It doesn’t matter if your business is tiny and needs nothing more than walk-in customers — you need to get on the Web. If you’re not very convinced, you should consider this — thousands of unorganized stores, street food stalls and streetside service providers such as shoeshine boys in Third World countries in South Asia and Africa put themselves on the Web each year through easy-to-use services so that people who like what they do can find them online and place orders. They understand that getting on the Web gives them a huge credibility boost. You could see this, too.
If you’re not sure how to get your business online, a little information about the different features that you will encounter while attempting to get your business online can help.
You need a hosting service
You could build a website on your own computer. For the world at large to be able to see it, though, you would have to connect the site to the Internet. The easiest way to do this is to find a web hosting service that would take your site online, and always keep it up and running.
If you’re building a complex, high-quality website with special effects, the developer that you’ve hired to create it for you will advise you on hosting service choices, too. If you’re trying to put it together at minimum expense, though, you’ll need to make the right choices yourself. You’ll find that web hosting services offer all kinds of features that you may be unfamiliar with; you will need to find your way around them.
Here’s a quick glossary
Storage: The amount of hard disk place your website will occupy. If your website has plenty of streaming videos and high-quality photos, it will occupy multiple gigabytes. You need to look for a hosting service that offers you enough space.
Bandwidth: The amount of data that visitors will tap from your website each month. If you have plenty of videos, and have many visitors, you will quickly use up your quota.
Most web hosting services today offer unlimited storage and bandwidth, an offer that needs to be viewed realistically. Unlimited usually means “not very limited.” If you upload gigabytes of stuff with thousands of visitors downloading videos all the time, you will have your services terminated. You will need to find higher-priced hosting.
Domains and subdomains: Often, businesses run multiple websites. Most hosting accounts will allow customers to buy several websites and host them, all on one account. Forcing many websites or domains to share one hosting account, though, is not ideal. A number of limitations come into play.
A site builder: If you only want a simple website, many hosting services will help you with a cheap automated program. You get to throw something quickly together. Many tiny businesses do use this option to good effect.
One-click WordPress: WordPress is content management software for blogs and websites, and can achieve remarkably professional looking results very cheaply. Set-up can be very simple if one-click installation is offered.
Language support: If you see your business growing even a little bit, you will want your hosting service to offer support for as many server-side languages as possible — PHP, Ruby, Python and so on.
.htaccess: A security feature for use on certain servers. It’s important to have this.
Shared hosting, dedicated hosting or cloud hosting?
If you’re just getting started, and you want to get online with a minimum of fuss, a shared hosting service is ideal. The hosting itself should cost no more than $10 a month, together with an integrated site builder.
If you believe that your website will soon get to point where you have serious traffic, though, such shared hosting will not do. In the past, businesses had only two options — shared or dedicated hosting. This meant that you could either share server computer equipment at the web hosting company with thousands of other websites, or you could sign up to rent your own server, along with all the bandwith and resources that you needed. It costs a couple of hundred each month.
According to Source Data Products, a leading hosting services provider, today, there’s a much better solution — cloud hosting. Cloud hosting grants businesses scalable hosting. This option can be very useful for businesses that plan to quickly expand. Should your website quickly gain in size and popularity, cloud hosting can help it expand over multiple iSeries and other servers. Costs tend to be flexible — you pay little when there are few visitors to your website, and more when demand goes through the roof. Cloud hosting can be highly cost-effective, and is an excellent choice for fast-growing businesses.
Finally, if you’re wondering about the possibility of getting free hosting, it shouldn’t be an option for businesses. It should barely be an option for private, individual websites. Not only does free hosting limit you in the technology that you’re allowed to use, the kind of results that you wish to achieve, and in the lack of support, the approach is simply unreliable and compromises the integrity of your business by putting third-party ads on your website.
Ruby Spencer is regularly tasked with finding the right web hosting solution and likes to share her tips and insights with an online audience. She writes regularly for several B2B websites.