So you’ve got a great idea for an online business model and now you’re ready to take action by setting up a website. The challenge you face, of course, is the same one faced by all entrepreneurs who are starting a new website: how do you select the right hosting company?
Identifying the right hosting provider is not a simple task. If you choose the wrong one, you may end up paying a lot of money to transfer the domain name to another, more suitable company. You may also pay more than you need to pay, because you could get saddled with an array of services you will never use. The other side of that coin is also a possibility: you could get stuck with a service provider that doesn’t offer the applications you need to operate your website properly.
It’s important to exercise the proper due diligence to ensure that the hosting provider you select is the one that’s right for your business. You’ll want the one that’s the most affordable, has the best reputation, and provides the services that you require.
Here are some key considerations when evaluating various hosting providers for your site.
1. Will you need database support?
If you’re totally new to this, then you might not even know what a database can do for your company. A database is basically a means of storing information, essentially so it stays in one place and can be regularly accessed forever.
This is how you’ll store information about your products if you intend to run an e-commerce website. It’s also how a lot of written content, including online articles and blog posts, is stored on the Internet.
The chances are very good that you will need some sort of database. But the question is worth asking because some websites – for example, those that simply aggregate information from other sites – do not need one. In those cases, the website pages are simply updated by the webmaster on a regular basis.
The bottom line is this: you don’t want to pay for a service you aren’t going to use. Therefore, if you don’t need database support, then choose a hosting plan that’s cost-effective without database support.
2. What kind of database support?
As mentioned previously, the odds are better than even money that you’ll need some kind of database support. If that’s the case, then you’ll need to identify what kind of database you’ll be using so you can pick a hosting provider that supports that kind of database.
For the most part, hosting providers use MySQL as the database of choice. This is a relational database management system that suits most small business purposes. If you’re going to need a more robust, industrial-strength solution, then you might need Oracle. If you’re using ASP for presentation-layer coding, then you might find that MongoDB would be your preferred database choice.
Whatever database solution your team of IT professionals recommends, it’s important that your hosting provider has the know-how to support that database. This is why it’s important to establish the technologies used to produce the website first, and select the hosting provider afterwards.
Sure, you’re starting off as a small business. But do you want the business to stay small? It’s likely the answer is no. If that’s the case, then your business is going to grow. Here’s hoping it grows by leaps and bounds.
With that in mind, you need a hosting provider that has the capacity to enable you to grow. If the hosting service you select doesn’t scale with the expanding needs of your business, then you’re going to experience two things at once: 1) lots of downtime as your system is overrun with too many requests, and 2) lots of lost sales and customers due to #1.
Make sure the hosting company you select has a history of supporting companies as they grow. You might start off with just a simple virtual private server (VPS). From there, you might grow to a dedicated server (that’s when you have a server all to yourself). With any luck, you might eventually need multiple servers. Your hosting provider must be able to accommodate this growth, or you’re taking an unnecessary strategic risk.
4. Customer service
It’s this simple: when you’re dealing with technology, you’re going to experience problems. The best hosting company in the world can’t produce a technological solution that never fails.
When those problems do occur, you’re going to need a provider that performs outstanding customer service. Even though technical problems aren’t necessarily avoidable, they can certainly be made a lot worse by poor customer service that takes an excessively long time to resolve issues.
Whichever hosting company you select should have a reputation for outstanding customer service. Check online and read the testimonials of people who have had to work with the providers on your short list. If you notice a lot of folks give glowing reviews about a particular company’s level of customer service, then that firm is probably a winner. Stay away from providers with a history of poor, non-responsive customer support.
5. Linux vs. Windows?
Are you going to want a Windows-based server or a Linux-based server? This question relates to the needs of your business and your website. Again, this is where the requirements of your online web application should be well established before you even shop for a hosting provider.
If you need Remote Desktop Connection, ASP support, SQL Server, Cold Fusion, or Internet Information Server, then you’re definitely looking for a Windows server. If you need SSH, open source applications (such as MySQL and PHP), and generally superior performance, then you’ll more likely want a Linux solution.
Guest author Drew Hendricks is a tech, social media and environmental addict. He’s written for many major publishers such as National Geographic and Technorati.