Are you overwhelmed trying to choose the best web hosting option for your small business? This article explains what you need to know and recommends our preferred web hosting for small businesses.
Shared vs. dedicated web hosting
Web hosting companies have servers that store your website’s data and allow others to access your website. You first need to decide if you want your own server, a dedicated server, or to share a server with other website owners, a shared server. Dedicated servers are more expensive, but if you lease one your site will have its full resources at its disposal. This give you maximum disc space and bandwidth.
What is disc space?
Disc space is the amount of data you can store on your server. Most small and medium sized business websites do not need even close to a server’s full capacity. In fact, most small business websites don’t take up more than 3 GB of disk space and few take up more than 10 GB. Exceptions to this rule are sites with many high quality, high resolution images (photographers, large online stores) or internally hosted videos (meaning they are not on YouTube or Vimeo).
What is bandwidth?
Bandwidth is the rate at which data can be transferred between a website and computers connected to it, within a specific time. 99% of websites use less than 5 GB of bandwidth per month. If your website doesn’t consistently generate six figures of hits per month, you likely don’t need the large bandwidth provided by a dedicated server.
If you are making a podcast, we recommend going with a host that specializes in podcasts.
If you need help determining how much disk space and bandwidth your site will need, book a FREE CONSULTATION and we will help you determine your hosting needs.
Shared web hosting for small businesses
Since 95% of small and medium sized business can use a shared server, the rest of this article will focus on finding the best shared hosting company. If you want a dedicated server, contact us and we will help you find the best provider.
Many companies offer shared web hosting for small businesses. These include household names like GoDaddy, HostGator, Squarespace and WIX. As a small business owner, you need to figure out which gives you the best quality hosting without buying things you don’t need.
Because web hosting is essentially a commodity business, the big players spend a lot of money on advertising to differentiate their product. Once they attract you to their site, most try to sell you additional products you don’t need if you work with a good developer. Daily site backups, malware scans and over-priced WordPress development services are all items you do not need if you work with a professional web developer.
Beware of hidden costs. Most big hosting companies offer reduced pricing for the first year. If you read the fine print, this pricing steps up dramatically in future years. Many small businesses ignore this and think, “Well, if my business succeeds I will move the site later or just pay the higher hosting costs.” We don’t recommend this mindset as it creates problems down the road. Our most successful customers plan for their businesses to succeed and choose their vendors accordingly.
Another thing to beware of is hosts that offer very cheap pricing, but then require you to purchase additional items to get your site up and running. For example, the Spanish hosting company Don Dominio offers website hosting for around £22 per year, but this doesn’t include a database. So once you start building the website you are forced to upgrade to a more expensive plan.
There is no such thing an unlimited bandwidth or storage space! Computer servers have finite storage space and bandwidth capacity. Hosting companies know the amount of disk space and bandwidth the average website uses. They know that their average customer uses very little server resources, so they offer claims of “unlimited” disc space and bandwidth to make customers think they need to pay for capacity they will never use. Simply put, claims of unlimited storage and bandwidth are nothing more than marketing gimmicks.
Should you pay for website building software?
If you are planning on making your own website, and do not have extensive experience, you will need to pay your host for a website builder. Making your own site might seem like the cheapest short term option, but it can cost more in the long term. For example, if you choose GoDaddy as your host, their hosting plans start at £5.99 per month. Using their website builder costs an additional £6.99-£19.99 per month. Wix and Weebly are other popular hosting companies for people that want to make their own sites. However, their hosting is much more expensive than hosts that don’t offer website building software.
These numbers can add up over the years, meaning you don’t save that much in the long run by making your own site. Moreover, sites made on platforms such as Wix, Weebly and Squarespace lack the functionality that WordPress sites provide.
Many small business owners don’t fully value their time and expertise. In 95% of cases it is not an efficient use of your time to learn to make a site and maintain it. Think of it this way: before the internet, if you wanted to sell a product or service, you needed to find a shopfront. You wouldn’t build your own building- you would leave it to a construction company. Following this logic, why would you build your own online store?
Our recommendation is to leave the website building to a professional so you can focus on building your business.
What you really need (and what you don’t)
A small website with minimal to low traffic (less than 200 page views per month) will likely need only the following:
- 3 GB of disc space
- 1 GB of bandwidth
- One database
- A basic SSL certificate
- An email address
- Excellent customer service
A medium size website with traffic less than around 2500 page views per month will likely need no more than the following resources:
- 10 GB of disc space
- 5 GB of bandwidth
- Two databases
- A subdomain
- A basic SSL certificate
- Two email addresses
- Excellent customer service
Again, most web hosting for small businesses offer customers things they don’t need. For example, HostGator offers unlimited bandwidth on their economy hosting plan, Media Temple offers 1000 email addresses and GoDaddy offers 100GB of disk space. They offer these features on shared servers because almost no one ever uses them. So they create offers that seem extremely appealing to small business owners with limited knowledge of website hosting at almost no cost to themselves.
Real life case study
One of our customers had a Deluxe GoDaddy account. She bought the package because she is a photographer and uploads a lot of very high resolution images. After two years, the site stopped loading and we received a number of error messages. We called GoDaddy and they said the “problem” was that she was using 45GB of her 100GB disk space. They said she had to delete images (even though she theoretically paid for 100GB) before her site functioned properly. Moreover, they warned us that if she used 50GB or more of disk space they would suspend the account.
The bottom line is you should carefully check your website needs against the list of what each hosting company provides and choose the package that best matches your needs. We recommend going with a smaller, boutique hosting company, as opposed to a larger provider.
Why a boutique hosting company is better
Boutique hosts tend to have much lower advertising budgets than the big providers. Remember: advertising budgets ultimately get passed on to you, the customer.
In general, boutique companies focus on providing high quality service to both customers and their servers. They charge their customers for hosting space and bandwidth that they actually need, and manage the server accordingly. This results in better quality hosting at a fair price.
Most importantly, boutique hosting companies offer far superior customer service. This is key in web hosting for small businesses. As a small business owner, if your site is down, or experiencing a spike in traffic, you need to be able to pick up the phone and call someone that will provide you with solutions. Boutique web hosting companies consistently rank better than the big providers in customer service rankings. This is even more true in recent months. The big companies, especially GoDaddy (who also own MediaTemple and Host Europe Group) and Endurance International (they own HostGator and Bluehost), have dramatically shifted their customer service proposition. Instead of using technical service to help customers, now they use it as a conduit to up-sell existing customers to use their WordPress services, anti-malware services and others.
The bottom line
Our recommendation is to access your needs and find a web host that meet these needs. In the hosting business, the most expensive option isn’t always the best. On the other hand, going for the cheapest option will often end up costing you money in the long run. Find the hosting company that is the best fit for your company and offers their services at a fair price, not a cheap one.
Do you need help help finding your optimal hosting option? If so, arrange a FREE CONSULTATION TODAY. We can help you choose the best web hosting for your small business and even help you get a free SSL certificate.