4 essential things to know about your small business web site hosting
4 essential things to know about your small business web site hosting
When setting up a website for any business (especially for small and medium sized companies) it can be tough to sort through your various options about where and how to get your small business web site hosting set up. Different businesses have different needs from their web presence, so one size certainly does not fit all. This is a short guide to break down your options so you can make in informed decision that will yield results that fit your need and hopefully give you room to grow the next time you are ready. Here are 4 essential things to consider when setting up the foundation for your website:
small business web site hosting
1. domain & hosting
There are a finite number of things that ALL websites need in order to exist. The main two, which are indispensable, are the domain and the hosting. The domain is literally the name of your website. It’s the user friendly ‘www.mydomainURL.com’ that users will type to find your website. The domain name, while very important, is in essence nothing more than a virtual signpost that points to the static IP address where the files that make up your website actually live. This is the second part, your hosting environment. It will be on a server somewhere and you will pay to have space and bandwidth. Your web presence should also include email, which can be acquired through these same providers.
2. cms – content management system (wordpress.org rocks!)
A content management system (CMS) is a user interface that allows a content creator to publish content on the web. You’ve more than likely used a CMS without even knowing it, Gmail is CMS used for creating and organizing email and Facebook has a basic CMS for managing your profile page and posting content. There are many free and inexpensive CMS solutions available to businesses that allow relatively easy web publishing without the help of an experienced web developer.
There a variety of content management systems available for free or for purchase that can be installed to your host server and allow you to start building your website. We highly recommend WordPress to our clients – it is a great balance between ease-of-use and performance. It is an extremely reliable and well-supported platform and is currently being used by everyone from your local coffee shop to fortune 500 companies.
Although it is easy for a beginner to get started with WordPress without any background in web development, it wise is equip yourself with resources and tools to ensure your success. There are many tutorials available online that will guide you through every aspect of WordPress imaginable, from installing the system to your server to adding custom functions like interactive media and more. Most hosting services even have an installation wizard that walks you through the process in a few easy steps.
NOTE: *There is a big difference between WordPress.org and WordPress.com. The former is the official nonprofit and open-source community that created and maintains the FREE WordPress platform whereas the latter is a for-profit company that makes and sells WordPress themes and plugins while offering blog website hosting at their domain. It is important to note that these are neither the same nor interchangeable, even though the WordPress.com websites uses the WordPress.org’s WordPress frameworks as it’s CMS.
3. free vs. paid
The most important factor in choosing a content management system is whether or not it will work for your business. If you don’t have the time or patience to learn a complex CMS, you might want to consider a subscription service. This option can range in price from near free to very expensive, but you will have to pay a premium for customization and any advanced functions like web stores and the like.
If you are not able to hire a professional and you don’t have any experience designing for the web then you may be tempted to take advantage of a service like Wix, Squarespace, or WordPress.com* (remember note above). Many small businesses utilize services like these to create and manage their websites because of the simple, drag and drop style design process. This ease-of-use often comes at the cost of lack of unique design layouts, font, and color options or at a literal hefty monthly subscription cost. They will provide you with a URL on their domain (i.e. myname.theirdomain.com or theirdomain.com/mypageURL) and host your site with them.
This is a very inexpensive (or free!) option, but you make a few sacrifices along the way as well. You no longer have your own .com address and can’t do any SEO for yourself. Your website will be built from a template (which is good news for you if you don’t know what you are doing) but it will look like it was built from a template. Your website will look just like all the other people who also chose the template that you chose. Websites built this way typically do not include any support for email. Some of them do offer to register a custom domain for you, but you will still have to pay and it can sometimes be tough to migrate it if you decide to change your provider later.
Domain and hosting can be purchased as a bundle from a number of reputable sites that can be easily found by searching for ‘web domain and hosting’ in your search engine. The domain only needs to be purchased once and then renewed on a yearly basis. Hosting is usually billed monthly or yearly, and can sometimes come with email included or as an add-on. We usually recommend using GoDaddy cPanel because you can get all three necessary items together, their prices are pretty low, and they have very high uptime as well as great customer service.
Having a professional on hand will be handy for getting all your file transfer protocol (FTP), domain name servers (DNS), and (if you’re using a content management system) database server (mySQL) settings dialed in correctly which can be complicated even for a routine install. Otherwise, you should stick to using the install wizards and file managers that come with your cPanel (or equivalent) from your hosting provider for installing things like WordPress.
Ultimately it’s ideal for you to own all these basics yourself. Even if you pay a designer to build your site, make sure that you own and pay for your small business web site hosting and domain yourself as opposed to using wordpress.com or wix to host your files and domain for you. It’s basically like buying a home instead of renting it. When you rent (i.e. use a free website hosting service) you can’t do any renovations, you’re only allowed to hang up pictures, and if something breaks you can’t just fix it yourself- you have to call the guy that they hire.
When you own your own, you can do what you want and make sure the foundation is laid to suit your needs and build up from there. This means that you will have great organic SEO because all your accounts will point directly to your own .com address (domain). It also means that you have a foundation that you will never outgrow because you can always upgrade to more space or bandwidth if you need to in the future – as well as being able to completely redesign or migrate your site, without losing the work you’ve put into building your overall presence.
It is important to reiterate that the best foundation for your web presence comes from owning your own domain and hosting environment through a provider such as GoDaddy – it will allow you start small and economically while also providing you the ability to scale up as necessary for your business.
I hope I’ve answered your questions and given you some things to think about. I make wordpress sites all day for clients and always love an opportunity to share some helpful information. Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions about small business web site hosting or related material, I would love to help!
edited by Bryan, material written by Bryan and Rusty for one of our workshops