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Choosing a web host often gets lumped in with all the generic administrative tasks (such as registering the domain) that must be dealt with as swiftly as possible in order for more important matters can be addressed— but it’s a huge mistake to do so.That’s because the hosting you select will affect a great number of things about your website, and by extension your entire operation, both online and offline. It isn’t a choice to take lightly.
Here’s why taking the time and doing the research to identify the best host for your business website is something you need to make an urgent priority:
When it comes to traffic, speed (or rather the lack of it) kills. There are millions of websites to visit, and countless avenues to explore, so why would anyone stick around on a website that makes them wait unnecessarily?
You might think that you can tweak your website to avoid speed issues. Run your images through a compression tool, clean up your code, remove elements that don’t justify the resource expenditure needed to keep them running.
But while you can certainly take steps to optimize your pages, even the most efficient website will drag if the web hosting handling its traffic isn’t up to par. And the occasional drop in performance might be acceptable for a hobby site or a blog, but not for a business site.
If your website simply serves as your hub, then sluggish reactions will speak poorly of your commitment and resources, and if you’re part of the ecommerce world, they will lose prospective customers in droves.
In light of a number of high-profile online data leaks and abuses in recent months, and the upcoming implementation of Europe’s GDPR legislation, a lot of people are talking at length about data protection issues. It’s an issue that’s only getting bigger.
When someone visits and uses your site, they are placing their faith in you in a sense; accepting that you can access not only the resulting analytics data but also, in many cases, a remarkable assortment of personal details.
Failing to protect the data with which you are entrusted will not only ruin your company’s reputation but also potentially leave you open to legal action. Even if your location doesn’t have stringent laws at the moment, they could be enacted at any time, leaving you at risk (the FTC is a consistent threat regardless).
And it doesn’t matter how closely you guard passwords and how consistently you update whatever platform it is on which you run. It only takes one weak link to compromise a chain, and a security flaw in your hosting is a flaw in your website by proxy.
When you first set up and test a website, you may find that it runs very smoothly, but you’re not getting any idea of how it will perform under extreme load; you may not find that out until the point at which you’re attracting a great deal of traffic, by which stage a meltdown will threaten disastrous consequences.
And even if you test the site under load early on, you won’t be able to know if that’s a level of performance the host can reliably achieve. After all, there are plenty of budget hosting providers that provide low levels of dedicated bandwidth because they are spreading their resources very thinly across numerous websites and hoping that they don’t all get active at the same time.
If you don’t thoroughly vet a host’s procedures and guarantees before making use of it, you might find your website turning into an unresponsive mess at the worst possible time, causing you a great deal of stress and losing you a lot of money.
Even if your host offers top-of-the-line reliability, speed and data protection, your site will go down at some point. Outside of military networks, there’s likely no hosting setup on the planet that can guarantee 100% uptime, if only because earthquakes happen, power grids go down, and you can never account for all the variables.
For that reason, the support system your web host offers is critically important. You need to know a variety of things about it, including:
- How quickly your support tickets will be dealt with
- What they can do for you while your website is down
- Where their client priorities lie
- When they are (and are not) available
- What their legal obligations are
- In what circumstances, if any, you are eligible for compensation
Having a reliable support system is so important that it’s one of the biggest reasons why online retailers have so decisively moved away from self-hosted extensions of CMSs like Drupal and made Shopify—a full-service online store creator—the dominant ecommerce host. Businesses need to know that they can trust their hosts to back them up when things go wrong.
The web hosting you select for your business website will have a knock-on effect on its success for years to come. Thankfully, there are plenty of great hosting providers out there (regional, national, and international), so there’s no shortage of options.
Figure out what you need, allocate the largest budget you can, read plenty of reviews and comparisons, and make sure you make the best possible choice. You’ll be glad you did.
Victoria Greene is an ecommerce marketing expert and business owner who finds that empathy and data integrity are key sales drivers. You can read more of her work on her blog Victoria Ecommerce.
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