Your brand’s digital impact starts with your website. For this you need web hosting. If your site is not already up and running then you have come to the right place.
Even if you have already established a presence through social media or other digital channels.Your website solidifies your digital presence. You will need somewhere to house all the content that will be available from your site. You will quickly find there is no shortage of hosting providers available. They all offer similar packages with seemingly competitive prices. The question becomes, “Where do you start?”
Your website solidifies your digital presence.
The average site does not need anything specific regarding hosting. There will be an infinite list of companies to choose from. You will find those that are very cheap compared to other competitors. Price can be very misleading, so it is important to be careful when tempted by cost. This cannot be the only factor considered. Some additional items to review before making a decision include:
- Customer/Technical Support
- Server Uptime
- Growth Restrictions
- Additional Charges
- Control Panel Options
- Managed Software & Applications
This post is part of the series “Launching Your Digital Brand”
Let’s look at each in more detail.
Customer/technical support is easily the most important factor to consider when selecting a hosting provider. Problems are guaranteed to arise. From server upgrades that cause your site to go offline to system components not functioning properly. There will be a need to reach someone who can assist, quickly.
Key items to look for to determine if a hosting provider has good support are:
Various support channels – Telephone, email and chat support are common options right now. Email only support through ticketing systems sees heavy use as technical issues are becoming more complex to diagnose for the average website owner. Email conversations can be drawn out and extend the time to reach a resolution. If your site is offline, you want to be able to get someone on the phone or live chat right away.
Quick response times – We live in an age of instant results. We expect a quick response whether contact is made by phone, email or chat. A reason does not exist where it is acceptable to be put on extensive holds or to have to wait days for an email response. Especially, if your site is down. Call technical support for the hosting provider. Calculate the wait time before speaking to a representative. You can also send an email and see how long it takes to get a reply. Many providers are offering live chat options, so it would be beneficial to test there as well.
Domestic support – We’ve all experienced the situation where the technical support representative does not share our 1st language. This can make discussing complex technical problems difficult and misunderstandings easier. Some providers will advise of the type of support offered (U.S. based, other) through their site. A better way to determine this is to call the support company prior to subscribing to the service.
Self-service options – There are many times when direct contact with technical support is not necessary. FAQs and Knowledge Base systems often lists known issues and recurring problems/resolutions. Check the hosting providers site to see if these things exist. They will be huge time savers in the future. Be sure they are available to you.
Knowledgeable team – Call centers have a reputation for being manned by individuals with minimal technical knowledge. They may even operate solely from a handbook with predefined troubleshooting tasks. This is frustrating. You should be able to speak directly to the team managing or capable of accessing your servers. This may require assistance from your web developer (Hire Us!) who can speak to your hosting company before signing up. They can judge the technical competency of the hosting provider for you.
Easy Communication – Technical staff that cannot clearly communicate technical issues to non-technical individuals can be equally as frustrating. You just want to know why your site is down. The techy mumbo-jumbo does the average website owner no good here. Give their support line a call and see how their communication is.
The worst thing that could happen to a website owner is for their site to go down or become unavailable. Hosting providers are apt to provide uptime guarantees being aware of this fact. The common percentages range from 95% to 99.9%.
The guarantee they are providing is often pointless. What they are not saying, is that your website will be available 95% to 99.9% of the time. Although, that is their goal. They are so focused on this goal that if they fail to meet their guarantee, they will compensate you, in some form or fashion. Dependent on the issues or problems that the downtime caused, the compensation may be minimal compared to losses in sales, traffic, etc. It’s important to understand what type of compensation is offered before signing up.
Keep in mind that all websites will have downtime. For a number of different reasons such as connection issues and inefficient coding to security intrusions, downtime cannot be avoided. Even your hosting company may not be able to control why this occurs. They are justifiably compelled to flesh out exclusions or fine print regarding the compensation you will receive. You can usually find these details in their service terms and conditions.
Server uptime guarantees do nothing more than market to clients with phrases that sound good but are actually not doable. As noted earlier, support is everything. Research the type of support the hosting provider offers. Reviews can also help. Check how they respond to system downtime and how often it occurs. There are few anomalies and more often than not, the service provided regarding uptime is universal between providers. Find out what to expect from a support standpoint when your site goes down.
As your site gains traction and begins to amass a following, visitors will begin to tear into the precious bandwidth that initially seemed like “more than enough.” Your hosting company must be able to step in and provide solutions to keep your site stable and available. A few key points to review are:
- The ability to seamlessly scale your selected services between hosting types (e.g. Shared to VPS). With increased popularity comes the need to add more complex functionality to your site. This may require more computing power but moving to a new server should not disrupt your site in any way.
- The ability to remotely and centrally manage multiple sites. Additional domains and sub-domains are often added as a site grows to manage content and market to specific users within the target market. Management of these sites can become ineffective with multiple logins to remember.
- The result of increased site traffic and bandwidth usage outside of set limits. When setting up your service package for a single site, there are likely bandwidth restrictions. Restrictions that are sufficient for the average site. What happens if the limits are exceeded? Is there a way to monitor usage? These are the types of questions that must be answered.
Outside of bandwidth restrictions, there could be additional charges lying in wait.
There are hosting companies who seem to offer cheap prices for their services but actually carry additional costs. Be sure you are aware of what is/is not included in your subscription plan. There are hosting companies who charge for additional things like:
- Support technicians who physically access your server and complete tasks such as restarts or updates.
- Email functionality or additional email accounts
- Added technology or database functions
- Website statistical analytics and reporting
This list is by no means exclusive and is understandable from a business model perspective. Just be sure you are aware of any added costs not communicated in the advertisement that attracted you. Don’t be surprised.
C-Panel Options (Control Panel)
The control panel is your bread and butter aside from technical support. Who wants to call someone for every little thing? The control panel is provided by hosting companies to give website owners basic control of the items that are used most frequently. Including file, email and password management and site traffic statistics.
There are common control panels available from many providers. It is best to check with your web developer for specifics based on the needs of your site. Most hosting providers will tell you what options they have available for the control panel. If for some reason you cannot locate this information after checking the hosting companies site forums, contact support for the details. Once obtained, decide if the options will meet the needs of your site(s). The thinking must be long-term, allowing for growth of your online presence.
Managed Software & Applications
A big part of new age digital web deployment is Content Management Systems (CMS) which we will explore in later writings. These platforms make the management of website content easier and more straightforward. Now throw in OS updates, security scans and backups. These are items to be aware of but who has time to worry about them? That’s what the hosting company is for. The setup and management of the software and applications needed to complete these tasks can be overwhelming.
Many hosting companies offer simplified installation processes requiring minimal user knowledge. You should be able to easily find out how a provider handles managed software and applications. Check for available site resources or contact support.