Your small business website needs to be hosted on a web server or simply a server (another name for computer) that is connected to the World Wide Web so that anyone can access your website.
Choosing a web hosting company for your small business website is easy if you follow the guide I have layout for you. Depending on the scale of your business, the type of business you run and your level of technical competency, there will always be a right hosting provider just for your business.
The general rule of thumb in choosing a web hosting provider boils down to:
Excellent Customer Support
Excellent Customer Support If all things being equal, I would rate customer support as my number 1 determining factor in choosing a web hosting provider. Relying on testimonials found on the provider's site is a common approach to assess a company's level of customer excellence but it is also quite an outdated one. After all it's not uncommon for some providers to fake the testimonials. Instead I suggest you follow my way of assessing their customer support.
Sizing its level of customer support is sometimes as easy as finding out whether they have enough employees to support their level of business growth. You should look at the Customer to Employee ratio, CE ratio, as a benchmark.
For example, according to our records SiteSell Inc has approximately 15,000 customers and employs about 30 support staff, it has a CE ratio of 500 (15,000/30 = 500), you can expect a much higher level of customer satisfaction and a faster response time when compared to another provider who is serving 100,000 customers but only have 75 support staff. Their CE ratio would stand at approximately 1,333. Basically you should look for a professional hosting provider with a low CE ratio.
Getting As Close As You Can The other accurate way to assess the real status of its customer service is to get as close as you can to the company whenever possible via the following means:
Live Chat - Check to see if it's 24/7. It helps to know that you can have your questions answered almost immediately with a live chat function. Test it out by answering some basic questions to see its response time and also test its level of technical competency. Not critical but it's good to have.
Email - Send them a test mail to see how fast they respond, allowed up to 24 hours. Ask about anything but just do not be afraid to ask.
Number of Telephone Lines - Check to see if there are separate telephone lines for sales, customer service and technical support. I hate companies who use only 1 line to serve everyone. A professional small business hosting provider should have this in place. It is not uncommon for reputable providers to charge for telephone support.
Forum - The real condition of any web hosting company's customer support is really found in its members forum if any. You will get a good dose of complains and praises but if the complains outnumber the compliments; it's time to raise a red flag.
Company Stability A company's stability can be measured by the length of time they have been in business, the number of customers they have served and are serving and lastly their financial standing.
Personally as a business owner myself, a web hosting company that has been around for at least 5 years would have weathered all sorts of ups and downs in the online world, and their chance of being around is much higher than a company that has been around for less than 1 year.
Financial Stability Though public listed web hosting providers have better financial transparency than the privately-owned ones, they are not necessary always in a better financial shape than them. Bottom line, you would host your small business with a company that you know is growing in their customer base. For example, Interland having been in business since 1995 is currently serving less than 200,000 websites and this number has been decreasing. It is most likely less profitable when compared to IPower in operation since 2001 and is serving over 400,000 websites as of this writing!
Another aspect of company stability lies in its ability to remain relevant in this highly competitive industry. For example, as the number of internet users increase and streaming multi-media becomes the norm, you want to place your business with a profitable web hosting company who is able to constantly improve on their offerings so that the performance of your website is able to keep up with visitors' expectations.
Robust Datacenter Datacenters are where the web servers are resided on, and ultimately where your webpages will be accessed from. A strong and credible small business web hosting company would have the ability to own and managed their data centers or through colocation.
On one hand it might seem that is the best thing any decent web hosting company would do, but on the other hand, there seems to be a trend whereby the marketing and sale aspect of the hosting business has been outsourced to resellers.
The rationale behind this is quite simple, a web hosting company should focus on what it does best, i.e. make sure all servers are up and running. And a reseller role is to sell the hosting plans and is to focus entirely on doing just that without getting bogged down by technical issues.
Almost all the state of the art data centers should come equip with high level of security, uninterruptible power supplies and most importantly employs the latest technology to enable your website to be always up and running and is always accessible by high connectivity, i.e. fast access to your website.
Affordability Before I elaborate further, it's important to establish that after qualifying a company with the above points, there is no such thing as the best small business web hosting plan, but only the right hosting plan for your business. This is probably the last thing you should look at before deciding on the hosting provider.
Generally there are 2 main types of hosting that are available for you to choose from. They are the Linux web hosting and windows web hosting. Within these 2 platforms there are also another few subcategories of web hosting types that you need to understand before you can finally decide on the right web hosting for your small business.
To continue reading this article, please visit my site Small-Business-Web-Hosting-Guide.com for a no-nonsense approach to assessing web hosting companies for small business owners.