You want to get online with a website that will look good and work right. You want a website that you can change when you learn more about how you want to present your business. This is what you know. What you don’t know about finding website hosting and getting online… is everything else.
These days, getting online can be a problem of TMI: too much information. You have the business plan, you are motivated, you have the startup capital you need, and you even have a network and vendors or sources ready to go. Then you sit down in front of your laptop or computer monitor and start looking at web hosting services. Soon you feel very overwhelmed.
Seems like everybody claims to have what you want. And the terminology is unfamiliar (what’s uptime? Who’s UNIX?) And you’re starting to think you can’t afford to get online since you’ll first need to hire an interpreter to even figure out what you need.
Here’s a suggestion.
When you have a medical concern or you need help with your taxes-any time you have a problem that is too complex to solve on your own, you go to an expert. You obtain the services of someone who speaks the language and who can provide the benefit of many years in the industry. It’s an effective way to save time, stress and even money most of the time. To find someone you can trust, you either get a referral or use a checklist to determine what you must have and absolutely don’t want with this professional service. Or you do both (referrals + checklist).
Same with web site hosting, web design, a domain name, security, a shopping cart, copywriting services, etc.: You can ask around for hosting providers people recommend and/or you can create a checklist to help you select a provider you can trust. Or, to be thorough, you can pull together a list of recommended providers then use your checklist to figure out which will be best.
While getting referrals depends on you and your connections, a checklist is a can apply generally. Use the following list to get you started with or without referrals. Add to it or only use those elements that matter most to you.
Even Dozen Web Host Checklist
- More than one level of hosting (I can tell immediately how much each level will cost per year) so you can upgrade when you need to
- Different types of web site hosting, including shared, VPS and a basic hosting level with WordPress for setting up a blog and a clear explanation of what this means
- Uptime reliability 99.9% or higher (100% uptime is impossible no matter what you may read online) so when you do get traffic to your website, your website is open for business
- Unlimited number of FTP, or file transfer protocol, accounts; to make it easy to handle all of your files (this is the data that moves into and out of your website)
- Broad programming language support and access to a large open source library, so it will be easy to integrate your new website to work with the software you already use
- The storage space and bandwidth you need to handle website traffic and have a website with decent page speed – if your website pages upload quickly, both your customers and the search engines will like you more
- Around-the-clock technical assistance every day of the year because your website is going to be open for business 24/7/365 and you want to be sure you can resolve problems as fast as possible
- Access to domain name registration and the ability to point other domain names to your hosting package
- Online marketing services to use once your website is up and running since they won’t come just because you built it; including paid advertising, search engine optimization, email marketing, press release services, and other off-site optimization that helps your rankings in Google and other search engines
- Design services available at various price points (including custom design capabilities, in case you need that in the future
- A website builder tool with templates so you can do it yourself and maybe even have fun in the process, including a big selection of images, drag-and-drop ease of use, ability to upload documents, images, videos, etc.
- An excellent customer service reputation/record; look for certification by J.D. Power and Associates and other consumer accreditation agencies (BBB)
A Few More Things to Include
Besides the dozen things you will want if you’re serious about running a business online, you will know you have a solid, broad base of services if you can also get:
- Email with virus and spam protection so you can provide secure and professional emailing that matches your business brand (this goes a long way to instill customer confidence)
- Selling? Some providers also have ecommerce packages set up that you simply purchase and customize to work for your business
- If your business will include the transaction of private information, look for a website host provider that offers SSL certificates, business verification, and website scanning to send hackers and spammers packing
- Customer relationship management (CRM) tools are indispensable if you plan on actively selling, marketing, handling inventory, scheduling appointments and more
- Other business applications can be procured from a hosting provider that means business, including bookkeeping apps that help you track your expenses, import data from invoices and prep for taxes
While some hosting providers do all of the above, some provide exemplary services in some areas but not in others. Wherever you go, you want the end product to support your business objectives, so this should remain in your line of sight as you review your options. So don’t hesitate to contact many different candidates and ask your questions. Look for providers who are patient and who have sales reps who know their business-it’s a sign of a quality company when the sales reps are articulate, knowledgeable, courteous and genuinely interested in helping you with your objectives (as opposed to only being interested in making the sale!)
Getting a website can be confusing, but if you go about it methodically, using the above checklist or a modified version of your own, things should go well. You will find an expert web site hosting provider you can trust and can get back to doing what you do best: running your business.