Choosing the right hosting service can be a daunting task. I have read many articles related to hosting and depending on the time of day or your choice of a search engine you should expect to find conflicting and confusing experiences regarding the same company, ratings from a perfect 5 stars with glowing reviews all the way down to a 1 star rating with a myriad of complaints.
As a business owner you know that you can’t please everyone all of the time. I have always believed that the customer is always right, but they just may not always be right for your service! And I think being honest about that can save everyone a lot of aggravation in the long run.
My personal experience has been that the complaints typical steam from a lack of understanding or agreeing on expectations of what a business can and will provide.
So how do you choose?
First, do not gauge your requirements by what the hosting company has to offer, their packages may not be tailored to what your business needs to run. Instead, start with YOURSELF! That’s right, only YOU know what YOU need. Most hosting packages are designed to accommodate the masses and since you, your business and your customers are unique little snowflakes you need to understand first what you need and then select a package that best fits those business goals. Take more of an a-la-cart approach and work with the hosting company to fill those specific requirements first and any “extras” should hopefully be free or relatively inexpensive.
What are your business goals?
Are you new and want to reach potential customers? A plan like this may have you more focused on SEO or Sign Ups and electronic communication with leads. You would also need to understand how your new site is performing through analytics.
Do you have all the customers you can handle right now and you want to better service your existing customers. An outlook like this could require you to more focus on data organization and application design to automate some time consuming tasks. SEO may not be as important because all your clients already know your website.
Do you have a good handle on your business/process and your customer base? At this point and time your site might be outdated and your are just lacking that professional look that truly represents your business. A refresh of your site and a new application to better service your customers may be exactly what you need.
This question can fundamentally change the requirements of your website and its goals. and therefore dictate which hosting service or package is right for you. A website should be an extension of your business goals, not taking that into account could render your investment useless.
What are your “Call To Actions” (CTAs)
No doubt you will want people to interact with your site. A “Call To Action” (CTA) is an invitation for your customer to do something on your website. They will need to do things like click a button, download a file, signup for something or watch a video. You should carefully consider these activities for several different reasons.
- First, you don’t want to add some feature and have it become MORE work for you. I have seen companies add email contact forms and then not properly monitor them because the amount of email is overwhelming for one person to handle.
- Second, you want to make sure you can properly use the information. Again, businesses will ask tons of information in a form for fear of missing something and then they never use that information. Asking for to much information can turn off a potential lead and why risk it if you may never use that information.
- Lastly, you want to make sure you can access and protect the information. Having valuable data sitting in a database that you either “don’t know how to access” or “you don’t own the data and can’t access it” can be truly debilitating. Especially when third parties have access to this information because they offered your some “free” service and then they also use it for their own marketing purposes can have serious consequences for your businesses reputation.
Properly identifying your CTAs ahead of time will enable you to make sure your host can accommodate your fundamental “web business” objectives.
Not an easy one to tackle as the options and features that some hosting providers have can be endless and confuse matters even more if you are not prepared. This is why it’s really important to define your requirements. If you can go in saying that you don’t need X, Y and Z and let them know that A, B and C is the most important a reputable provider will make sure you get the best bang for your buck. Also, you should not need to get “the top level premium gold package” because your future goal is to be the biggest and baddest web site out there, any good and reputable provider will let you grow into a more robust package and they should also provide a solution to help you move/migrate into that better package if needed.
Now this can be a tough one. Again, you can Google your top pick and see what everyone else is saying (which I do recommend as additional information) but again, that is subject to them and their personality. My suggestion is to get your expectations all gathered up and then call the hosting company and tell them what you are looking for and see if they fit YOUR build. If you’re talking to someone and your “spidey sense” kicks in and you just don’t get that “warm and fuzzy feeling” with this person on the other end there is a very good chance that you are right!
The best advice I can give anyone on this is to “Go with your gut!” They should be taking their time to answer all of your questions satisfactorily and in a way that will help you understand, not confuse and frustrate. Their initial contact can speak volumes on what to expect in the future. Now I do understand that in rare circumstances you may get a bad egg or someone with one foot out the door, so if you do have a bad experience it may be worthwhile to give them another call the next day or so in hopes that you get a different person who may be a more true representation of the company.
Not every step is listed here and you will need to really take some time to discovery exactly what you need, beleive me, YOU are worth it! My recommendation is to partner with someone (insert shameless plug here) who is familiar with hosting technologies just like you are familiar with your business.
For full disclosure I use BlueHost.com for my hosting and personally I have not had any issues with them in the several years that I have been with them. I am also a very technical person who makes a living at solving technical issues and building and hosting websites so your millage may vary if you go it alone.
I would love to take you on as a client but if not I hope this post has helped to answer some questions or give you comfort to move in the right direction.
Best of luck!