When selecting a site, many business owners focus more on the website design and look of their site than on the actual hosting behind it. Many entrepreneurs think that the web hosting is just the background, and that the customers will mainly be impacted by the content and design of the site.
While site design and content is obviously very important to any company’s website, proper web hosting can also make or break your online business. The web host is the backbone of your site, and anything that goes wrong with the host impacts your site immediately and directly. A hosting company’s reliability, customer service, page load speed, and technical features can make an enormous difference in how useful a site is for your business.
Reliability. Simply put, your site needs to be available for your customers at all times. This is especially true if you rely on SEO rankings for your site, since the crawlers will not index the data on your site if it is down at the time they come through. An unreliable site often sends a message to customers that the company is unreliable – and that’s you, not the host. Make sure to find a host that guarantees 99.9% reliability and has a refund policy to back up their promise. There are various applications online that will allow you to monitor the downtime of your site, allowing you to ensure that the host keeps its word.
Customer Service. The last thing you want to fall into is a site that has great sales service and terrible customer or technical support. A lack of technical support can short circuit attempts to add new features to the site or answer customer concerns. Make sure any host you choose offers 24/7 customer service and test it out before you buy. Email them at 2am, or try to call on Saturday night, or Sunday morning. Don’t rely on the responsiveness of your sales representative – you want to make sure you are going to get great service after you buy, not just during the sales process. Besides the quickness of response, make sure the technicians can answer your questions and know their systems well.
Page Load Speed. If your site doesn’t load quickly, your visitors will quickly click away from your page and you will lose potential customers. Here is an article illustrating the importance of page load speed http://www.businessinsider.com/page-load-time-the-online-business-killer-2011-5. Since most people have high-speed internet, if there is a problem it is usually with the hosting service. You can easily find out the speed of the host to where you are located by pinging them from your computer. A long response time would indicate that you should find another provider. If people are often clicking off your site due to slow loading, the search engines may also lower your SEO ranking, assuming your content is not relevant to visitors.
Technical Features. Depending on the level of technical understanding you have, these can be activated by contacting customer service or by directly accessing a dashboard. In particular, make sure they offer SLL (secure server) and a shopping cart feature if you intend to sell products from your site. Don’t think of just what your site does now, but also what you want the site to be able to do in the future.
Changing web hosting services once you have a site established can be a real pain. Be sure to do your research, look for reviews, and ask questions on hosting forums before choosing a web host. Even then, choose a monthly plan at first rather than locking yourself in to a year of service. This will allow you the greatest flexibility as you run your business. Remember, your web host is just as much a part of your site as your content, and if your host isn’t reliable, your site will hurt your business rather than build it.
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