Choosing a web hosting plan is an essential component of your business plan. By considering the critical features, you could save money by choosing a plan that best matches your needs. Consider the following 12 features while reviewing web hosting plans for your online business.
Storage is about how much data you could store on a web server. Most plans offer a few gigabytes to begin with, and extend to unlimited options. Make estimates of how much data your website may need before you choose a plan.
You may be wondering about bandwidth, which you see on web hosting plans. Bandwidth is the quantity of data you or your website’s visitors could upload and download within the specified period, which is typically one month. Let’s say your web hosting plan features 100 MB bandwidth and the pages on your website include 10 MB data; i.e., a visitor on your website consumes 10 MB data by viewing all the pages. At the beginning of the month, you start with 100 MB bandwidth. Since each visitor consumes 10 MB of the total bandwidth, your website could entertain 10 visitors each month for the plan, following which the web host could deny other visitors or charge you more for the additional bandwidth. If you want to become a publisher, your website will be media intensive with videos and high-resolution images, and since your target audience is much more, your bandwidth requirements would be much higher. Estimate the size of your files including databases and your target number of visitors to get an approximate estimate of bandwidth requirements.
Server options include Windows hosting or Linux/UNIX. If you are developing in the asp.net framework, you will need Windows hosting; otherwise, you could choose either without having to worry about performance.
If you enjoy playing with the server, consider secure shell access, where you could log into the server using the command line and accomplish tasks such as copying files, changing file permissions, and other tasks. You may also want to consider .htaaccess, which is a configuration file on Apache servers. Using .htaaccess, you could password protect directories, re-write URLs, and redirect pages among other things. Another feature is Cron, a job scheduler, using which you could perform tasks on the server at different times.
Domains and Sub-Domains
If your business requires multiple websites, choose a web hosting provider who could accommodate your needs by allowing multiple domains. Similarly, you could also benefit from web hosting providers who allow multiple sub-domains.
E-mail accounts and features not only give your business a professional outlook, but also greatly simplify your communication, without giving rise to security issues. Look for the number of e-mail accounts and options such as integration with Google Apps for setting up e-mail and handling e-mail via IMAP or POP.
If your business requires databases, look for options available. MySQL is the most common, but other choices such as Oracle or SQL Server could be more useful.
Content Management System
Content management systems such as WordPress make your job easier. Look for systems supported by the web hosting provider with features including one-click install that could save you much time in administration and troubleshooting.
Consider plans that offer wide-ranging support for server-side languages. If you plan to use Django, you will need Python support, besides popular frameworks like PHP and Ruby on Rails. Find out software versions offered by the web hosting provider. Some providers upgrade software versions as soon as they become available, and a few may let you choose the version you prefer.
Accessing websites on mobile devices is becoming extremely popular, and you would lose out on traffic if your website is not mobile enabled. Since very few web hosting providers, such as Media Temple, offer mobile-enabled websites, feel free to ask your web hosting provider if they could offer you a mobile-enabled plan.
Uptime and Technical Support
For any online presence, it is crucial that your website be live 24/7. You may need support from time to time to resolve web-related issues or questions you may have. Review the policy and the kind of support system available. It is common to have a self-help knowledge base, and 24/7 support over chat, e-mail, and phone. Support is an important feature of any plan, and you must be aware of the level of support you could expect in the future. Your visitors must be able to access the site whenever they wish. Understand each provider’s uptime guarantee by reading the fine print.
Review the backup policy or options from the web hosting provider, because you will need to backup files and databases. If there is no backup service, figure out how you could accomplish the backup. Features such as secure shell access and Cron could be useful if you need to backup files and databases on your own.
Most web hosting providers provide templates for websites, which you could use or customize for your needs. Consider extras such as bulletin boards, forums, and mailing lists. If you are running an online store, consider e-commerce solutions including shopping carts and payment gateways. The extras could mean savings from not having to hire developers to build your website or adding features.
For each plan, read the fine print to ensure that you know what you are getting. If you are not familiar with some terminology in the features described above, look them up or feel free to contact customer support, who will be happy to explain things in greater detail.
Web hosting providers may also let you customize or build a plan based on your requirements. By understanding the features and customizing a plan for your business needs, you could negotiate a cost-effective solution for your web-enabled business.