online business (1)

Over the last month, I’ve been writing about how to get your small business online. Thus far I’ve covered the basics of how to start a blog, how to brainstorm and choose a domain name (and the best deals for domain names),

A personal story

I’ve gone through the web hosting process quite a few times since I started my online presence. I started by being hosted by one of my clients and friend MrExcel. He was kind enough to “lend” me some space on his server. And this was the perfect choice for several years when my web site was nothing more than a few static pages.

Then I started my first blog, Strategy Stew on Typepad, which was a hosted blogging platform that was popular in the early 2000’s. This was an ideal choice as I was learning the blogging ropes. I also used WordPress.com for Strategy Stew and this hosted WordPress choice was, again, ideal because it gave me the opportunity to learn WordPress without screwing anything up.

But then, I learned that if I wanted to build a business and a brand – and get search “credit” for my traffic, I would need to move to a self-hosted WordPress platform — and this is where web hosting became a big decision.

I techy friend of mine recommended 1&1 — which is where I had purchased my domains. And that was ok for a while. But I soon learned that while 1&1 was a great place to buy domains, they didn’t really focus on WordPress as a platform and, as my site became bigger and more popular I needed MORE.

This is when I switched to HostGator. By this time, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted from a web host. I also asked around and did some research looking for tips on how to evaluate a good web host and this is what I learned.

What to consider when choosing a web host for your blog or WordPress Website

  1. What is their up-time percentage? (look for a minimum of 99%)
  2. How do they define ?unlimited bandwidth? There is no such thing, so be sure to ask. Most small web sites with limited video consume about 3GB per month.
  3. How much disk space? is included? Remember, unlimited? isn’t exactly true, so ask. As a reference point, a typical startup site uses about 20MB.
  4. Do they offer 24/7 tech support (yes, weekends and holidays too). Test them out by sending an email to see how long it takes them to respond. Do the same with chat. DO NOT choose a host that doesn’t offer 24/7, holiday/weekend live support.
  5. Confirm that they have and support: FTP, PHP, Perl, SSI, .htaccess, SSH, MySQL, Cron. If you are paying for a web hosting account, you really should make sure you have all of these. These are the basic file formats and functions that you would need to run, manage and customize your website and blog.
  6. Do they offer SSL(secure server) for your plan. If you’re going to sell online, you will need this. This is often required if you’re planning on taking payments YOURSELF. If you’re using a payment gateway, you may not need it. Most hosts offer it as part of the package.
  7. Email: You will want to have an email with your domain name i.e. ivana@DIYMarketers.com. Also make sure that you get at least 3-5 email addresses with your account, you might want something like info@yourdomain.com, sales@yourdomain.com, etc.
  8. What web server and operating system do they use? You will want a Unix-based system (like Linux, FreeBSD or OpenBSD) and running the Apache web server.
  9. What kinds of reviews did they get? Ask your friends and your community who they are hosting with and how they like it. Ask them what kinds of problems they’ve had most often.
  10. What is their pricing and billing policy. Many hosting companies will offer special introductory rates. be sure to work out the total cost. Some will also charge you the annual rate upfront and they if you decide to leave or cancel, they will refund you. Definitely check on the details.

Ultimately, choosing a web host is a lot like buying a house. There are trade-offs around all of these points and you have to choose one that fits your needs.

Quick tips to help you decide

  • Skip the BS and go straight to WordPress. These days, WordPress is the standard. I’m not saying you shouldn’t choose another platform you like better. But one of my BIGGEST and most important considerations is to have a choice of people to work with to help me with WordPress technology, development, design, etc. And (no disrespect here at all) WordPress experts are a dime a dozen. They are everywhere and there are so many wonderful people to choose from that you’ll never be lacking for help.
  • If you want to build an online brand and get easily found online — be “self-hosted”. Yes, being self-hosted is a little more complicated, but these days, hosting companies like HostGator can help you every step of the way. Recently, I’ve had some technical snafus with my WordPress and I’ve found the hosting tech support people to be invaluable. So don’t sweat it, if I can do it, you can do it.
  • If the bulk of your business is offline and you truly want to DIY your blog, stick with WordPress.com, the hosted solution. My recommendation for this would be to purchase your domain name and literally forward or redirectit to your hosted WordPress site.