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September 23, 2018

Selecting the Best Web Host For Your Small Business

Coud Hosting

Selecting a host can be difficult and time consuming. It's also an important decision to make. A bad host can do more harm to your company than you can imagine.

How Shared Web Hosting Can Hurt Your Business

Not all shared hosting providers are created equal.

Shared hosting puts you on the same server as many other websites. Your website might share resources with those other websites, and if the host has oversold the server space, it'll often times be much slow than expected or desired.

Shared hosting provides limited access. Shared hosts do not let you touch most server configurations. They do this because you're on a server with several other websites. Limited access allows them to maintain a certain level of security and stability.

Shared hosting has inconsistent performance. Due to the nature of sharing server with sometimes thousands of other websites, there are times when your website might run slower than usual. This is based on what the other websites on the server are doing and how much traffic they receive.

Shared hosting can impact search rankings. If your web server is frequently offline or non-responsive (slow, not mobile-responsive), that's going to make a quick negative impact. In general, slow websites can already struggle to rank. They also offer poor user experiences to those who stick around. No one, I repeat, no one, likes a slow website. Is your website slow? Check out our blog post on how to speed up your website.

How to Pick a Web Host Provider

What to look for in a good web host?

Price is one of the first things that many business owners look at when selecting a web host. It's something most people can understand. Everything else on the sales page for hosting plans are essentially written in a foreign language to non-industry customers. Shared, VPS, Dedicated, Cloud, Business Class? Linux or Windows? Plesk, cPanel, SSH, SSD, SSL... you get the idea here.

What to Focus on When Picking a Web Hosting Package

Website Functionality - Does the website have any resource demanding features? If you have large photo galleries, lots of videos, run an e-commerce shop, or community / membership website, you'll need a better hosting plan than someone running a simple website.

Website Goals & Audience - If you're running a blog, you can get by with most web hosting plans, even the low tier packages. If you're a business collecting and storing personal data, you need to be mindful of the host you select. Security and integrity matters more.

Estimated Traffic - Your hosting plan will impact how many visitors your website can handle. If you're launching a new website and don't expect a huge marketing push, you might be fine with a lower tier hosting solution.

Web Hosting Cost - This is the last thing we look at. Why? If the three items above aren't taken into account, you can't pick a web host that is going to do the job well.

Additional Hosting Features to Focus On

Hosting Support - Web hosting providers typically have a few support channels: phone, email, support ticket, or live chat. If you're someone who needs to be able to talk to support over the phone, make sure your host offers that. They don't all offer this.

Let's Encrypt (SSL) Support - Let's Encrypt is a popular service for having a free SSL certificate (https://). Many web hosts have made it easy for you to incorporate a free SSL certificate from Let's Encrypt. There are web hosts whom don't let you take advantage of this free SSL certificate service. This is likely because some hosts make a good amount of money by selling SSL certificates.

Technology-Specific - If your website is built with a content management system, you may want to see if the host offers a plan that is tailored towards your content management system.

It Pays to Pick the Right Host!

Earlier this year we had one client switch from GoDaddy to SiteGround. As a result, their website is nearly three times faster and their saving $2200 per year on hosting and an additional $360 per year on SSLs (they had 6 domains secured at $59.99/yr per SSL from GoDaddy). SiteGround isn't the solution for everyone, but as you can see for this one client, they managed to save over $2500 per year.

Web Hosting

How Much Should Web Hosting Cost?

Shared hosting, VPS hosting, and dedicated hosting costs will vary based on many factors

Hosting can easily range from just a few bucks per month to several thousand dollars per month. For many small businesses, you can expect to pay between $10 and $75 per month for great web hosting. The quality and type of hosting will impact the price.

Shared Hosting
Shared hosting providers can usually get you on a "good enough" plan for $5 to $15 per month. These hosting plans are ideal for websites that don't collect sensitive data or receive large amounts of traffic (5000+ per month may need better hosting). Many small businesses fall into this bracket.

If your budget is tight, shared hosting can work for you. If you can spend a few more dollars each month, we highly encourage small businesses to use VPS hosting solutions.

VPS Hosting
There are VPS providers who start as little as $10 per month for hosting. You can also find VPS solutions upwards of $100 per month. It really depends on the server's hardware and software. VPS hosting allows you to have more server resources available, allowing your site to load faster, handle more processes, and receive more traffic without a slowdown.  With VPS providers, the less expensive options will require you to be more tech savvy than others.

Dedicated Hosting
If your website is your entire business, or you have a large, feature rich website, you might want to make the jump to dedicated web hosting. This is where web hosting can get expensive, generally costing between $50 and $500+ per month for a dedicated server.

It's pretty rare for small business owners to require a dedicated server, but if you do collect and store sensitive information, this option will serve your customers better than shared or VPS. In most cases, you will need a person with an IT background working with you to ensure the server is optimized to your company's needs.

Web Hosting

Who Does Bocain Designs Recommend, and Why?

We've been in the game a long time and have worked with dozens of web hosts

SiteGround
For websites who are receiving less than 50,000 visitors per month, we recommend SiteGround. If you receive more than 50,000 website visitors per month, contact us for a hosting solution tailored towards your exact needs. We like SiteGround because their support is knowledgeable, they support Let's Encrypt SSLs, connecting to CloudFlare is a breeze, and the hosting is stable.

WP Engine
If you're using WordPress and want a host that offers Staging and Production environments for safe development practices, look no further. The price isn't the lowest, but if it's within your budget, it's worth it. We like WP Engine because their support team is by far the best of the best (when it comes to hosts providing specialized WordPress hosting). It's great when the support team at your web host understands exactly how your CMS functions.

Digital Ocean
For those who are technical and want a low cost, high power solution, Digital Ocean can be a fantastic solution. You will need a technical background, or someone familiar with Linux servers and command lines in order to make the most of Digital Ocean's hosting. We like Digital Ocean purely on the cost and ease of getting a Droplet (a server space) up and running. It can be great for quick tests or short term projects that need a web host.

Migrating From One Web Server to Another Web Server

Be mindful of these important things

DNS Settings - MX Records, Sub-domains, CNAMEs, TXT records, and anything else in your domain panel.

SSL Certificate Transfer - If your site was secured via SSL (HTTPS://), migrating to a new host will break that SSL. Most SSL providers offer an easy way to re-key your certificate, allowing you to use it on the new host

Complete File Transfer - If your website is huuuuge or has a lot of files, double check to ensure you have a full copy of the website on the new server before canceling the old hosting account. If you or your web developer used FileZilla to download your old website, you might be leaving files behind! In some cases, FileZilla will only show 9998 files in a directory. For active e-commerce or blog websites built with WordPress, sometimes you'll find 15,000+ files in a single /YEAR/MONTH/ (eg: uploads/2018/10) folder.

The easiest way to get a complete copy of the website is through your hosting cPanel (if applicable) and using the Backup Wizard, or by creating a zip file in the File Manager/File Explorer. We'll get into this in a future post.

Closing Thoughts

When selecting a host, it's important to keep in mind a few things: realistic budget, assumed web traffic quantity, marketing plans, security needs, and your company's technical background.

Good web hosting deals can be found, but if price is the first thing you look for, you may be servely disappointed. Selecting the best web host for your business site is important and shouldn't be rushed. As we mentioned, a poor choice can negatively impact your business's presence on the web.

Let a Professional Help You

Take the guess work out of the process by having Bocain Designs help make the perfect web host selection for your business. Contact us to get started.

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