All websites need to be hosted somewhere. It is an area that can sometimes confuse people when they are buying their business a website. Many small businesses or sole traders know that getting a website is important but many don’t understand what hosting is or how it works.
This is a basic explanation of why hosting is important and also what you need to look for when buying a hosting plan. There are many ways that a good hosting plan can help a business and quite a few that can cause big problems.
What is hosting?
Web hosting is basically a server that stores websites and allows data to travel between a visitor and the site. All websites need to be stored on a server somewhere that can let visitors access the site. All the text, photographs, videos and data are held in this physical location so someone on the internet can connect and view the pages and content held there.
If you want to have a website then you need to pay for hosting. There are different options available. A business could host their own website or they could hire a hosting company.
Mistakes people make when choosing hosting
There are many things people can do wrong when choosing their hosting and this can impact on their business. Choosing the wrong host can lead to many problems; some small and some with serious implications. Here are few of the things a small business owner should be aware of.
When choosing your hosting you want to make sure you have enough bandwidth for your needs. Bandwidth is basically the speed that data can be transferred from your hosting to a visitor and vice versa. This affects how long it takes for your website to load and if you have insufficient bandwidth then your performance will be affected. This can lead to visitors being frustrated and leaving instead of making a purchase, meaning lost money. Loading times can affect your SEO which in turn affects your position on Google searches
When someone visits your site the length of time they are there and how many pages they view is recorded. Google uses this information to help assess whether your site is relevant to the search that took the visitor there. A high bounce rate - someone leaving quickly - can affect your rankings. This can be caused from slow loading times. Location can also affect this. If the servers are held in another county from your visitors then it can slow everything down. If you are in Australia for instance and need web hosting then you can get information by visiting FortuneLords.
If you are running a business that takes payments online then you need to make sure your customers feel safe. If someone is putting their credit card details into your site they will want to know that everything is secure and no one is going to steal their data. The URL should show HTTPS but if your hosting is not up to scratch then the visitor may instead see ‘not secure’. Even worse, their antivirus software may even prevent them from seeing your site in the first place. If you have an ecommerce site then it goes without saying that you should have thorough security in place.
Check that your hosting has SSL certificates. These are also called TLS and are small files that encrypt the data flowing between the visitor and the website they are visiting. You should also check the host has protection against DDoS and good firewalls.
Can you upgrade easily?
When you start out you might have no idea how many people will visit your business. Many online businesses fail but if you have a good business that receives high levels of traffic then you will want to upgrade your hosting. It may seem like a no brainer that a company would let you upgrade when necessary but some make it harder than you might think. Check when buying your hosting plans that you can upgrade without having to migrate your website.
Cheap or free hosting
Do not be tempted to go for a deal just because it is free. There are a multitude of problems that can come with these companies. You get what you pay for and with hosting this is very true. These hosts can cause you problems with poor bandwidth, advertising, no customer service, high renewal fees and lengthy downtime. Many of these problems are explained below.
Poor customer service
No one wants bad customer service. If you pay for something then you expect the company to help you where they can and in a timely fashion. If the customer service with your host is poor it can mean you are losing customers and they may not return.
Imagine your site goes down for unspecified reasons or there is a technical problem that is at the servers end. You would contact customer service and then they would fix the problem in a speedy fashion. But what if they don’t? What if your customer service is slow to respond or doesn’t respond at all? You are now in limbo waiting for them to fix the server in their own time while your visitors go to the competition.
All sites on shared hosting will go down at some point. Maintenance on servers or updates to the website itself will see to this. Your Google rankings won’t be affected by a normal amount of downtime. If your host had an unusual amount of downtime then it is possible that you could be affected and your rankings will drop.
Enough features and management tools
You will need to make sure your host provides everything you need to manage your website. You want cPanel as standard to manage the domain and files. If you are using WordPress then be sure that your host is compatible.
Rankings through toxic sites
This is a debatable area but maybe worth considering. There is a school of thought that sharing servers and the same IP address as undesirable websites may affect your search engine rankings. If your host has websites selling illegal content or goods on the same server as yours it may affect your rankings on Google.
These are just a few problems that could affect a small business and show why picking the right host is important. There are other aspects that can affect a business such as high renewal fees and low storage space. When choosing a web host take time to do some research and compare the competition.