12 Jun Why is Web Hosting Important for Small Businesses?
The success of your small-to-medium size business depends upon many factors. For regular readers of our humble blog, we hope the message we deliver on a weekly basis emphasizes the importance of a well-designed, well-optimized website in achieving customer acquisition/retention, establishing brand recognition and attaining status as a market leader. However, the ultimate success of your website greatly depends upon your web hosting provider. Considering this choice as an important investment in your company may give you a fresh perspective. We’ll start at the beginning.
What is web hosting?
It’s easy to think of a website as a single entity. Actually, a website is made up of numerous different files. In order for a website to be “live” on the internet – that is, able to be accessed by people via a web browser – the files need to be stored on a server. A web server is a specific type of computer that stores information and “serves” it to other computers via the internet. A server stores all the files that comprise a website, and keeps your website connected and accessible to the online world 24/7.
“Websites are hosted on servers. When your visitors, leads, and customers search for your URL or domain, they’re connected to your server. Then, your website (or the specific web page on your site that was searched for) appears in their browser.”
Disadvantages of a business – especially a SMB – having a private server onsite are many: the need for constant maintenance by an IT expert, power outages, slow uploading speed and the risk of security breaches are all serious drawbacks that can cost you time, money and your reputation.
A web hosting service provides a data center housing a number of servers, and handles all the responsibilities of maintenance – as well as regular software and security updates for clients – under the monthly fee. Most web hosting providers offer a menu of pricing plans so businesses can select the plan that’s best for their needs while staying within budget.
What are the advantages of using a web hosting provider?
A web hosting provider allows your company to bring its ‘A’ game at all times, delivering high performance and – by extension – a high-quality user experience. Advantages include the following.
The fast page load speeds that users expect – Web hosting providers are equipped to handle a high volume of demand with lightning speed. Even if your business doesn’t involve ecommerce, your website still exists to drive sales. As we covered in our blog post – “Why Your Website Needs to be Up-to-Speed” – the average website visitor will only tolerate a load time of up to two seconds. According to Google, potential customers will visit a site less often if it’s slower than that of a close competitor’s by more than 250 milliseconds.
Speaking of Google, the world’s dominant search engine factors in page speed as one of the signals its inscrutable algorithm uses to rank pages. That means slow speeds can drag down your search engine results page (SERP) ranking.
A high level of data security – Web hosting providers automatically install security updates on a regular basis. This ensures the highest possible level of protection against cyber attacks resulting in the loss/exposure of company and/or customer data.
Protection against downtime and/or loss of data due to a power failure – Natural disasters and other events can cause prolonged power outages. Web hosting providers have power backup generators that will keep you online, even if power goes out at the data center.
A dedicated team of IT experts – From installing updates to maintaining the servers and all related equipment, a web hosting provider has a staff focused on delivering these services. Should something go wrong, the hosting provider will immediately address the issue and work until it’s resolved.
Email accounts – Many web hosting providers include email accounts in their plans. This allows your business to seamlessly and securely manage emails. Anti-virus and spam protection are typically included.
A better user experience that increases engagement and sales – The cumulative result of the advantages listed above is a website that’s easy for members of your target market to visit and use – as well as feel confident that any personal information they enter on your site remains secure. The professional image you want to present remains consistent through the positive experience visitors have on your website.
Web hosting options – which one is best for your business?
You may already be familiar with the main types of web hosting options. Each has advantages, but one will be the best fit for your enterprise.
Shared – Typically the most economical solution, shared hosting means your website “shares” a server with other websites. As covered in our blog post – “Shared Hosting – What it is and Why You Should Go for it” –it is best suited for businesses that are just starting their operations and those looking for budget-friendly hosting options, as well as those that do not expect a high volume of traffic.
The most important consideration for a shared hosting plan is a service package that offers sufficient disk space, FTP accounts, traffic, email accounts, databases and other services.
Dedicated – As the name implies, an entire server will be dedicated to your website. It also is the most expensive option, and more appropriate for websites that receive a very large volume of traffic. Companies that choose dedicated web hosting often opt for a managed hosting package. This enables providers to detect and resolve many common problems. The support team may install and update all software for you, sometimes testing updates first. Some go even further, offering advice to help you fix, optimize and maintain your website.
Virtual Private Server (VPS) – A VPS hosting environment mimics a dedicated server within a shared hosting environment. It partitions physical servers into multiple virtual servers, each having the ability to run its own operating system (OS) and applications, and provides root access.
As covered in our blog post – “VPS Hosting – What it is and What to Look for in a VPS Provider” – VPS allows you to receive all the benefits of dedicated web hosting without the related hardware or maintenance costs. You can run specific applications, set permissions, create accounts and determine your customized server environment. Security is improved, since if a hacker infiltrates one VPS, there is no access to the others using the same physical server.
Cloud – Rapidly growing in popularity as a powerful yet economical web hosting solution, cloud hosting utilizes a network of multiple remote servers. If you’re familiar with Google Docs – which stores your files “in the cloud” – cloud web hosting utilizes the same basic principle. Benefits include security, scalability, high uptime and redundancy. Cloud web hosting can give a small business a big advantage in website security, functionality and performance without the high cost of a dedicated server.
How to choose a web hosting provider
As you’ve hopefully learned here, cost should not be the main factor in choosing a web hosting service. Your company’s industry, size and plans for growth need to be considered. Aside from dedicated server hosting, a solution that fits your budget should be comfortably within reach. However, despite the advantages of using a web hosting provider, not all deliver high-quality service. As with any other vendor or strategic partner, choose your provider wisely.
Look for the following when evaluating web hosting providers:
- High commitment to customer support.
- Up-front statement of services and pricing in hosting package plans – no “fine print” or hidden fees.
- Reliability, a robust infrastructure and a technically qualified team.
- Quality of the servers; ability to offer adequate RAM, disk space and processor capacity.
- High speed and a minimum of downtime.
- Scalability for expansion and redundancy for quick disaster recovery.
- User-friendly control panel for smoother administration and operations.
- Good hosting provider reputation.
Your web hosting provider makes a difference
As mentioned at the top of this blog post, the success of your website – and ultimately, your business – depends in great part upon the quality of service your web hosting provider delivers. Website hosting is too important a job to be an afterthought for your organization.
If you are just now considering a provider, or reassessing your relationship with your current provider, be sure that the provider you choose is committed to meeting your needs and helping you reach your marketing goals.
Virtual Stacks Systems offers server-based and cloud web hosting, with budget-friendly packages so you can select the plan that best suits your needs. We have powerful data centers around the world that make our web hosting plans more effective, yet are designed to save money. We also offer 24/7 technical support to all customers. By the way, we also offer industry-leading email hosting! Contact us today to learn more.