To get your small business on the Web, you’ll need a great Web hosting service.
The best web hosting services provide much more than space on a server. They also offer up easy-to-use website building tools, deep control options and great customer support.
With dozens of Web hosting platforms vying to become the home for your small business’s URL, it’s tricky to know what to look for. Read on for eight essential features you should seek out in a Web hosting service.
1. Website Builder
Your Web host should provide the tools to help you create a great website, whether you’re an HTML guru or a total beginner.
Before you settle on a host, check to ensure that the host features an integrated website builder. These days, most services include a builder that can help you create a basic Web page or a complex site with numerous pages.
Modern website builders offer templates so you can create a polished, professional-looking website for your business without the need to hire a professional designer. And they feature drag-and-drop functionality so you can easily tweak your site to better reflect your brand.
2. Control panel
You’re busy running your business, so don’t waste time hunting for options in a confusing Web interface. Great Web hosts feature an integrated control panel that serves up the most important administrative options in a single location.
A good control panel lets you control every aspect of your website, and easily locate features such as search engine optimization tools and logs. Features should be grouped into related categories so you can find what you need when you need it.
Bear in mind, however, that even the most popular graphical control panels can seem overwhelming and difficult to navigate for beginners.
3. Site statistics
Your Web host should feature on-demand statistical tools so you can keep tabs on your site’s current status and performance.
Most Web hosting services can offer up stats, but some require you to pay extra before you gain access to certain information, such as how much traffic your website is generating. The best services provide that data for free, as well as other information, including how much disk space you’ve used, how many subdomains you have, how many SQL databases you’ve set up and more.
Before you pick a host, make sure it provides the information you need at a glance.
4. Shopping carts
If you sell your product on the Web, make sure your Web host offers capable e-commerce tools.
Some hosts offer only a single integrated shopping cart application, while others allow you to use third-party shopping cart programs such as CubeCart, ZenCart and PayPal. It’s usually better to have more options so you can pick the one that’s best suited for your business.
Most hosts allow you to set up an online shopping cart for your business’s website, but some make you pay extra for the feature. Others set a cap on the number of items that can be placed in your inventory; if you want to expand, you’ll have to pay more.
5. Advertising credits
Free advertising credits are a great perk now offered by most major Web hosting services. Credits help you get the word out about your business without devising a separate advertising budget.
By redeeming your advertising credits, you can place ads for your site on popular search engines such as Google and Yahoo. Some hosts provide credits on a recurring basis while others offer them only as an incentive for signing up.
The best Web hosts offer additional marketing tools, such as the option to create a mailing list to promote your site. Some hosts will also submit your site to search engines for free to boost its visibility.
6. Unlimited mailboxes
Owning a Web domain means you can create professional email addresses that include the name of your business. But some Web hosts limit the number of email addresses you can create.
The best hosting services allow you to create unlimited mailboxes. The feature is especially important if every one of your employees has an individual email address, or if you would like to create separate addresses for different types of customer inquiries.
Some Web hosts also offer built-in email tools, like spam filters and an auto-response feature that can reply to emails when you’re away.
7. 1-click app installs
The best Web hosts allow you to install Web apps with a single click. The feature makes it easy and convenient to install a blog, CMS portal or other useful application on your site with minimal effort.
That could come in handy, particularly if your coding skills are lacking.
Some Web hosts even feature a dynamically updated script library to help you find the best apps on the Web without leaving your site’s control panel.
8. 24/7 tech support
When technical difficulties arise, you’ll need backup. Great Web hosting providers offer round-the-clock tech support so you can get your business back on track quickly if someone goes wrong.
Check to see if your prospective Web host has reps available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to assist you. Speedy email support is also a plus.
The best platforms also offer educational tools like video tutorials to help you get started if you’re new to the service, and user forums where you can seek help for specific problems once your website is up and running.