SCORE Tip of the Week: How to Choose a Web Hosting Company

SCORE's CEO, Kenneth R. Yancey, gives advice for choosing a Web hosting service for your small business website.

One of the first choices you’ll make when setting up a business website is which Web hosting company to use. A Web hosting company is the service that stores (or “hosts”) your small business’s site on its servers. Choose an inadequate host, and your website could crash at the worst possible time (like during the holiday shopping season, or the day your company gets mentioned on Good Morning America).

Before choosing a Web host, find out:

  1. What else do they offer? These days, many Web hosts offer a full range of services beyond just hosting—such as designing your site or handling online marketing and SEO. If you’re looking for this kind of “all-in-one” service, make a short list of Web hosts that offer it.
  2. What is the uptime rate? Uptime refers to the percentage of time a hosting company’s servers are up (rather than not working). A good host will have an uptime rate of 99.9 percent, so don’t consider anything less.
  3. What type of customer support will you receive? Is there a customer service number you can call to speak to a live person? Does the company offer live chat? Will you be reduced to sending an email and hoping for a response? Look for the 24/7 ability to get the kind of help you need.
  4. Will you have a shared or dedicated server? A shared server is shared with other companies; a dedicated one is just for your company’s data. If your website is fairly static, a shared server may be fine. But if you plan to set up an ecommerce store or an online community newspaper, you might need a dedicated server to handle traffic.
  5. How does the company secure its (and your) data? Find out how (and how regularly) the Web host backs up both your data and its own. If there’s an emergency and data is lost, how long will it take to restore it and how much will it cost?