In starting an online business you will at some point need to hookup with a good web hosting company to provide you with the virtual real estate you need to build your site(s) on.
To a large degree the type of hosting service you need will depend on the type of business plan (yes, you need a business plan before you can even think of starting an online business, but that’s a topic we are not going to cover here) you wish to implement. Lets assume for this discussion that you want to build a “serious” web presence consisting of one or more sites.
You need to do your homework before selecting a hosting service. A Google search will turn up a lot of info on just about any aspect of hosting you wish to learn more about, and then you can turn to forums (ie the warriors forum) to ask questions and find out more from those that are actually doing business online.
Generally you want a hosting service that has been in business for at least a few years and has built a reputation for delivering good service and customer support. That doesn’t necessarily mean that a brand name hosting company is always the best way to go. In your research you will find that even big well known hosting companies may have technical and customer support issues with their customers.
Companies use a variety of equipment on different operating platforms and with various degrees of connectivity to the Internet backbone. There are some that you want to stay away from because they just aren’t reliable enough, have enough security features, or are not interconnected to the net at a deep enough level to reach all users.
All will publish some sort of “uptime” figure (like 99.7%) that suggests they virtually never fail and have service available 24/7. They do fail … and they have to go offline at least for a few minutes each day for routine maintenance. You need to inquire about what kind of backup systems they use so that in the event of a screw up all is not lost with your site(s). Some will offer more backup options at extra cost. You will have to decide the level of risk you are prepared to accept and the level of both operating and financial costs associated with your choice.
Think of the server(s) operating your internet business in the same way you treat your desktop. It can fail at any time … so you always need a good backup plan to recover quickly. I suggest you use real numbers to work out a cost factor. For example … if your site earns $50 a day and it goes offline and has to be rebuilt because the backup plan was inadequate, how many days might that take? A week will cost you $350. How does that compare to say an extra $5 per month for an auto backup to an off site location?
Customer support is another biggie. How fast do they respond to a problem, and can they fix it? Before signing up with any hosting service make sure you toss their customer service department a question or two and measure their response time as well as the quality of their answer. If you don’t like it … keep looking.
The other techie thing you want to look at before signing up with a hosting company is how fast do they serve their pages. Internet surfers don’t like to wait for big page downloads. If you go to the hosting service home page and start clicking around, do the pages pop up or are they slow. If you don’t like it … your customers won’t like it either.
When you finally zero in on a service you think will be suitable, be sure not to pay for a whole year’s tab up front. They should have a plan to bill you monthly, and ideally you should be able to pay for it through Pay Pal. That way, if things don’t work out and you are not satisfied you can cancel the plan through Pay Pal anytime and move on.
There’s more to picking a good web hosting company then what I’ve talked about here but if you start with these basics it will go a long way in saving you money, and protect you from a lot of frustration.