Finding a Web host is like buying a suit. Sure, you can go into the first store you see with suits, find one that looks decent and buy it, but your pant legs will drag on the ground, your sleeves will stop an inch short and you won’t be able to give someone a high five without ripping off a sleeve. If you take the time to evaluate your needs, find a store with knowledgeable staff willing to help you and buy a suit tailored to your measurements, you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble and the embarrassment of walking around with one sleeve.
Every business has specific needs for its website. You can’t sign up for the first cheap hosting package you find and expect to see fantastic results. Do yourself — and your customers — a favor and find a Web host that’s willing to work with you to ensure your site lives up to your expectations. Just as you wouldn’t show up to a formal dinner in a wrinkled, two-sizes-too-small suit, don’t shackle your online presence to a sub-par hosting experience.
Identify Your Needs
It’s hard to know what will work best if you don’t know what you need to begin with. Do you plan to sell hundreds or thousands of items through your website? Are you going to post many videos and images? Will your site need more bandwidth than a shared server provides? Determine what you want your site to do and find a host that can easily fulfill your needs.
Find a Web Host with Experience
How long has your host been around? New companies can provide great support, but they’re untested, making them a big risk for your business. Look for a host that has experience dealing with business hosting and, if you can find it, one that deals with other companies in your industry. Small business hosts can easily address the issues inherent to small businesses and — if they’re familiar with your industry — can answer questions you didn’t even know to ask.
Look at the Extras
It’s easy to find inexpensive, barebones hosting, but is that what you really want? If you have a website, you need email, too. Do you want to go look for another designer, or should you find a small business Web host with design staff that can customize your site and hosting plan together? If you have multiple domain names, make sure your host can support those. It makes sense to roll as many items into one plan as possible; you’ll save money over paying for everything individually.
Don’t make your hosting decision lightly. Your website is your business’ online storefront, regardless of whether you sell consulting services or miniature unicorn figurines. Treat it with the respect it deserves. Research your business and its needs to find a host that thrives in that space. If you think yours is one of the first companies in your industry that the hosting company has serviced, go find someone else; don’t be a guinea pig. Evaluate what each hosting package includes before you look at the price. Sure, Vendor A might be half the price, but if Vendor B gives you email accounts for your employees, Web design services, search engine marketing services and better support, you’ll end up saving money with the more expensive company. Arm yourself with knowledge and evaluate the big picture before you make your decision. Your company and your customers deserve it.