Overview: Tips Before Choosing a Web Host
It's exciting to start a new business. As you're probably aware, a major part of promoting your products and services – including your brand – is having a web, or Internet, presence.
Whether you're in the process of constructing your website or already have one ready to launch, you'll need to make a decision about who's going to handle your web hosting.
Part of this process is determining what kind of web hosting companies are out there as well as the available types of web hosting services. It hopefully goes without saying that it's important to find out as much as you can before choosing a web hosting company.
Image Source: BigStock
As a new business owner, you will probably be making many, if not all, of the major business decisions. If you're also new to having an online presence, you'll want to conduct the same level of research to find a trustworthy web host as you did for other facets of your business, such as choosing accounting software. The good news is that there are quite a few types of web hosting companies from which to choose.
Part of choosing a web hosting company entails searching for tips that will assist you with making informed decisions. You'll want to read reviews from a variety of reputable publications, ask colleagues and friends, and otherwise create the time to determine what level of online file hosting you will need. You also need to be concerned with how much web storage they offer as well as other important issues such as who handles the back up for your data.
Tip #1: Ask Questions and Expect Answers
Since having a dynamic web presence is essential in today's business world, you may already have a long list of questions. You may, for example, be asking yourself some or – or all – of these questions:
- What is a network domain?
- Who owns the domain name?
- What is a webhost?
- What is webhosting?
- Where is a site hosted?
- What is online hosting?
- What is a web hosting company?
- How much storage do they offer?
- What is a backup site?
- Who handles the backup?
- Will I need to sign a contract?
- How long is the contract?
- What might happen if I need to break the contract?
- How do I know I can trust the web host?
- Will I need to pay for ads?
While finding answers to these and other questions may be overwhelming at first, with time, your knowledge and business acumen will increase. Think of this as leveraging curiosity, and you will be primed to ask questions and expect answers.
Tip #2: Learn About Different Types of Web Hosting Companies and Services
As you search through all the different types of web hosting companies, it's likely you'll encounter a few terms with which you're not yet familiar. In this case, it's a good idea to get into the practice of bookmarking a few online glossaries. Webhostinghub.com, for example, has five categories of common terms that range from definitions on "types of hosting" to "features."
At Website.com's Learning Center, you'll find easy-to-understand responses to the questions: What is a web host, and what is web hosting? Basically, a web host is a business that provides online file hosting services to individuals, businesses, and organizations. This enables you, with the web host's assistance, to launch an Internet website that is accessible to your existing and prospective clients and customers.
You may also be curious as to where your site will be hosted. In addition to providing other services, a web host will house, or host, your site on its own servers. These are specialized computers located at a web host's facilities.
There are different types of web hosting services. According to Website.com's Learning Center, these include free, shared, dedicated, and collocated hosting. If you're considering free hosting for your business, you may want to reconsider, as there are several potential issues:
- Slow connection speed
- Frequent down time
- Advertising banners
- Domain name purchase requirements
- Non-transferable subdomains
Shared hosting, according to Website.com's Learning Center, is a type of web hosting where you will literally be sharing a server, as well as software applications, with other websites. On the plus side, this choice tends to be more affordable as you're also sharing costs. This type of web hosting, however, may not perform as well and tends to be slower.
If you want a type of web hosting that enables you to own your own server, which would increase your chances of having optimal speeds, greater security, and other benefits, then you would want to choose dedicated hosting. You would, however, be responsible for the increased costs of operating a dedicated server.
Collocated hosting may be a good choice if you want to own, have control of, and be responsible for your own server. When you choose this type of web hosting company, your server would actually be kept at your web host's facility.
When you exert considerable time, energy, creativity, and other resources into building your website, you want to ensure that you have sufficient website storage and website backup. It's important to ask yourself these questions when searching for a web hosting company:
- How much storage do you offer?
- What is a backup site?
- Who handles the backup?
In "Web Hosting Consumer Guide: 9 Tips You Should Know," Raja offers two excellent tips on this issue. When determining how much storage is offered, you'll want to pay attention to the fine print. When warning against the "Unlimited Storage's Catch," or web hosts that offer unlimited storage, he claims "there is no such thing." In order to protect yourself against these potentially misleading offers, it's essential to study the Terms of Agreement section on CPU/Server Usage so you don't exceed your allowable usage and become inadvertently terminated.
Even though your web hosting service handles website storage and will conduct regular website backups, Raja further cautions readers in "Web Hosting Consumer Guide: 9 Tips You Should Know," to conduct their own website backup. This is basic common sense – even when you believe your web host is trustworthy.
Given the above, you're probably interested in knowing how to increase your website storage and if there are additional backup sites or tools available. In "17 Online Data Backup & Synchronization Tools," Kay Tan provides these top five choices:
You may also want to explore other options for website storage and website backup sites. In "17 Online Data Backup & Synchronization Tools," Kay Tan also lists these additional tools:
Tip #3: Learn About Domain Names, Domain Name Registration, and Domain Name Servers
Image Source: BigStock
According to Website.com's Learning Center, a domain name is the name of your website and your unique web address, which is located on a domain name server. In general, your domain name is your company or product name, which assists with the promotion of your unique presence and brand.
Before you register your specific domain name, Website.com recommends conducting a trademark search to determine whether it's available. To find out more about who owns specific domain names, you may want to visit the website for Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN.
Once you've conducted a domain name search to ensure that the name you've chosen is available and doesn't violate any existing copyrights or trademarks, you can begin the process of registering it. At this time, you may also be asking the question, “Who owns my domain name?” While you might assume that you own it, that's not necessarily the case, according to “Web Hosting Consumer Guide: 9 Tips You Should Know” by Raja.
Basically, whether you choose to opt for a free domain name or not, the hosting company actually owns it, which may seem counter-intuitive. Furthermore, Raja cautions people to avoid what he refers to as the “free domain” gimmick. If you're concerned about who owns your domain name, you want to choose a reputable company. If you sign up with a web host that offers free domain names, you may come across some issues when and if you want to cancel your contract and opt for another web host.
There's also a chance, according to "Web Hosting Consumer Guide: 9 Tips You Should Know," that when you sign up with a webhosting company that offers free domain names, you may encounter other issues in the future. For example, if you're unhappy with the services offered, are questioning the length of your contract or another issue, such as outgrowing your current web hosting package, create the time to decide if you want to keep your existing domain name.
If want to retain your domain name, you may need to stay with that company or pay to get your domain name back. Furthermore, it's also possible that your renewal fees will be marked up considerably.
In some instances, you may be required to have a domain name prior to signing up with one of the different types of web hosting companies. Some web hosts may offer free domain names, free domain registration or other services, which can streamline the process.
According to Top10bestwebsitehosting.com, eHost.com offers free domain names, and GoDaddy offers domain names as part of its web-hosting package; these web hosts, however, offer free domain registration:
When learning about domain names, you will probably come across the term, domain name servers, or DNS. Basically, this is your Internet web address and is also referred to as an IP address. Your IP address is a series of numbers that are then converted into words, or your unique domain name. When someone is looking for your website, all they have to do is plug in the URL, or Uniform Resource Locator, to find it. So, when asking about domain name servers and how they operate, they basically "convert the URL into an IP address."
You may also be asking yourself the question: What is a domain controller? According to Technopedia.com, you'll encounter this term when using Microsoft Windows. Basically, a domain controller, or DC, "is a server on a Microsoft Windows or Windows NT network that is responsible for allowing host access to Windows domain resources." In addition, a DC "authenticates users, stores user account information, and enforces security policy for a Windows domain."
Tip #4: Conduct a Comparative Analysis of Web Hosts
PCmag.com is one publication where you can become more familiar with a variety of webhosts. In an article posted on its site, "The Best Small Business Web Hosting Services for 2016," Jeffrey L. Wilson and Fahmida Y. Rashid list the following webhosting companies:
- DreamHost: received 4.5 stars
- HostGator: received 4.5 stars
- Hostwinds: received 4 stars
- 1&1: received 4 stars
- GoDaddy: received 4 stars
- Bluehost: received 3.5 stars
- InMotion: received 3.5 stars
- SiteGround: received 3.5 stars
- HostMonster: received 3 stars
Each one of these web host listings is accompanied by additional information on features and services offered. Here are some of the topics included in the detailed reviews:
- Hosting plans and pricing
- Domain names
- Email account management
- Storage space
- Monthly data transfers
- Shared or non-shared hosting
- Linux and/or Windows-based hosting
- Website builders
- Third-party operations
Another site that you may want to visit that discusses different hosting plans, along with other relevant information, is Consumer-rankings.com. Here are the site's 2016 "Top Ten" rankings for web hosting:
- eHost.com: received 9.9 out of 10
- iPage.com: received 9.7 out of 10
- Bluehost.com: received 9.6 out of 10
- HostGator.com: received 9.1 out of 10
- JustHost.com: received 8.9 out of 10
- FatCow.com: received 8.7 out of 10
- HostClear.com: received 8.4 out of 10
- Yahoo.com: received 8.1 out of 10
- IdeaHost.com: received 7.9 out of 10
- GoDaddy.com: received 7.7 out of 10
Consumer-rankings.com also provides user rankings, and each web host has at least four stars.
- Inmotion: received Gold Award and 9.73 out of 10
- Airvixe: received 9.65 out of 10
- Justhost: received 8.95 out of 10
- Bluehost: received 8.85 out of 10
- GreenGeeks: received 8.63 out of 10
- Webhostingpad: received 8.63 out of 10
- HostGator: received 8.53 out of 10
- DreamHost: received 8.35 out of 10
- GoDaddy: received 8.30 out of 10
- HostMonster: received 8.28 out of 10
When exploring these and other webhosting companies, you're probably concerned with the response to this question: Does it require ads? No doubt you've seen pop-up, banner, and/or streaming ads at many, or even most, of the sites you've visited.
The "What is free web hosting?" section of "The Top 10 Best Web Hosting Companies 2016" states that web hosting companies that offer free website hosting packages are not actually free; you're "paying" for this service by allowing them to have ads on your site. Essentially, this is one of the ways they earn money.
As you weigh the pros and cons of each web hosting company, be sure to keep your specific business needs in mind. Do they offer sufficient web storage and website backup? What about their customer service policies and cyber security? Furthermore, if you need to sign a contract, be sure to understand the length of that contract and whether or not you feel confident that you trust them.
Tip #5: Accept Responsibility for Entering Contracts
When conducting business, you want to ensure that your day-to-day operations run smoothly. Since part of doing business often involves entering into a variety of contracts, you want to feel confident that you understand the terms. Both you, and the company with which you enter into a contract, are mutually responsible for fulfilling the terms of these agreements.
When deciding upon a web hosting company, you may be asking these questions:
- Do I need to sign a contract?
- How long is this contract?
- Is there a charge for breaking my contract?
- Will my contract be automatically renewed?
- Will I receive a reduced rate if I renew my contract?
As previously mentioned, reading articles and blogs by industry professionals is an excellent way to hone your knowledge. These types of resources can also assist you with understanding contractual obligations. Common sense dictates that, prior to signing a contract, you will read every single word – including the proverbial small print.
Even when you are conscientious in this regard, however, it's possible that parts of the contract may be misleading or otherwise unclear. Therefore, one of the most important questions you can ask is this: How do I know if I can trust this webhosting company's contract?
As Raja cautions to in "Web Hosting Consumer Guide: 9 Tips You Should Know”: "Avoid long-term contracts unless you trust them." This is also where you want to be certain that you understand how long the contract is. Raja contends that you may encounter companies that offer discounts for making advance payments – even up to two years. You don't want to sign up for an extended contract if you're questioning whether you can trust the company.
Since the terms of a contract do tend to vary, when you read reviews on webhosting companies, pay particular attention to whether or not they will require you to agree to a specific period of time as well as what, if any, repercussions exist for breaking the contract. If trust is an issue, ask yourself if you're willing to commit yourself – and your business success – to abiding to the terms of that contract.
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