Overview: How To Find the Best Web Hosting Service That’s Right for Your Small Business Website or Blog
Choosing the best and affordable web hosting for your small business website (or a personal blog) can be a daunting task, especially if you’re not tech savvy. It can take a lot of asking from people you know, checking out best web hosting reviews as well as making a list and comparisons of top web hosting package.
And God help you if, after all that, you don’t get sucked into buying an unreliable web hosting service.
There are far too many information available on how to find the best cheap web hosting for small businesses, yet only few provide objective reviews on cheap web hosting companies and services. Thus, many small business owners buy bad hosting and their websites suffer many days of down time.
What you need is a checklist of things to look out for when considering to buy the best web host for your small business website. There are so many web hosting companies and each one offers interesting plans, sometimes really cheap and often with similar offerings.
In this post, you have that checklist of 11 factors to consider in order to ensure that you choose the best cheap web hosting service for your business. Use this checklist as a benchmark to look at each potential web host side by side, comparing their hosting packages, prices, support, service levels, facilities and performance history, terms of service and more.
Here we go:
11 Steps to Choosing the Right Web Host for Your Small Business Website
A. Price and Payment Plans of Web Hosting
Step #1: Price and Hosting Payment Plans
Although price is an important factor in deciding on a suitable web hosting service, let your decision be guided first by the quality factors (below), so that you will get a good web hosting service PLUS at an affordably cheap price.
Beware! Many hosting companies with poor facilities, frequent down-times and inadequate service delivery are using low price (and excessively large web server space) to lure ignorant small businesses. There are top web hosting companies that offer even cheaper web hosting.
In terms of pricing, only go with a hosting company that offers diverse payment plans, including monthly payment. That will allow you to try the service for a short time (and small fee) before committing long term upfront payments. There’ve been cases where website owners pay for a service long term, only to discover later that the hosting service quality is poor. Thus, they get stuck there until their payment expires.
B. Features of Good Web Hosting Services
2. Hosting Plans, Shared or Dedicated Server Space?
You should not go for a “one size fits all” hosting service. You don’t want to be paying for huge server space when you only need a small fraction of that. Start with a plan that suits your current needs’; you can upgrade later.
Confirm that the hosting company offers a wide range of hosting plans categorized by data size and bandwidth, so that you can pay only for what you’ll consume. Your present website traffic volume, type of data (videos, text, images etc.) and size of data (and pages) on your website is what will determine your specific web hosting requirements.
New and small business websites are not resource intensive and so do not usually need a dedicated server space. At least, not for some time. Don’t be dragged into paying for a dedicated server when you only need shared hosting.
- To get a feel of the hosting plans according to various categories of users’ needs, take a look at Hostgator’s hosting plans.
3. Standard Control Panel and Ease of Use
Control Panel (or cPanel, for short) is used by the top and best web hosting companies because it is beginner-friendly and makes it easy for the customer to use the backend features and controls, without a need for a learning curve. You don’t want to buy a web host only to get confused about how to log in and navigate through the features and controls from your dashboard.
For example, I use Hostgator, which has one of the simplest cPanels. I am a tech noob but on my very first login, it didn’t take my a second to see the video and tutorials – all I needed to do was watch the video tutorial to getting started, and the ones for specific topics. All the tabs for you to make your settings and options are labelled and placed in a conspicuous location that you can’t miss. In fact, they even have the “Live Chat” icon strategically placed so that you can click and get real time step-by-step help with a human support staff, any time you get stuck.
- You may want to read feedback of a cross section of real Hostgator users, from this post, and in the comment section: Hostgator Reviews From Real Users.
4. One Click Blog Installation Software
Today, every one and their grandmother have websites. Why? Because you do not have to know all the difficult technical steps or hire a techie before you can install your website software (e.g. WordPress). Thanks to good web hosting providers.
Fantastico is the most popular installation software that only the top web hosting companies provide, in order to make it easy for their customers to install website / blog applications in just a few mouse clicks. I don’t know how I would have survived setting up my blog, without Hostgator’s Fantastico Deluxe tool.
5. Script Version
By all means, find out which script version the web hosting company is running – ask their customer service staff. Avoid web hosting companies that are running older versions of PHP. As at the time of writing this post, PHP 5 is the latest version but some web hosts are yet to start using it.
C. Quality Of Service Levels, Facilities and Performance
6. Trial and Money Back Guarantee
Good web hosting providers offer a trial period (at least 30 days) to enable potential customers test-drive their services at a discounted cost, before deciding to pay for longer term. Be sure to find a web hosting company that, in addition to that, offers to refund you 100% of your money back, in case you
Money Back Guarantee: If a web hosting company is providing money back guarantee it means they are confident of their service levels. Read their terms of service and confirm that if after certain number of days, you are not comfortable with the web hosting service, you can always get your money back.
Hostgator offers a 1 cent trial using a special coupon code (“NOW1CENTHOSTING”) and 45 days money back guarantee if you find their service unsatisfactory.
7. Is It Easy To Upgrade to A Different Hosting Plan?
Unfortunately, some web hosting companies make it a pain for their customers to upgrade from one hosting plan to another. Customers’ needs and capacity requirements change over time, for many reasons. Always confirm this from the customer service via live chat or phone.
Before deciding on a hosting company, be sure that the web host operates a stress-free upgrade, should you start getting massive website traffic and increased data size. Do not be tricked into buying a dedicated hosting plan, for a start – buy your size now, and upgrade later, when you need to.
8. Historical Reliability and Uptime Guarantee
Since your website is your online sales front, you wouldn’t want to tolerate a hosting service that will put you out of operation many days in a year. Therefore, always ensure to research from past customers, what their reliability has been like. Hostgator provides 99.9% uptime guarantee; that’s one of the highest in the industry – you should not take anything less than that.
Let me tell you something: some websites owners, from time to time, experience frequent down-time at their sites, whenever their hosting companies are undergoing maintenance. The truth is that if the web host has enough backup and disaster management facilities, service levels will not be disrupted for any reason.
9. Data Security
I bet you don’t want to imagine that your website got hacked from your web host’s end? That’s scary but it happens. In fact not too long ago, this happened to one of the “so called big name web hosting companies”, and the customers’ websites were affected. Your data security is one factor you should never gamble with, so research the history of any web hosting company before you sign up.
Smaller and, sometimes, new hosting service providers tend to lack robust and secured data centres. Ensure to go with a hosting company that has a quality delivery track record.
10. Skill and Response Time of the Web Host’s Technical Support Team
You don’t want to have a reason to contact your web host’s customer and either never get a response or getting one after many days of being in distress. Again, this happens – some customer support desks do not run 24 hours daily. If your website will be up 24/7, then you need a web hosting support centre that is accessible 24/7.
From my experience with Hostgator support, sometimes I get an email step by step feedback as soon as I am refreshing my browser. Their live chat support have come to my rescue many times I wanted instant response. The first time I started my website, sometimes I was on to the Hostgator tech support by email and live chat several times a day, yet they always sounded pleasant and asked me to let them know if I had more queries.
If you’re new to owning a website and especially if you’re not techie, you need a fast and responsive technical support that will always take you by the hand, step by step, whenever you need it.
This is where it can get tricky – be sure to confirm the types of support the web hosting provider offers to their customers; confirm times of day the support staff are open; also confirm if they have live chat support. Also confirm the size of their tech/ customer support staff – that’s because if they have few staff, customers are bound to get response long after they’ve forgotten they asked for it.
It’s one thing to get a tech support response and it’s another for them to really offer you help that will solve your problem – therefore ensure to confirm that the web hosting provider has skilled technical support staff.
Finally, before you signup to the web hosting service, try to contact their customer support by live chat or otherwise, and confirm what their response time and advice are like.
11. Credibility of Web Hosting Company
It is also crucial to consider the market standing of the company. Who you can’t get cheap from the best hosting companies. Yes, you can. Do not equate cheap to mean low quality. I get the best service from my cheap Hostgator hosting. You shouldn’t go for less.
How To Use The Above Web Hosting Reviews Checklist
Note that you do not have to be a techie to determine how any web hosting company stands, with respect to each of the 15 web host decision factors. You can get some of the facts on each checklist from looking at current and previous customers’ reviews. In some cases, you’ll want to contact their customer support to confirm – better if they have a live chat support.
If you print and follow the above checklist when buying a web hosting service for your small business, you’ll be able to eliminate the low quality providers.
Best Quality Cheap Web Hosting Services that Satisfy All Above Factors
Now that you know what to consider when looking for the right and affordable web hosting companies, here are the top 3 award winning web hosts that have, over the years stood the test of time, and completely satisfy all the above factors:
#1: HostGator. Because Hostgator satisfied all the above small business hosting requirements, I chose to host this blog with them and I’m extremely satisfied with the quality of service. I’m no techie and cannot count how many times I have unintentionally shut my site down because I messed up with the coding BUT Hostgator’s ever responsive customer support fixed them all and got my site up and running in no time – for free too.
- If you’d like to read a review of Hostgator services, click here.
HostGator has a really affordable pricing, variety of hosting plans and are very reliable. Their customer service is second to none (both email, phone and live chat). Sites on hostgator plans load fast.
With the above good small business web hosting checklist, you now know what to look out for when choosing a good, cheap web hosting service.
By the way, if you decide to go for Hostgator, you can get your hosting cost a whole lot cheaper by using the special discount coupon codes listed below:
- LESS994DISCOUNT OR NOW1CENTHOSTING – you’ll get your first month hosting cheap for 1 penny (almost free), on any plan
- LESS25DISCOUNT – you’ll save 25% on any hosting plan you choose.
- Here’s the link to the Hostgator website (click to go there).
I hope you found the web hosting checklist in this post useful.
Thanks for reading and do let me know which web hosting you decide on.