send a test message through the hosts support system and see how quickly they reply.

Does the host offer an off-server emergency site? If your website is down, that means the company’s server is down. If their website (and email, and support system) are hosted on the same server as yours, you won’t be able to contact them when it matters.

Customer Testimonials and Experience

New hosting companies pop up daily on the internet. Some are fantastic. Others aren’t so fantastic. Look for a company with a good track record. Take time to read the testimonials offered on their website (and find out how long those customers have been with the host). Or, better yet, if you’ve got a friend or colleague who’s online, ask if they’re happy with their host. Find out how quick
and helpful support responses are, and whether they’ve had extensive down time or any other problems. A reliable host will have satisfied customers.

These 10 points will help you make an informed decision when shopping for a website host.

Michelle Shaeffer has been a work at home mom for more than 10 years and loves to share the tips and strategies she’s learned to help other home based business owners balance, manage, and market their businesses. Connect with her at http://www.michelleshaeffer.com.

Comments

  1. Great advice. I have two websites with two different servers and I notice that one sometimes has slowness issues. It does make a difference!

  2. Hi Social Scarlet, thanks for commenting! Yes it does make a difference. 🙂

  3. […] & CWAHM: 10 Things to Look for in a Website […]

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