NEWS

07 August

Selecting a web hosting company


People often underestimate the importance of having insight into web hosting and web-related technologies. This is particularly true of web developers and people that work with web-related services on a daily basis - people that are specifically involved in technologies on and around the internet.

The fact is, in today's environment the web has become an integral part of our daily lives. Advertising does not simply consist of only print and radio media anymore – it has expanded into the digital world as well. Now you would be hard pressed to find a company that does not advertise online at all.

The average users, however, are only concerned with whether their website is functional. They simply want to see their business presented online. Your online image is the digital face of your company – one seen by millions daily. It is therefore important to gain a better understanding of the intricate mechanisms surrounding the presentation of your online image.

As there is much more technology involved in web services than on a business card, you should carefully consider where you host your services. You are basically putting your company's reputation in the hands of somebody you probably will never meet.

So how do you make sure your company is in good hands? Outlined below are a few guidelines on how to choose your hosting company.

Price
This is the first thing people look at when they need to spend money.
Remember that your website is the digital face of your company, so do not choose the cheapest solution just to save money. Quality does not come cheap.

Support
Does the company provide support? (This includes technical, administrative and general support.)

When is support available?
Look at the company's business hours. If something goes wrong at night when the company does not offer support, you could have lost a number of clients by the next day. A company that offers support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year is safer.

Features
What features will you need from your hosting company? The best way to figure this out is to make a list of all the features you will possibly need for your website and see if the hosting company can provide you with them.

Here are some features to look for:
• Are there setup fees and transfer fees for existing sites/domains.
• Does the host provide statistics? Statistics are useful to see how many people visit your site, what their geographical location is or to see how they found out about your website.
• Do they provide a control panel for you to administrate your own website?
• How many email accounts will you need and do you have web/POP access?
• Are you allowed to have sub domains? ( subdomain.yourwebsiteaddress.com )

These are only a few of the many features to think about. Ultimately you would need to decide what suits your needs.

Disk space and bandwidth
For a starting company to have 25MB of disk space may seem more than enough, but if your company excels and growth is required, your hosting company may not be able to provide more space and it will cost you extra to upgrade or switch to another hosting company.

When you have 500MB of bandwidth a month and you have a product catalog of 5MB, then only about 80 people will be able to download and view it. (You have to consider that browsing your website also takes up bandwidth.)

Hosting companies in South Africa tend to be very selfish when it comes to bandwidth due to the high price of bandwidth in South Africa. The alternative is rather to host on an international server (in the UK or USA), and get about 12GB per month for the same price as 500MB in South Africa. This is a huge difference in space, but it comes at a small price because international speeds are slower than local speeds.

Email Accounts
This is one thing a business today cannot do without.

Does the hosting company provide POP access and/or web-based email? It is preferable to have both so that you can then check in anywhere where there is internet connectivity.

The best option would be to have unlimited email accounts, but most hosting companies provide you with a set maximum. Just ensure that you have enough accounts for all the employees and departments.

E-commerce
If you are planning on doing business online through your website, e-commerce is important. The hosting company should provide you with ‘shopping cart' information, a merchant account and security measures like SSL.

Uptime
This is a hosting company's worst nightmare. Almost all hosting companies guarantee 99% uptime, which roughly equals 360 days of the year. This is inevitable, as things have to break at some point.

The best way to find out how reliable a hosting company is to search on the internet for any mentions, complaints or compliments, or to ask people that are hosting with the company.

Backups
This is something that hosting companies often neglect to mention. What if their systems crash and they loose your data at their server? Who is going to restore the lost content and more importantly your client database?

Backups need to be made at least once a week, but ideally each day as problems can arise at any moment.

By: Wayne Jacobsz

Source: bizcommunity.com

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