Choosing which type of web hosting you need for your new business will defend on a number of different factors.
The business model you have developed will determine, to some extent, what type of hosting you will need.
For example if you are planning on building an online store, you will need hosting that offers or can accommodate some form of shopping cart software.
If you want to blog for profit, a web host that offers access to and support for wordpress might be what you need.
An affiliate marketing website might mean that you want the ability to use Server Side Includes, and a lead generation online business might need web hosting that would allow you to integrate apps for your email service provider onto your pages.
And if you have no idea where to start or how to do any of this, maybe you need to start with a web hosting provider that will also teach you how to build an online business.
Things to Consider Before You Purchase Your Small Business Web Hosting...
Your Personal Knowledge and Experience
Probably the first factor to consider is your existing knowledge about building web sites.
If you are completely new to this area of expertise, you are going to find the process daunting at the very least and for some of you it will seem impossible without a lot of assistance.
While virtually all forms of small business web hosting will offer tutorials or offer a help function, if the service providers focus is predominately "web hosting" they generally only cover the technical how-to stuff. They (necessarily) focus on what to do when something goes wrong rather than telling you what you should be doing to get the outcome you desire.
But before you allow me to put you off completely, there are a few companies out there that offer much more than just web hosting and will teach you more than just how to build a web page, they will teach you how to build an online business.
I know we are talking about building a business here, and the old maxim "you have to spend money to make money" is still true in the information era, when you are talking about an online business it is probably going to take quite a while before you are making any money.
Most people who think seriously about building an online business is that the start up costs are reasonably low compared to an offline business but you still need to consider the upfront costs. There has to be a bit of a balancing act between how much you invest up front and how soon your new business will begin to earn any income.
Some hosting options are more expensive than others, and in many cases, the longer you commit and pay for upfront, the cheaper the hosting will be per month. For basic hosting you could pay anywhere between $3.95 to $19.95 per month for the same level of hosting depending on whether you commit on a monthly, annual, bi-annual basis or longer.
You also need to consider the conditions attached. Many low cost small business web hosting plans will say that you can have unlimited websites, email addresses, databases etc., but if your new business creates too much load on their servers (chews up too much band-with), the fine print provides them with the right to strangle your site, or to take you offline either for a short period or indefinitely.
Remember, you tend to get what you pay for. When you think about it, these companies make most of their money selling hosting to small sites that are not especially successful. And if your site bucks the trend and starts using up resources that could meet the needs of a number of other smaller clients, they will either make you pay more or move you on to free up those resources.
Too much success can lead to you being punished. So bear in mind, the cheapest is not always the best option and you need to check the fine print!
Server Location and Potential Down-time
I had an issue with this one for my Knitting Store. My small business web hosting provider is located in the States and they do most of their planned maintenance in the middle of the night.
Which is great for their USA customers, not so great if you (and most of your customers) are in Australia!
If you have a static website (like a content or niche site) it would not be so bad, but if you hosting is down in the middle of the day when people want to buy, you not only lose the sale but in all likelihood, you lose that customer for life.
Online sales are necessarily at arms length. In an offline store you get to know your customers and albeit briefly and superficially, you build a relationship with them. Not so much with an online store. The people who visit your site do not get to "check you out" the same way they would in a physical store, and people tend to be more suspicious in the online world.
If they come to your physical store and you are closed, they are still likely to come back the next time they are in the neighbourhood. If they come to you online store and get an error page, they are just as likely to decide that you are doing something "shonky" and never return.
The other issue with a small business web Hosting provider in another country/time zone is that more often than not, they are asleep when you are awake and vice versa, so getting a response to a request for support can take a day or more. Sometimes a delay of a day or so to get something fixed is not a huge drama, but sometimes it is.
If your business model requires minimal downtime and fast responses to any issues, you might want to consider hosting in your own time zone. Local small business web hosting might be more expensive upfront, but it may save your business in the long run.
The Platforms or Software You Need to Use
Do you need a shopping cart? Or maybe you want to integrate a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) application or a database to manage your interactions with your visitors/leads/prospects?
Do you want to build a static website (great for affiliate marketers/niche sites or content marketers), or do you need a blogging format? Maybe you need a combination of the two?
Do you plan to integrate with you social media accounts, perhaps create and manage a Facebook group for members only? Or a forum within your site maybe.
Many of these kinds of questions will be addressed as you work on your online business model, and before you commit to the type of hosting you require or a particular small business web hosting provider, you need to determine whether or not they can provide all of the functionality you will require for your new business.
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