Getting Online Part 2: Web Hosting

Getting OnlineIn this second article we’ll take a look at how to go about setting up a website and the finer details of web hosting.
If you’re thinking about setting up a website or having one designed for you, at some point you will have to cross paths with a ‘web host’ or hosting company as they are also referred to.

This is because the files and pictures which make up the content of your website have to live on a computer connected to the internet somewhere. This is what a web host does – they ‘host’ your site on one of their powerful computers.  Not only that, they make sure that the computers are well maintained, that the internet connection is as reliable as can be and all those other tasks which help keep your site available 24 hours a day.

There are lots and lots of web hosting companies out there all competing for your business and knowing which one is right for you is a key part of getting your online presence sorted.  Ultimately, any webhost will be able to serve up your site to visitors, but it’s how they do it which makes a difference to the complexity and cost.

There are a ton of options that you can go for and I won’t bore you by explaining each and every one.  Instead, I want to focus on a few questions that you should ask yourself and be able to answer confidently before taking the plunge.

What do you want visitors to do on your site?

Different websites have different objectives.  Some will be selling products, others aim to get you signed up to a mailing list and some are just there to provide information.  The nuts and bolts which make an online store function are very different to a site which just has some blurb and contact details.  The hosting package you choose needs to be suitable for the type of site you are trying to create.  Also, give a little thought to what you might need your site to do months down the line.  If you think that you might start selling online, for example, then you should try and find a web host who will be able to add this to your package in the future.

What is your budget?

When setting up a website, like most things, cost is always a factor and there is a huge variation in what you can pay.  With web hosting, you do tend to get what you pay for in terms of features, reliability and support.  No webhost is without the occasional outage, but some will guarantee 99.999% availability of your site, while others won’t mention a guaranteed figure at all.

How much storage space, how many email addresses you get, whether you can sell items or not will all influence the cost of the hosting.  Most companies break their features into packages or tiers.  The more expensive, the more features you get included.

Packages are typically priced per month or per year (which often is cheaper if you commit to the year).  Some hosts will let you change plans or packages mid-way, others are less flexible so be sure to check.

Who will be responsible for updating your site?

If you will be doing all the work yourself, that’s an easy answer.  However, if you are thinking of hiring a web designer to keep your site up to date then you need to consider some sort of maintenance agreement to ensure that everyone knows what’s included in the fee.  Make sure you confirm how many hours work are included in the price each month and what happens to any unused hours.  Also, try and get an idea as to the time-frame your designer will work to in relation to updates.  When you first hire a designer, you will usually agree a deadline to have the site done, but after that – they will most likely be on to the next client and your urgent update could be less of a priority to them.

What are your long-term plans for your site?

Many clients approach us interested in setting up a website as soon as possible; something simple, just a few pages with some information and a few photos and perhaps a form users can complete to get in touch.

That’s fine but what they sometimes forget to tell us is that over the next few months, they want to add an online store with a system for taking bookings and reservations too.  Chances are that their whole site will have to be redesigned from scratch and perhaps even their web host moved to another company too.  This will cost them a lot of extra time and wasted money.

If you know that you have some big plans for your site in the future, mention that to the people building it for you as they can factor in your goals from day one and save you time and money in the long-term.

Who do you choose?

If you’re going it alone and feel like you’re ready to start designing your own site using the tools available from a web host then there are a few companies who provide ready-made templates which you can customise.  They all offer somewhat different packages and prices, but here are a few to get you started at an entry level.  If you are hiring a web designer you should talk to them first as they will help you choose a suitable host who may not be listed below – we recommend a company called ‘This* Web Host‘ for the majority of our sites.

In The Next Article

In Part 3 we shall be taking a detailed look at email addresses for business and how you can go about getting yourself a more professional looking point of contact.