In this world of “always on” electronics, a twenty-four-hour news cycle, and the growth of the Internet under your fingertips, it makes good sense to have a web page. Whether it’s for a personal portfolio of design work or a robust corporate page for your growing business, an online presence is no longer optional.
That doesn’t mean you’re expected to be an expert when you get started, though. Technology changes at an unrelenting pace. So when you start hunting for a place to host a website, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by all the terms thrown at you. There’s this “cloud,” “uptime” and “downtime”, “VPS,” and a whole bunch of other terms you may not be familiar with. Don’t worry, that knowledge will come in time. For now, you should focus on getting the most bang for your buck.
The last thing you want is to end up buying hosting with a service that doesn’t have the features you want or need. In fact, there are some features you shouldn’t agree to live without. If the host you’re considering doesn’t have two out of these three features, find another place to spend your cash.
I. AN INCLUDED EMAIL ACCOUNT IS A MUST
There’s nothing more convenient than getting an email account (or several) for free alongside your web hosting. Getting mail through your own domain isn’t complex and it’s an easy way to look professional. You can even slap that new address on some business cards to look even more legitimate. Most web hosts these days do offer free email accounts, but not all do and some are stingy about the total number. Be wary of sites that want to charge you tons for email access. It can be a sign of a site that will nickel-and-dime you for each add-on feature.
II. ROUND THE CLOCK SUPPORT IS A VITAL COMPONENT
What could be worse than having your website go down right before a major product launch? What if it’s on a weekend? You don’t want to be beholden to tech support available only from nine-to-five. Don’t settle for a web host that doesn’t have some form of twenty-four-hour support. It doesn’t have to be a live phone support, as this is costly. Live chat is sometimes as good if not better for the logging benefits. At the very least, an email support guarantee with 24×7 availability is critical. You should always be able to get the help you need when your site is in trouble. It’s inevitable that there will be breakdowns and problems. Having someone respond when it does makes the whole experience less frustrating.
III. A GUARANTEE OF UPTIME WILL GIVE YOU PEACE OF MIND
When web host outages occur they can be disruptive to the flow of your business. That’s even more so if you come to rely on your website as a major avenue for your business. This could be the case if you’re doing something as simple as taking reservations online, let alone if you’re running an online store. The best hosts will spell out their service guarantees upfront. This lets you know how much of the time their servers are up and running.
The value is usually listed in percentages, such as 99% uptime. That means that they are saying your site should be available all except for 1% of the year. The higher the number, the better – 99.999% or “five-nines” is the best, but it is pricey. Some of the best companies have less than an hour of downtime every year! When your site is available almost all the time, access to round the clock service is less critical. It may be worth the extra cost if you consider possible lost revenue. Shoot for the highest uptime level you can afford. At the very least, if a host buries their uptime stats or doesn’t list it a level at all, avoid them.