Internet marketing is rapidly becoming “the only way to go.” Now, you can reach potential customers from all over the world where before your advertising arm was only as long as the circulation distribution of the local yellow pages. But how do you do it? Where do you begin internet marketing?
The first thing you have to do is obtain website hosting services. There are a few important things to look for when choosing the company to support your company’s website. Especially if you are not well versed in the ins and outs of the internet, you may not think the company you chose for your hosting services makes a lot of difference in the end result, and in some ways, you are correct. However, in other ways, there is a lot of differences between each company. But what do you need to look for to make sure you are getting the service that is most appropriate for your business?
How do I find web hosting services, you ask. The best way I have found is a keyword search for “web hosting” (including the quotations will narrow your search to sites that only use those words together in that order, which is especially important when looking for two words like web and hosting that can potentially produce very different results when searched separately). The first page of results, generally the first ten, are going to be your best choices. They have been verified by the search engine you selected and they are the most popular results.
Get a notebook. Give each service its own page. Write the name of the service at the top of the page, and then make a list of the things you are going to look for. Be sure to give yourself enough room to write (For example, you will probably only need one line for “cost” but maybe four or five for “features”). Visit each site and research each of these things. This will give you a visual aid to help sort out which service is going to be the most beneficial to you. Now, you may be wondering, what are the most important things to look at when choosing a web hosting service.
Begin with the cost. In my research, I have found that web hosting services are available for anywhere from $4.95 per month on up to about $150 per month (that is the highest I have found, there may be higher rates out there). While five dollars each month sounds like a great deal, be sure to look at the whole picture first. Just because the company offers a lower price, doesn’t mean you are going to get everything you need for that price.
That brings us to what should be included in the price. Even if you are well versed in the newest world language called HTML, programming and maintaining an entire website in that manner can get extremely tedious, especially if that isn’t all you have to do. If you have anything else in your life, work, kids, pets, you will probably want to look for something that either provides a website editing program or supports one such as Microsoft FrontPage or Macromedia Dreamweaver. While knowing basic HTML will help in some cases, editors make many things faster and easier.
Another very important feature to be aware of is FTP, or file transfer protocol. Essentially what this means is, how will you get your website off of your hard drive and onto the World Wide Web? Some editor programs have and FTP program built in. Others require you to have one separate. If you decide on a hosting service that supports, or offers as part of your fee, one of these programs, return to your search engine and type in FTP. This may return mixed results, some offering what you are looking for which is an FTP program, while others may simply define the term. It will be fairly easy to tell from the description what you are dealing with.
Size is another important factor in selecting your hosting service. You want a service which is going to provide you with enough space to host all of your information. For example, if your website is going to consist of only two or three linked pages, mostly text based, light on the graphics, you can afford less space than say an online store which will have a different page for every item, shopping carts, graphics, and text fields, among a lot of other things. Consider carefully the layout of your site, now and in the future. If you are looking at starting out small and then growing the site as your business grows, then you should select your storage space based on what you hope the site will become, not what it will be in the beginning.
Now that you have a clear picture of which companies offer which features for what price, sit down with your notebook and compare (You will probably find that one page per company was not enough to write down all of the information you found). Look at the features provided in each price range. Chances are the companies you found that offer a $5 per month plan will offer more features in the $20 per month range than companies where $20 per month is their starting price. This is not always the case but it is a fair starting point. Remember, “lowest cost” is not always a synonym for “best value.”
Another issue that goes along with the value question is commitment. You should look for a contract, sometimes also called an Agreement, or Terms of Service. Contracts not only bind you to the company, they bind the company to you. This means, if you sign up with Company A at a price of $19.99 per month, but they don’t require you to sign a contract, and their fees increase, so do your hosting costs. However, if you sign a contract stating that you will not cancel your registration within a certain time frame (generally one to two years) and in return, no matter what the company decides to do concerning their prices, your cost will remain the same. And be sure that that is what is stated in the contract. Rarely, but sometimes, the contract will state that you are bound to the service for a year or two years, even if the price of the service increases.
One of the last things you should look at, especially if you have found two services that are enough alike that you are having trouble deciding on the right one, is support. First, what kinds of support do they provide? Do they only provide technical support, you are on your own for finding information regarding your payment schedule, your contract, or other customer service type concerns?
Next, find out how they provide the kinds of support they provide. Your best bet in this situation is to go with the company with the most options. Maybe you don’t have time to wait on hold for a technician to answer your call, or maybe the issue isn’t that urgent. In those cases, it is helpful to have a way to email your support team. But in cases where you need an answer right away and can’t afford to wait for a reply email, an 800 technical support line is the best option. However, some hosting companies may only offer an 800 number for customer service, anything else must be handled through email. Or the other way around. There may not be any way at all to email the support team. Definitely, if your decision is weighing on the types and quality of customer support the company provides, chose the one with the most options.
As with anything else, research extensively before deciding on a hosting service. Shop around. Email or call the customer service department. Think about this; if you call customer service for any other service or product to ask questions to be sure that you are truly interested in the product and you are met with short answers and hostile behavior, what is the response going to be when you call later with a problem? The same is true with your hosting service. The disposition and courtesy of the representatives and support staff can, and should, be the final important factor, following value, features and cost, to consider when selecting your web hosting service.