Web hosting services are an important element of running a small business website. You're paying for the server space your provider uses to store the files required to keep your website up and running.
There are thousands of web hosting services and pricing packages, but the hosting you need depends on the size of your website, the volume of traffic you need to accommodate and the types of hosting services available.
Best10 has collated this checklist to run through all the essentials you should prioritise when picking a web hosting package for your new business website and some of the pros and cons to keep an eye out for.
Every website you visit needs to be hosted on a server, which determines the hard drive storage space, bandwidth and RAM allocated. In effect, web hosting is buying or renting space on a server to provide a 'home' for your website.
The server stores all of the data that goes into your web pages, such as:
· Product pages
· Videos and graphics
· Tools and features
Web hosting services and costs vary considerably because there is a big difference between a basic blog hosting package and an all-singing ecommerce hosting package that supports thousands of daily transactions.
Below we've listed three possible web hosting types, briefly explaining what they mean and the types of small or new business websites the package is likely suitable for.
Please note that this isn't an exhaustive list, and you may need another type of hosting or a blended package to cover your other IT infrastructure needs!
This option is like renting a workspace within a co-working environment, where the resources and communal areas are shared with other businesses - in this case, other websites.
Shared hosting is cheap and low-maintenance, but you cannot customise the service or make changes since this would affect other websites hosted on the same server.
Hosting on a shared server is ideal for small websites that don't need buckets of capacity and want to prioritise cost savings.
A dedicated server might be more suitable if you have a large, busy and data-heavy website, although the hosting costs will be much more expensive.
Provided your web traffic is high enough to warrant the expense, you can achieve excellent reliability and web speed performance and make changes to the configuration as and when you wish.
VPS hosting is the next level from shared hosting, created for medium-sized organisations that need more space than a shared web host but don't need as much power as a dedicated service.
The middle ground is best for business websites that want to compromise between cost and customisation, with each user's site kept separate and isolated from the next.
Onto the checklist, we have promised! Each of the criteria we've detailed below is important, but the most crucial factors will vary between businesses.
For example, if you have an interactive website, say a retail site or an event hosting site, where visitors are encouraged to sign up and submit payment details, security encryption will be a significant focus to safeguard user information.
Speed is important because a slow-loading site is a turn-off for customers and can impact the UX of your site, resulting in higher bounce rates and lower conversions.
Reliable, fast website hosting depends on the location of your servers. If your site is hosted on a server relatively close to your location or customers, the quicker each page will load on demand.
UK businesses should look for UK-based hosting and so on because web hosting based in Europe will not compare with the speeds of a more localised server.
Most companies use a two-second loading time as a threshold - any longer, and your web hosting service is not fast enough.
Next, you need to think about the volumes of digital data stored on your website, including:
· High-resolution graphics
· Large amounts of product information
· Data-heavy videos and GIFs
Your web host needs to allocate bandwidth, which indicates how quickly data travels in and out of your site, so the more traffic, downloads or large files you have, the more bandwidth you need.
Newer businesses don't typically have vast data libraries or media files, so you might be able to manage with a cheaper option, but you need to be conscious that bandwidth demand can grow very quickly.
We normally suggest looking for web hosting from 10 GB a month to build in a little capacity cushion.
Online security and protection from cybercrime are critical for any new business launching products or services online. Some sectors are more exposed to cyber-attacks and attempted information theft than others.
Good quality web hosting includes a raft of security features and tools, with adjustable settings to ensure your servers are safeguarded from bots and hackers.
In web hosting, uptime means the reliability of your website services because you'll likely want your site to be accessible and fully operational 24/7, rather than only working correctly during opening hours.
The best way to ensure your website is always available is to pick a web hosting service with stable server connections and a high-reliability score.
You can research uptime history by reading reviews or seeing what uptime guarantees the hosting service promises.
If you find that your new website is always down or dropping out, it might be time to upgrade to a more dependable hosting option.
Because your website is hosted on a third-party server, you need some system to ensure that all the digital assets, records and data used on your website are regularly backed up.
If the worst happens, such as a complete computer breakdown or a server cyber attack, you can restore your site without losing all the information and files.
Business web hosting plans often include automatic backups, which are highly preferred since they mean you don't need to schedule a backup manually and won't risk losing everything without the option to restore.
Technical support can be invaluable if something goes wrong - a web hosting provider with a 24/7 support line or support ticket system is a good contender because you can call for help if your website starts to experience problems.
A control panel means you can manage your website and hosting account without needing to wait in a call queue or email your hosting provider.
Commercial hosting services routinely provide a control panel as part of the package, which allows you to deal with everyday tasks or make simple changes at your discretion.
User-friendly, jargon-free control panels (also called cPanels) are a must for new businesses that may wish to create new email addresses or change passwords, for example.
Web hosting and building are two different services. Still, several of the biggest hosting providers offer hybrid packages where you can throw in your annual website hosting for free or combine web building and hosting for one cost.
Of course, you might already have a website that is good to go, but you'll always need to make changes from time to time, add new products, update your contact details or publish a new blog.
Hosting services could include a web builder or might have a content management system (CMS) attached, with plenty of click-and-drop options, so you don't need to be a web developer to use them.
If you don't yet have a set of business email accounts, it's worth looking for web hosting that allows you to set up email addresses with the same domain name as your website.
Professional business email contacts look more trustworthy than a generic Gmail or Outlook address, particularly if you ask customers to contact you through your website.
For example, you could use ABC.com as a domain name and pay for web hosting that includes up to ten email addresses formatted as name@ABC.com.
Finally, as a new business, there is every chance that in a year or two, your website will have grown, or your traffic will increase, and a web hosting service has become unsuitable for the capacity required.
Web hosting that offers you upgrade options can be beneficial because you won't have the hassle of cancelling one hosting service to switch to another or finding an affordable web host with the bandwidth and speeds you need.
Upgrading through one provider is far easier because you can switch to a different plan without changing your website, domain or online data.
We hope this checklist has given you a good idea of what to look for from a web hosting service and which factors to keep as a top priority!
For more help selecting a competitive web host for a new business site, please visit the Best10 review pages for independent rankings, discount codes and advice.