11 Must-Ask Questions for Your Business Web Hosting Provider
Do you need to find a hosting provider, but aren’t quite sure how to start searching for one? Or perhaps you’ve narrowed down the search to several options and still can’t decide which one is right for you?
Whether you’ve already done some research or not, we lined up some tips to help you focus on the most essential aspects of business web hosting. Avoid getting stuck with high fees and poor service by asking the following questions before you sign up for a website hosting plan.
1. What Support Does the Service Provide?
Everyone knows that time is money, and that saying couldn’t be more accurate when it comes to running a business website. When things go wrong with your website host, you’re potentially losing money with every hour your site is down. You need to know support is available to help you solve the problem quickly, so look for a business hosting provider that offers 24/7 technical support via a free helpline.
Reading expert reviews of the leading web hosting companies to understand what type of support they offer is recommended. The best web hosting companies will also have advanced education centers with support resources that include guides and video tutorials on every aspect of hosting and website management. Among the leading hosting companies, BlueHost, iPage and HostGator all offer extensive help sections, 24/7 helplines and the option to open a support ticket for a specific problem.
2. Does the Service Offer Domain Parking?
Domain names can easily be misspelled by users and similar domains can be purchased by competitors. Since as a business, you wouldn’t want to lose customers because of a typo, companies often buy several versions of their domain name, such as the .net and .org versions of the .com domain, as well as misspelled versions.
The best business web hosting providers will let you park these extra domains, allowing them to lead to the same page on your website. BlueHost, for example, offers unlimited parked domains. Managing the domains in the same control panel as your main domain, will makes things much easier and save you time.
3. What Backup Options Are Available?
The best business hosting providers will automatically back up content on your site at regular intervals. If you accidentally delete important content, you can use these automatic backups to restore the data you need. You should also make sure that the host has a backup of its own, protecting data in case of a calamity.
This way you can be sure the content you have worked hard to produce will never be lost. It is advised to check with your hosting company that they have the technology in place to ensure that your site will not experience slowdowns in loading time while backups are taking place. BlueHost is the standard in this arena, offering automatic daily backups at no extra charge. For $1-$2 a month, iPage has a daily automatic backup plan. HostGator has automatic backups once weekly, which will suffice for those who don’t update their site regularly.
4. How Much Uptime Does the Server Guarantee?
Business web hosting companies usually guarantee a minimum amount of uptime. Some guarantee 99% uptime, while others guarantee 99.9% uptime or even 99.99% uptime.
What does this mean in the actual amount of time your site may be down? Even if a site is up for 99% of the time, it still equates to approximately seven hours of downtime per month. 99.9% is significantly better at around 45 minutes a month, while 99.99% uptime is a very reasonable 5 minutes per month.
|Allowed downtime per month||7 hours||45 minutes||5 minutes|
Unscheduled downtime can result in lost business and cause your reputation among users to plummet, so it is clear why this would be an important guarantee for business owners. However, it is advisable to check what these guarantees actually entail before being swayed by their persuasiveness. Ask your website hosting company what compensation they give you if they go over the allotted downtime. Hosting companies may also have written in their fine print that certain types of technical failures causing downtime are not covered in the guarantee.
Additionally, it is wise to check whether the uptime referred to in the guarantee is measured monthly or annually. If it is measured annually, a site could crash for a significant amount of time and still fall within the promised uptime because of long months of good functioning. However, a significant crash, even if it’s just once a year, can be very damaging to a business.
So, such guarantees are an important message about the dependability that a web hosting company strives to provide, however, their details should be check thoroughly before signing on the dotted line.
|Web Hosting company||InMotion||Web.com||iPage||HostGator||GoDaddy||1&1|
5. Does it Support Your Favorite Web Platform?
If you plan on using any specific web creation tool to design your site and/or run a blog, it’s important to make sure your hosting service is compatible with the platform. Many business owners prefer WordPress, for example, and find it the easiest way to construct their first website; so, it’s best to check with the host first and see if it meets the minimum WordPress requirements.
BlueHost offers one click install and optimized hosting for WordPress, iPage features relatively painless WordPress installation and GoDaddy has free WordPress and Joomla apps as well.
6. Shared, VPS, or Dedicated Hosting?
Many businesses choose to purchase a shared hosting package for their site, but this budget option may cause some problems. Since shared hosting means you’re sharing a server with multiple other sites, problems with another site could influence your site’s performance. For a site that carries only text, shared hosting will suffice. Even with high traffic, this type of site is unlikely to require lots of space or bandwidth.
Dedicated hosting means the server is available only for your business. This avoids the risk of other sites on the same server slowing yours down, although it’s a much more expensive option. A dedicated server is the answer for those with a larger budget and a sophisticated operation that consists of multiple sites, a great deal of media, such as video, and lots of traffic.
A virtual private server, or VPS, is a good compromise for many businesses. With this option, you still share a server with other sites, but you’re guaranteed a certain level of performance. For an expanding business site, such as an online store, VPS hosting can ensure that you have enough space as your business grows.
To give an example of the difference in pricing that the various kinds of hosting will cost you, let's take a look at BlueHost. Their basic shared hosting program starts at $8.99/month, standard VPS hosting starts at $29.99/month and standard dedicated hosting starts at $149.99/month. Read our article for further information on how to choose the right type of hosting.
7. Are There Any Add-Ons?
Watch out for business hosting web companies that lure you in with great headline rates, and then charge you extra for every additional feature you require. Make a list of features you would need from a hosting provider and compare quotes for that level of service, rather than comparing headline rates. For example, if you plan to set up an online store, make sure you choose a plan that includes a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) to protect your customer's’ payment information. This likely means getting a higher tiered plan and not the basic plan.
BlueHost only includes an SSL on its pro plan, which is approximately three times the monthly cost of its cheap basic plan. However, a business that wishes to sell goods online may end up paying more to purchase an SSL from a third party if they opt with a cheaper hosting plan. Likewise with GoDaddy, only with their Ultimate Plan is an SSL included. As a business, keep in mind that in many cases, advertised headline rates offer hosting for a barebones website and the features you need to grow a business will likely not be included.
8. Growth Concerns
As your small business steadily grows and faces stiff competition, it only makes sense that the infrastructure it’s based on grows, too. Accommodating facilities and staff growth is important, but minding systems and network stability, especially if your business relies heavily on a digital network to be successful, is equally important.
No matter which small business hosting service you end up going with, you need to make that decision with the future squarely in mind. One of the last things you want to encounter is an unexpected failure because your hosting company couldn’t keep up with growth. That would be a difficult thing to have to explain to customers and clients.
For a small business website that wants to save money, a shared server hosting plan can make sense, but it is advisable to choose a web hosting service that gives you the option to upgrade to a virtual private server or a dedicated server to accommodate for growth. Many web hosting services, such as BlueHost, iPage and HostGator allow you to switch plans in these cases, however some services, such as Web.com, do not offer VPS or dedicated server options.
9. Does it Offer a Cloud Solution
For a business that plans on eventually expanding, considering a hosting company that allows a plan in which you can build your site on the Cloud is highly recommended. A Cloud plan may cost you at least twice as much as a regular hosting plan, but the benefits such a plan offers, as well as the assurance that you can grow seamlessly, may be worth the price. Websites hosted on the cloud are more reliable. Your website's data is mirrored across multiple locations, so if there are issues at one location, you have backups to keep your website functioning while the issue is being resolved.
Cloud Plans’ Pricing
Prices last updated: July 2017
Cloud hosting also causes your website to load much faster than traditional hosting. Rather than relying on just one server, cloud hosting uses multiple servers, spreading the workload around and avoiding a situation in which an overloaded server gets bogged down and slow. Your site should perform best when experiencing traffic spikes, not the opposite. If you want to see what you're paying for, consider a hosting company, like BlueHost or HostGator, that allows you to view your site’s performance statistics, such as page download speed and uptime.
And as you see your business growing, your hosting company should provide you the option to seamlessly transition to a more robust plan. Another useful option offered by some web hosting companies' cloud services is to add CPU and RAM a la carte, on an as needed basis, to provide a boost for an expected uptick in traffic to a site. Such upgrades should be transparent and should not come with hidden usage fees, nor should they cause your site to experience any downtime.
10. Safety and Security
Cyber security attacks and standard malware both have something in common: They can be a thorn in your website’s side. Even though malicious software can’t be stopped 100% of the time, no matter which web hosting company you use, the better options will already have adequate security features in place. Avoid any web hosting for small businesses that doesn't offer even minimal security. That is a risk you never want to take.
BlueHost has limited security options on its basic plan, however BlueHost customers can buy Sitelock products for up to 80% off to help protect their websites. As you increase to higher tiers, BlueHost's security options improve. All of iPage's plans include free Sitelock security tools and HostGator allows you to add Sitelock protections for a small monthly fee. A2 Hosting offers a Perpetual Security Initiative which includes the KernelCare software extension to enhance Linux kernal security and HackScan, which helps protect accounts from Malware.
Finding the best service to suit all of your small business web hosting needs takes a bit of due diligence and the ability to prioritize. Once those elements come together, you’re guaranteed to make an informed, technical decision that will help your small business grow.