The below sample is not currently in use on any website. Images included in the sample no longer exist and were broken, so I removed them. Calls-To-Action may or may not exist, and if they do, images associated are gone. Some formatting may be odd as well.
The purpose of this sample is to display my writing skills, not my design skills…
How To Choose The Perfect Web Hosting Service For Your New Business Website In 7 Easy Steps
You will make a costly mistake…
But I want to show you how to avoid it.
All good business owners are ready to learn. Are you willing to take the time to learn how to avoid frustration and the unnecessary loss of your hard earned cash?
Good… Let’s get started then.
I’m going to show you how to choose a web hosting service that will leave you frustration-free, save you time AND money, will be reliable, fast, and have amazing customer support. So keep reading.
But first, I want to show you what mistakes you will end up making if you don’t know what you are doing. And I made these mistakes myself.
“All good business owners are ready to learn”
Sadly, many new business owners make these mistakes as well. It is a common route for new business owners to take, making mistakes, then figuring out the right way to select web hosting services after much frustration and expense.
This is how I know not to make them. I made them, multiple times, until I dug deep, did some research, and found out what I needed in a web hosting service.
Lucky for you, you don’t have to go digging around Google to find this info. I’ll lay it out all nice and easy for you.
But first, the mistakes…
Mistake # 1 – Going Cheap
You’ll pick the best “deal”. The first thing anybody who is new to finding a web host does is go for the cheapest service. You’ll read up on how to set up your own personal website, and someone, somewhere, will tell you, you need a web host.
So, back to Google you go. You type in something like “cheapest web hosts” and up pops the top ten cheapest web hosts on some one-in-a-million ranking site.
You pick the cheapest hosting service you can find, set up your site, and 3 months later, your hopefully getting your money back, wishing you knew ahead of time that not all web hosting services are the same quality.
How do I know you’ll do this? I did it. And my “money back guarantee” was only for the 1st month. I was 3 months in. No money back for me. I was not happy with my first choice for web hosting.
Why did I not like my service? The host I picked used a user interface control panel that wasn’t industry standard. Some in-house coder set it up I suspect, or they bought a cheap interface license from a mom’s-basement company.
What is the problem with a cheap control panel? They are hard to integrate with many of the available software add-ons that only work with industry standard and popular control panels. This will be one of the things I’ll be teaching you about later on in the article. So stay tuned.
What is another reason I left? My site was super slow. When I contacted customer support about it, I sometimes had to wait a week for a response. And every time they said it was my end… So, I would research why my site could be slow, and try out some of the suggestions to make it faster.
“After a while, they stopped getting back to my inquiries entirely. I knew I made the mistake of going cheap.”
Sometimes a suggestion would say to get my web host to change a setting. So I’d contact customer support and ask for the change. 90% of the time they wouldn’t know what I was talking about, or they would tell me it wasn’t possible due to server configuration limitations.
I could understand limited server configurations on a shared server (something else I’ll get to later in the article), but after further research, I found out the settings I wanted changed were very possible on most shared servers, and my hosting company techs were not very knowledgeable, or they were running very outdated servers.
After a while, they stopped getting back to my inquiries entirely. I knew I made the mistake of going cheap.
Mistake # 2 – Horrible Customer Service
As you can see in Mistake # 1, I also made the mistake of picking a hosting company with bad customer service. I decided to move ahead in search for a better web host. I knew I needed better customer service, a popular control panel, and better server technology.
But this is Mistake # 2, so let’s focus on customer service right now. We will get to the other features of a good web host later on.
So off to Google I go. I start searching for “the best web hosts”. I reach the “top [Insert random number here] web hosts”.
I focus on the different stats listed, and find one that has Customer Service ranked at 5 stars, Price at 3 stars (meaning not the cheapest), and they also listed more current server technology.
Oh, and a popular industry standard control panel.
So I select this web host, and transfer all my web files over manually. Quite a bit of work to do that. And later in the article, I’ll show you what your web host needs to do for you, so you’re not manually transferring web files. ( That is, if you currently have a website you want to transfer).
Once my website was all set up on my selected host, I had a good experience… for a while. I was with this web hosting company for about a year with no problems. During this time, customer service seemed okay. They answered my requests speedily.
Most of my problems were simple, and usually had to do with some setting changes needed for software integration and password resets. For some reason, with this web host, my passwords on my databases kept getting reset. Not sure why, but I’d have to contact them to gain access to my website.
And I also want to note, my problems were not big in any way. I use WordPress for all my websites. Most of my problems had to do with WordPress. A fairly simple software that is well known and easy to fix in most cases.
But then, I ran into a bigger problem. My site slowed down… again. I didn’t have a sudden surge in visitors to my site. I didn’t change anything. I just went on the site to publish a post through WordPress. I started getting a connection time out, and I would lose entire blog posts, despite saving drafts. It was like the server was dumping data.
I waited longer than usual for a reply from customer service, and finally I received an “it is your fault” response. I started researching and checking if some of my WordPress plugins were causing issues.
I found a couple, but they didn’t speed up the site when I got rid of them.
“I got the same ‘it is your site’s fault’ responses, essentially leaving me in the dark to try and figure it out all on my own.”
Finally, I did a Google search for reviews on my hosting company, to see if I missed something, and found a long list of clients that switched away recently because of bad customer service from this host. They also mentioned that the customer service used to be good, but had gone bad in the last half year.
I also found other complaints of “data dumping” and slow server speeds due to the company not upgrading servers in the last couple of years and cramming more and more websites onto the same shared servers to save money.
I tried a few more times to deal with my hosting company customer service, even calling them on the phone. I got the same ” it is your site’s fault” responses, essentially leaving me in the dark to try and figure it out all on my own. I felt that nobody was looking deep into my problems. Eventually email requests started getting ignored… not good.
Now in this case, I did pick a company that was portrayed as having good customer service, but it went bad. I found out hosting companies will often start off with good customer service, but as they pick up more and more customers, their customer support quality will dwindle away as their support team is overwhelmed.
Instead of raising prices to upgrade servers and hire/train more support staff, they keep prices low to attract more customers, and force more websites onto aging servers.
I now know the solution to this problem. Read on to learn more…
Mistake # 3 – Non-industry Standard Control Panel
This mistake was already touched upon earlier. But I want to reinforce it. You must use a popular and industry standard control panel. I didn’t know this at the beginning, and I found it really annoying every time I wanted to do something that I learned about, only to find out I couldn’t with my non-industry standard control panel.
There are a lot of cool things you can do with your website. You can either learn how to code all these cool features into your website yourself ( that takes a lot of learning web code such as HTML, CSS, PHP, Java, etc.), or you can hire somebody (expensive).
The easier method includes using software that does it for you.
But you need a control panel that integrates with common software, or the ability to make changes if there are issues with current settings(cron jobs, databases, increase or decrease RAM, select php versions, etc).
You can do all of this with an industry standard control panel, and a good web host that allows access to a majority of the server settings.
I know a lot of what I said seems overwhelming. But don’t let that stop you from owning your own website. If changing these settings seems difficult, it isn’t. And a good web hosting company will help you with these changes if you send them a support request.
You can even copy and paste where you found the suggested setting online, or copy and paste the text from the site directly to the contact form/email, and your web host will make these changes.
So make sure you have an Industry Standard Control Panel. I’ll tell you which one I use later on below.
Mistake # 4 – Badly Maintained Servers
You need good servers. And your servers should be optimized for speed. My first two web hosts did not have good servers, or as in the case of the second one, they did, but let them age without upgrade.
Your web hosting company needs to keep their servers upgraded with the latest hardware and software.
The world of the web continually improves. Improvement also comes with software that requires more and more memory usage and processing power.
Even if you’re using SaaS (Software as a Service) that runs on some other server other than yours, it still needs to communicate, in many cases, with your website and the server it runs on. This all uses memory. A server is just a big computer.
And just like your computer at home, as time goes on, it slows down as you load more programs on it, and do more with it.You either purchase a new computer, or you upgrade the hardware inside it and install a newer operating system. Your hosting company needs to do the same on a regular basis and keep your servers maintained, upgraded, or replaced.
Your Web Hosting Service Selection Criteria
Now that I have told you about my mistakes, I think it is time to show you how to avoid them, and show you How To Choose The Perfect Web Hosting Service For Your New Business Website In 7 Easy Steps.
Step # 1 – Pick The High Value Web Hosting Service
This should go without saying after reading about my experience in Mistake # 1. But, I want to add a word of caution here. Just because something is expensive, doesn’t mean it is a great service for you.
Look at Mistake # 2. I picked a hosting company that had a mid range price for its hosting services. They still ended up a bad choice for me. Don’t pick the cheapest, but also do your research before picking the most expensive hosting service you can find.
Search for reviews online by typing in the company name and review after it. Be wary of the obviously biased review sites.
I, myself, like to look for results that come from forum posts, or social media conversations. These are usually a more realistic window into the real current customer base of a hosting company.
This is how I found my current host. I couldn’t find a bad review out there about them, and they have been the greatest choice I ever made. I’ve been with them for 3 years now.
That said, you probably will find bad and good reviews for any hosting company. So don’t stop at the first good or bad review you find. Dig further and look for more reviews. If you get a positive vibe from the internet community, you probably found something decent.
“You know the saying ‘you get what you pay for’. So true with web hosting”
Remember, a hosting company that charges more, can also spend more on their:
- Servers and their upgrades/maintenance
- Customer Service and subsequent training
- Quality data centres to house the servers
- Proper security to protect the servers
- Faster speed
- More reliability and up times
- More options for your scalability needs
You know the saying “you get what you pay for”. So true with web hosting.
But price isn’t the only thing you need to keep in mind. You also need to make sure you have…
Step # 2 – Outstanding Customer Service
Customer service makes or breaks a web hosting service. You will need to contact customer service at some point. Running and managing your own website involves a lot of technology. If you can’t handle this part of owning your own website, I suggest you hire a website management company.
But, if you are determined to have complete access and control of your website, you’ll need customer service. And they better be damned good at what they do.
Good customer service won’t be afraid to work with people new to running their own websites. They’ll walk you through step by step if they have to.
A good customer service team will respond to online contact within 24 hours, if not sooner. They’ll be available by phone if you have a real dire emergency. And the best part, they’ll go the extra mile by looking into issues that may actually be your fault.
Rather than just tell you it is your fault, a good customer service team will ask for details to gain access to software not owned by them, and dig into the issue for you.
“That, my friends, is amazing and knowledgeable customer service.”
Now, of course, don’t do this if you don’t fully trust your hosting company, and of course, don’t do this if you are going to have extremely sensitive information that could get you into trouble if the wrong people got hold of it.
But, also do realize that your customer service team does already have a lot of access to your site. In fact, they have complete access. So there is a certain amount of trust involved. I wouldn’t be giving them access to your SaaS account. But your SaaS customer service should be helping you anyway on that side of your software problems.
I purchased a web editing software plugin for WordPress. Amazing plugin, great company behind it. But, like any software, there can be compatibility issues.
The software customer support asked me to contact my web host customer service to make some changes to my server, and install some cron jobs to bypass something to do with code. I’m not an expert, so I couldn’t tell you what it is.
I copied the text over to my web hosting company’s customer service department. They made the changes. No fix. The software team said they were working on a fix, because a bug was causing issues with more clients than just myself.
Some people found a work-around until the newest software update was released, and that is what my software service provider recommended. But the workaround didn’t work for me.
My hosting company’s customer service went the extra mile. They asked for permission to enter my software files. I gave it. They found an issue to do with the current php version and RAM usage. They increased the allotted RAM to my site, and downgraded the php to an older version. My software worked.
I never had that type of service before. It was my end causing the problem. Later the software company released the update. They noted a problem with RAM and php version as a cause of the problems. My hosting company decreased the RAM, and put the php back to a more recent version. The software now worked again without the work-around.
That, my friends, is amazing and knowledgeable customer service.
But how do you know you’ll be getting good customer service? And how do you find a company with good customer service?
To ensure you have found a company with good customer service, you need to do the following:
- Do online research on the companies you are interested in. Specifically look for answers on forums and on social media, posted by real people.
- Ensure that your company is well established, and past that “new stage”, and that they have a good track record of keeping their customer service team staffed and trained. Usually, you’ll find mention of this in the forums by customers who deal extensively with the company.
- Make sure your hosting company specializes is high activity sites. These companies will have good experience with a variety of problems and software incompatibilities due to the high pressure nature of dealing with high activity websites.
- Look for a well researched and stocked knowledge base on the company website. This is part of customer service. These articles and tutorials will help you figure out the technical aspects of running a website. The best part is, if you have access to this knowledge base, so does customer support. And, I can assure you, customer support knows the information far better than you do. So when you ask for some help in how to do something, and you can’t find the information, they’ll know where the information is, and either point you in the right direction, or guide you along themselves.
- And, if you want to dig a little deeper, give the hosting companies a call. Ask how many people are staffed for support, and how often they are given training. Ask about turnover rate. You don’t want to deal with a company that is constantly cycling in new support staff. You want experience behind you. If the company is not willing to answer your questions, they probably are trying to hide something, and I would consider looking elsewhere.
- Also, keep in mind that you shouldn’t be paying extra for even better customer service. You should always get the best customer service, no matter what hosting package you choose with your company. A hosting company can have different support staff for different packages due to the fact that technology might be different behind these packages. But that doesn’t mean the support level changes, and your support staff needs to be up to date on the technology behind the hosting package you have chosen.
Step # 3 – The Popular Industry Standard Control Panel – cPanel
Your control panel is like the controls of your ship. You change settings, add email addresses, databases, change software versions, security protocols, link to caching systems, etc., etc., etc.
So it only goes with saying that if you want to keep your website pointed in the right direction, and impress your customers, you need a control panel that seamlessly allows you to do that.
Welcome to cPanel. The number#1 industry standard, and most popular, control panel out there.
There are some other good control panels, but nothing is as well integrated into the web infrastructure of the world as cPanel is.
Bottom line: if you want to have the most seamless and easy experience as possible when building your business website, then use cPanel.
Here are the points to remember when selecting your web hosting service in relation to cPanel:
- Make sure they offer cPanel (of course)
- Make sure they aren’t charging you extra for it. Any good web hosting company will include it as part of the package. If they are trying to charge you a monthly fee, or any other type of fee for it, you are getting ripped off.
- If your hosting company offers another option along side cPanel, choose cPanel.
- And if the hosting company you are looking at doesn’t offer cPanel, don’t use that hosting company. Simple.
Another thing you need to keep in mind: in order to use cPanel, you need to make sure you are hosting your site on a Linux server.
If you choose a Windows server, you’ll be forced to use Plesk.
“Not much more to say about it. Use cPanel.”
Plesk is good as well, but it is controlled by a major company called “Microsoft”… You know who I’m talking about.
Microsoft likes to keep a tight grip on how Plesk and its Windows server software is used. Linux is open source. This means there are lots of options and variable ways to use the Linux server software, and the cPanel control panel.
No big corporation telling you how to use your software and server.
As such, there are more compatible software solutions for the Linux servers and cPanel than there are for Plesk and the Windows server.
Not much more to say about it. Use cPanel.
Step # 4 – Regular Server Maintenance and Upgrades
Every hosting company will tell you they maintain and upgrade their servers regularly. But you need to verify that they actually do as they say, and your host is upgrading software and hardware, running efficiency checks, and uncluttering the memory systems, and replacing old servers with new servers.
Your hosting company must be willing to spend the money to keep everything in top notch condition.
You also want to make sure your hosting company checks in on your website for security and compatibility issues as they make these upgrades.
I will get an email about once or twice a month from my hosting company informing me that they are installing a security patch to my website.
They made an upgrade, and as such, they need to install a new security patch to cover any potential breaches in my website security.
I’ll also get an email saying they found compatibility issues, and they are installing a patch to ensure my website runs smoothly.
Many hosting companies make upgrades, and not bother to check how those upgrades will impact you website. You’re in the dark, until you log in and find somebody hacked your website.
Oh ya, forgot to mention that. With my two previous hosting companies, I was hacked twice. Not a pretty site when you go to your website and find a black screen with the message, “You’ve been hacked, SUCKA”.
My previous hosting companies didn’t upgrade they servers, software, or security. Or if they did, they didn’t give a damn about how it left my site open to attack.
Not an issue with my current hosting company.
“‘You’ve been hacked, SUCKA’.”
Speaking about security. You also need to make sure the hosting company you pick has physical security around their server data site. Locked gates, cameras, limited access keys, etc.
My company does, and it makes me feel more secure to know my site is protected from online and physical world attacks.
Find out if the company your interested in upgrades and maintains their servers by:
- Once again, researching in forums and social media. Ask others what they know about a hosting company’s server maintenance and upgrade schedules.
- Call your hosting company to ask them about their schedules. And if you want to put them on the spot: ask them the date of the last scheduled maintenance or upgrade. If they haven’t done it in a while, they’ll have trouble answering the question. Of course, give the person on the other end of the phone the chance to go look up records. They may not know off hand if they aren’t part of the maintenance team.
- Compare the list of server software and hardware listed on the company website, or obtained by phone conversation, with the latest technology listed online. If your software is lagging far behind the latest technology, you might want to think twice about going with your interested hosting company.
- Check their site, or give them a call, to find out how they keep your website secure from online and physical attacks.
Step # 5 – Scalability, Settings, and SSL/TLS
Not all hosting packages are equal. Most hosting companies will give you the option to choose how much hosting you need. If you just want to put up a business website featuring your restaurant, but that websites traffic isn’t paramount to your success, then you’ll do well with a smaller package on a shared server.
On the other hand, if you plan for your site to take on thousands of visits a day, you’ll probably want a high traffic package on a private server (also called a “dedicated server”).
What are the differences:
- Shared Server: Your site is hosted on a server shared by other sites. Depending on server size, this can range from 2-3 sites, to 20. Of course, bad hosting companies will force more sites than the server should have on it in order to make more money. You will also be limited to some of the changes you can make to the server settings, as some setting would impact other sites other than your own. Think of it as the family computer in your home. You, your spouse, and each of you kids may have their own profile on the computer. But there is one admin account who can make all the changes, and each sub account can only make some changes without admin permission.
- Private Server: Your site on your own personal “dedicated server”. More expensive. But you’ll be able to handle way, way, way more traffic. You have full control over settings. This is the private office computer where you do all your work. Only you are allowed on it, and you make all changes, and have full control. Also, you may notice, that your private computer works a lot smoother because it isn’t bogged down by more than one profile, with multiple settings, and multiple use types.
So what should you pick?
Because you’re a new business owner, and you are just getting started in website building, I suggest you pick a small shared hosting package. Get your website up and running, and figure out the quirks of running and managing your website.
If you didn’t plan on much traffic and usage, then you probably don’t have to ever upgrade past this point.
But if you start to notice a lot more traffic, and your site is having problems due to the heavy traffic load, you will need to “scale up”. A good web hosting company will make this easy and seamless.
Tell your host you need a better package, and they’ll help you pick the next best one. Most likely, at the beginning, you’ll bump up through shared hosting packages. Eventually, if your site really takes off, you’ll move to a private server(dedicated server).
Good hosting companies will also transfer your site to the new servers without any major work on your end.
“…a lot more traffic, …site is having problems due to the heavy traffic load, …’scale up’.”
You may just have to make some quick DNS changes with your domain registrar if they end up moving you to a different server in their mainframe. That should be all that is needed.
So how do you make sure the hosting companies you’re interested in offer easy scalability:
- Check out their website. What do they offer for hosting packages? You want at least 3 shared hosting options. Each option a little better than the last. Private servers are just like picking powerful computers. You’ll want a few options in this lineup as well, going from least powerful to most powerful.
- Even better hosting companies will give you options in control of your server. From full control to they control and you request. But never fear, even if you ask for full control, they’ll still be there to help you out whenever you need it. I would suggest going with a semi controlled server where they’ll give you control of the easy settings, and you can request more complicated changes when you learn you need them adjusted.
- There may be a lot of other options that the hosting company your interested in offers. But don’t be overwhelmed with those. They are for other application not related to running your business website.
On top of the server packages they offer, your hosting company should also offer you the ability to:
- Increase speed – usually you’ll have to pay extra for more speed. This can be offered as more dedicated resources to your site even without a server package upgrade. Sometimes you’ll have to upgrade your server package though, depending on where you are in your server’s limits when making the speed request.
- Increased memory – This will help with speed, but also visitor load. Once again, can be upgraded for more money without a server change, but may also include a server change if they physically can’t give you more memory on the current server.
- Multiple Databases – This is important. Web software you install on your site will often need a database created on your server to host it. If you only have the ability for one or two databases, you’ll run out quick. I recommend at least a minimum of 5. Many hosting companies will offer unlimited databases on their mid range or higher packages.
- Multiple websites. You can host more than one website on a server. The smallest packages hosts can offer usually allow for one website to be hosted. Mid range and higher packages should offer unlimited websites to be hosted. If you only plan on one website, then you don’t need multiple. But if your business will plan on operating multiple websites, you’ll want a higher package.
- Your going to have a choice between a Linux and Windows operating system for your server. Choose Linux. It is needed for Cpanel – your best industry standard control panel. It also will include php, which a lot of software requires. Windows servers will often need additional modules and setting changes to operate with php based software like WordPress. Can be done, and sometimes included with your hosting provider. But why the extra hassle, and potential for glitches, when you can just use Linux. Linux is the most popular server operating system for web hosting. Go with the crowd on this one. Windows also uses a different control panel, which is mixed on reviews about its quality. Bottom line: It isn’t Cpanel. You want Cpanel.
- Pay for the extra services if you need it. Mistake # 1 if you need a reminder. Don’t be cheap. All successful businesses spend money on the resources and tools they need.
You also need to be aware that your site should be secured. Earlier, we talked about security. But the security I’m talking about now is not your security, but your visitor’s security.
When you visit a secured website, you’ll often see “secured” and a lock beside the web address. Also, before the web address will be “https” .
If you visit an unsecured site, you’ll see an exclamation mark or some other warning sign beside the web address, and you’ll see “http” in front of the web address.
You want your site to be read as secured without conditions. Your web host should offer you the ability to have free SSL security, as well as a paid version when your site becomes more complex.
SSL security will protect your visitors from hackers who want to steal their information. Read more about SSL security here.
Step # 6 – Free Transfers
If you already have a website, and you’re looking for a new host, your new host needs to offer a free website transfer service. They’ll move your files from your current host to their servers for no charge. Why am I listing this as a essential feature.
Because migrating a website is a lot of work. And you are a busy person. A hard working person who needs to keep the business running. You don’t have time to migrate a website. It isn’t easy, trust me.
“You don’t have time to migrate a website. It isn’t easy, trust me.”
You have better things to do. And with plenty of web hosting companies out there that offer free website transfers, why should you pick one that will charge you for a transfer, or plain doesn’t offer website transfers at all.
It is just good customer service (Step # 2). If they wan’t your business, they should be willing to work to get it. And a company that works to get your business earns a point in my books. It should in yours too.
Not much more to say here. Make sure they offer a free website transfer when you switch over to them. That is, if you have a current site.
Now on to the guarantee…
Step # 7 – A Great Guarantee
Never obtain the services of a hosting company that doesn’t have a money back guarantee. If they are confident in their services they will have one. And make sure it is a good and fair guarantee. I’ve been burnt before as I stated in Mistake # 1.
Your hosting company should have a 30 Day money back, and then prorated thereafter.
This means, that within the first 30 days after acquiring their services, you can cancel at any time, and you’ll get all your money back.
And then, after the 30 day period, you can ask for your money back at any time, and you’ll get a prorated amount back.
So say you pay for a year of hosting for $200:
- If you request your money back in the first 1st month after purchasing the service, you’ll get back $200
- If you request your money back 3 months after purchasing the service, you’ll get back $150
- If you request your money back 7 months after purchasing the service, you’ll get back $84
This is a fair guarantee. If you aren’t getting this, then don’t hire that hosting company.
By following the criteria listed above, you’ll be able to find a hosting company that deserves the patronage of a business owner like you. A hosting company that offers the features and benefits I mentioned are worth your time and money. You’ll have little to no downtime, a fast website, and excellent support.
You will wake up, go to work building your business, and do so with an ease of mind that your website is doing its job, and without your constant monitoring.
So get to work, start finding that perfect hosting company now.