How to choose the right web hosting for your online business

Web hosting providers are often overlooked, even though they’re arguably the most important part of eCommerce. A web hosting service holds all of your website’s text and images on its database, ready to be called as soon as a user lands on your site. They’re also the ones that are typically to blame if your site crashes or takes too long to load.

If you’re serious about growing your business, it’s important to think carefully about which web host is right for you. This is the one area where the first cheap plan you come across just won’t do — choosing the right web host needs some serious, in-depth research. But how do you know when it’s the right one? Read on to find out…

Speed and reliability

When you’re choosing a web host, speed and reliability are really important. Research has shown that there’s a direct link between how fast a page loads and the revenue generated. Your host’s reliability is also key, because any ‘downtime’ (when your host fails to load your website) means your customers won’t be able to complete online transactions, meaning you’re missing out on business.

Today, customer expectations are higher than ever and people are more and more likely to walk away from a purchase if a site takes longer to load than they’re happy with. That’s why the speed and reliability of your site are more vital than ever.

You should aim for the highest minimum uptime figure available, for instance, 99.5 percent is the lowest you should accept in today’s climate. Most reliable hosts will offer you a refund if they don’t live up to this expectation, so they’ll aim to keep their servers working as close to 100 per cent of the time as they can.

Truly unlimited?

Many web hosts claim to offer ‘unlimited’ bandwidth (the amount of data you can transfer between your site and its users) but very few actually do. It’s important to clarify what you get as part of your deal, so you can avoid being hit with additional bills for exceeding a ‘fair usage’ limit hidden in your policy statements. Make sure you always clarify what you get as part of your deal and always, always read the small print.

As a general rule of thumb, most sites that don’t host videos or music files generally use less than 3 GB per month. This could be a good starting point when you’re thinking about the level of usage your business will need. In terms of disk space, most average sized sites won’t need more than 20MB, even though your web host might offer you as much as 100GB. Keep this in mind to avoid assuming you will quickly use the entire bandwidth and purchasing more unnecessarily.

 Your checklist

When paying for web hosting, the last thing you want is more charges for adding new features to your site. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you read the small print and know if you can make additions to your site later to make it more bespoke, or as your business needs change.

One of the most important features for a retailer is the ability to set up a secure server, known as SSL. You’ll know when these are in action on other sites because the http:// before the domain name changes to https://. This is sometimes more expensive than standard web hosting, but you might not need it if you decide to use an online payment provider.