If you’re looking to create a website for your business, you’re going to need to work with a website hosting service. In order for a website to go online and be accessible via the world wide web, the site’s data needs to be stored on a server with 24/7 access to the internet.
Most startups don’t have the time or the resources to set up their own web servers, so they just pay an annual or monthly fee to have their website stored on a commercial hosting service.
Depending on which service you choose, this allows you to quickly build and customize your website and make it available to the world with a single keystroke.
Learn more about how to choose a website hosting service based on your business’s needs.
What you get from a website hosting service
Working with a web host means renting space on their server, so your website can live on the internet — thereby making it available to users all over the world. Without a web host (or a server of your own), no one but you would ever see your website.
There are different types of hosting to match various website and business needs. High-traffic sites or rapidly growing web applications might require a Virtual Private Server (VPS) or a Dedicated Server. But for many small businesses, a Web Hosting plan is all they need.
Getting a domain name
Most web hosts let you choose or buy a unique domain for your website. There are usually free options (that include the name of your web host) such as:
… or for-a-fee options with just the name of your company such as:
You’ll want a URL with just your company name in it (e.g. YourCompany.com), as it gives your website more authority. The free option, where your business name is tacked onto the hosting company’s name, is less desirable.
There are currently more than a billion registered domains around the world, so coming up with an original domain name might take some time. If you’re just starting a business, you should check your domain immediately to see if it’s still available. If it is, register it before someone else does.
Check the domain you want now
Most web hosts will also give you access to various website-building tools, allowing you to quickly build a simple website. You don’t need to be too technically savvy to use these tools, as they’re usually fairly easy to use. With Website Builder or Managed WordPress hosting, for example, you can pick from one of many templates and just type in specific information about your company. You can also quickly add imagery, videos and other types of media to set up your site.
Depending on which web host you choose, the company will also give you a certain amount of security and support.
Editor’s note: In addition to multiple layers of server-level security, Ultimate Web Hosting from GoDaddy comes with an SSL Certificate (free for the first year) to keep your visitors’ data safe. Ultimate WordPress Hosting includes an SSL and a malware scan and repair tool to keep bad guys at bay.
Many web hosting services have a customer hotline where you can ask questions about the services they provide and address any technical issues you might be having.
How to choose a web host
Hosting is a little-understood service that’s required for any website or blog, no matter how small. To make your choice easier, we offer two ways to approach it.
1. Choose based on your website type
There are lots of different web hosts out there to choose from, and many of them cater to specific types of websites and industries.
If you’re launching an eCommerce shop and will be selling things online, you’ll need to set up a checkout process with a shopping cart and a secure way to collect and store your customers’ financial information. Some eCommerce website builders, including Online Store, come with hosting. These types of platforms usually let you add hundreds or thousands of individual product pages.
Your new website should also be mobile-ready, meaning it should look as good on a mobile screen as it does on a desktop. This is especially important for eCommerce websites, as mobile devices account for as much as 30 percent of Canada’s total eCommerce sales.
Digital media publishers
Looking to launch a web series or podcast or to publish a digital portfolio with lots of images? Then you’ll need a web host that caters to publishers of digital media.
You should be able to quickly upload digital media right to your website or link to where your media is being stored — YouTube or Vimeo for videos; the iTunes store and SoundCloud for podcasts and audio recordings.
WordPress tends to be the No. 1 choice when it comes to building a blog. You can quickly add and edit posts, insert imagery, tags, meta descriptions and other information for on-page search engine optimization purposes. Managed WordPress even offers a Quick Start Wizard to get your blog up and running much faster than installing your WordPress blog on cPanel for example.
2. Choose based on your technical know-how
There are two main options here. If you’re not too technically savvy, you can quickly build a website using Website Builder, which comes with hosting. Business Web Hosting might be your best option, as it gives you access to important features like PayPal checkout and SEO analytics.
If you have some website building experience or you’re working with a professional website designer, you’ll have more freedom and control if you go with a builder like WordPress and a hosting company that specializes in WordPress sites. Managed WordPress hosting can be a good option for eCommerce sites that require more customization and functionality. Just add a plugin like WooCommerce, Ecwid or Easy Digital Downloads to make your WordPress site sales-ready.
Currently, WordPress is the No. 1 content management system in the world, powering more than 27 percent of all active websites and a total of 76.5 million active blogs.
Scalability and looking ahead
When choosing a website hosting service, it’s important to consider what you’ll want and need in the future. If you’re just getting off the ground, you shouldn’t have to pay for features that you don’t need. But you might want access to these features down the road, as your company grows and expands.
These are the hosting basics all websites need from the start:
- Storage: For most small- to medium-sized business sites, a few gigabytes of storage is sufficient.
- Bandwidth: People with large sites who expect to attract a large number of visitors require more bandwidth.
- Scalability: The option of an automatic increase in resources in case of a large traffic spike on your site.
- Reliability: Look for a 99.9 percent uptime guarantee or better. A website that’s down is useless.
- Security: If the hosting provider doesn’t list malware/virus protection as a feature, ask about it.
- Backups: Some providers run scheduled backups of your content and store them on the hosting plan for you.
- 24/7 technical support, so you can call for help no matter what the hour.
Features you might need down the road include:
- Speed tools for optimizing your site for mobile devices.
- Analytics tools for gathering information about your marketing efforts and your users.
- Tools that allow you to integrate your website with your social media pages.
You might be able to move your website over to a new hosting service later on, but it helps to have access to these features from the beginning.
Choosing a web host all comes down to the nature of your business or startup. With so many options available, you can either build a website from scratch, or use an existing template that’s designed for your specific business model.
You’ll also need to find a web host that suits your technical proficiency. Working with an overly complicated system will only slow you down if you don’t have any experience building websites. Yet, a simple website building platform might not offer the flexibility you’re looking for if you have the skills to design a completely unique website. Hopefully this post will help you decide which one is right for you.