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Web Hosting: A Small Business Guide

Web Hosting: A Small Business Guide
Credit: ronstik/Shutterstock

Before you can start working on your website's design, you need to hire a service that will allow others to see it. The first step in creating your business's website is deciding which Web hosting service will publish it online. Web hosting services not only ensure your website is visible to consumers, but also make it easy to update your website when needed. Web hosts focus on all the technical responsibilities of running a website, leaving businesses more time to focus on what it will look like and how it will function.

In addition to publishing websites, Web hosting services can provide businesses looking to get online with many more useful features. From helping you find a domain name to providing all of the creation and design tools needed to build a website, many of the top web hosting services offer a one-stop shop for businesses that want to go digital. They can also help businesses form e-commerce sites with their shopping-cart software and make communication easier with their email functionality.

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Web hosting services also offer security features, including highly secure servers that protect their websites from cybercriminals, and protection against the latest malware or virus trying to wreak havoc on the computers accessing their sites. For e-commerce websites that are collecting payments via credit and debit cards, the best Web hosts feature Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate, which secures data when it is being transmitted to and from the website.

Additionally, because many small businesses don't have an on-site IT team, Web hosting services provide technical support that can help get a site up and running should any problems occur.

To help small businesses, Business News Daily created a complete guide on Web hosting. Read on to learn what Web hosts offer, their pros and cons, what to look for in a Web host, how much they cost and the best services available.

Editor’s Note: Need help choosing a Web Hosting Service for your business? Fill in the following form for a quote.

Types of Web hosting

These types of Web hosting services are considered a form of shared Web hosting, also known as virtual hosting. This means that instead of having a dedicated server for just one website, the Web hosting service is storing numerous websites on its servers at one time. Each site is located in its own section of the server. By renting space with the Web hosting service, the small business owner is freed from hardware and maintenance fees that are needed when hosting the site on their own dedicated server.

Other types of Web hosting include colocation hosting, which is when a business places its own dedicated server in someone else's data center; dedicated hosting, which is when a businesses leases an entire server for its own use; and in-house hosting, which is when a company houses its own server. Each of these is considerably more expensive than a shared Web hosting service.

Cost of Web hosting

Web hosting providers charge a monthly fee for their services. They base their fees on several factors, including the number of websites the business needs hosted, how much storage space is necessary, how many website-building tools are provided and the number of email accounts needed.

Some Web hosting services charge a flat fee for hosting an unlimited number of websites that take up an unlimited amount of storage space, while others have a tiered pricing system based on the business's specific needs.

Smaller Web hosting packages are adequate for small businesses with one simple website, but businesses that have multiple sites, or those that want a website that can expand as their business does, may find they are better suited for a more robust or unlimited package. Both options are very cost-effective for small businesses.

Specifically, monthly fees for unlimited domains, disk space, transfer bandwidth and email accounts range from $2 to $10 a month. In addition, many of the services offer a discount for businesses that commit to several years of hosting.

For an extra charge, many Web hosting services also offer increased security protection that guards the website from hackers by running regular checks for any signs of viruses or other types of malware that may have infected the site, thus protecting shoppers' personal data.

Pros and cons of Web hosting

For small businesses, there are many benefits of using a Web hosting service. First and foremost is the cost. With Web hosting services, small businesses free themselves of the added costs — such as costs for increased hardware and network capabilities — that come with having to host the website on their own. The Web hosting service handles all of the initial purchasing of equipment and its maintenance, which is a significant cost savings to any business.

These services are also especially advantageous to those without any Web design experience. They provide website builder tools, complete with templates that walk users through every step of the process. In less than an hour, most users can create a professional-looking site that will attract consumers. All in all, the services provide everything needed to build a site and get it up and running, which is what most small businesses are looking for.

The major downside of a Web hosting service is that small businesses are sharing server space with other small businesses. With that reality comes the risk that if one of those sites is doing something nefarious, like sending out spam, other sites on the server could become blocked by anti-spam software, making it harder to reach consumers.

The only way to avoid that risk is to use a server that is dedicated to just one website. For most small businesses, that isn't a financially viable option.

The other major downside is that some Web hosting services have unreliable service. This makes it critical that business owners review all of their options carefully before committing to a Web hosting service.

What to look for in a Web hosting service

Even though businesses are always looking at their bottom line, they should choose a Web hosting service based on more than just how much it costs. The factors you should consider include whether the service offers a hosting package that fits your specific needs. For businesses with simple website needs, any of the highly rated Web hosting providers should offer the necessary tools and services. For those with more robust websites that require large amounts of storage and bandwidth, it is important to find a service that can meet those needs.

Business owners choosing a Web hosting service should look for website builders, one-click installation of supported apps, an integrated control panel for easy site management and email functionality. For advanced Web designers, the service should include custom cron jobs, which is a Linux command for automatically scheduling repetitive tasks, a script library, raw access logs and customizable error pages. The best Web hosting services should also provide sufficient server access options.

Finally, business owners should choose a Web hosting service that will be there for them when they are needed most — in times of peril. When something goes wrong with the site, the Web hosting service should be available to provide technical support. Small businesses should pick a service that offers 24/7 phone support, as well as options for help via email and live chats. They should also offer user forums, video tutorials, information resources and getting-started wizards that walk new users through the entire process of getting their site up and running.

Best Web hosting services

Our sister site Top Ten Reviews has done extensive research on Web hosting services. The services the site ranks as the best include iPage, which, in addition to unlimited bandwidth, disk space and emails, offers basic shopping-cart tools and around-the-clock support; Just Host, which delivers well-rounded hosting packages that include everything you need to build, publish and maintain a website; and Go Daddy, which offers a wide array of features, including tools for marketing and SEO.

Chad Brooks

Chad Brooks is a Chicago-based writer who has nearly 15 years' experience in the media business. A graduate of Indiana University, he spent nearly a decade as a staff reporter for the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago, covering a wide array of topics including, local and state government, crime, the legal system and education. Following his years at the newspaper Chad worked in public relations, helping promote small businesses throughout the U.S. Follow him on Twitter.