One problem I encounter, when working with small businesses, is cheap Web hosting. Unfortunately, the truism, “you get what you pay for,” is one hundred percent true when it comes to your Web host.

Search result for "cheap web hosting."

Search result for “cheap web hosting.”

The problems with cheap hosting are legend. Because many Web hosting companies pack thousands of Websites on one server, load times can often be slow – something Google now penalizes.

If the hosting company lacks redundancy, and a server goes down (and they all do), your Website goes down with it. If you haven’t backed up your Website, you’re hosed, big time, because most hosting companies don’t back up your site – that’s your responsibility.

(I **highly** recommend Backup Buddy if you use WordPress. Easy to install, easy to use.)

Problems associated with cheap shared hosting

Another issue with cheap Web hosting has to do with shared hosting and the IP address.

An IP address is the numerical version of your Website’s URL. You can learn the identifier of any Website by going to Who.is and doing a simple search. My Website’s IP address is 64.207.139.125. Since I use shared hosting, this IP address is shared with hundreds of other sites.

Shared hosting simply means that my Website shares server space with other Websites. Dedicated hosting means that a Website gets its own dedicated server. Think of shared hosting as renting an apartment versus owning a house.

While paying $1.89 a month for hosting may sound like a good deal, in the long run, it’s going to cost you in terms of very poor customer support.

It can also cause grave danger to your business.

One problem associated with cheap hosting is that it’s often used used by people who are up to no good, such as Internet spammers and criminals. Because the hosting is so cheap, the people selling the space may not monitor who is renting their space.

By sharing space with these businesses, it’s akin to plopping your business smack in the middle of a seedy or red light district. If one of the “adult” businesses in that neighborhood gets raided, law enforcement may shut down the entire neighborhood — meaning, all of the Websites sharing the one IP address get shut down — including yours.

So, one of the most important things you can do for your business is this: Ensure you have the best Web hosting package you can afford.

The reason I’m passionate about finding a good Web host is because I consider a company’s Website to be its number one business asset rather than expense.

A Website is an asset because it’s what helps keep you in business. Therefore, it pays to invest in it.

Choosing the Right Web Host

When choosing the right Web hosting company for your business, look for the following attributes: customer support, redundancy, WordPress compatibility, user-friendly Control Panel, dedicated versus virtual hosting, and great reviews.

“Always on” customer support

Reputable hosting companies will have 24/7 customer support. This includes telephone support (crucial!), email and real-time chat support, and a knowledge base (or FAQs). If the company relegates you to figuring out everything on your own through FAQs, look elsewhere.

MediaTemple's "Always Available" Customer Support Tab.

MediaTemple’s “Always Available” Customer Support Tab.

In the 15 years I’ve been in business, I’ve used all three forms of support, from phone and real-time chat to figuring out things using information in the knowledge base.

Also pay attention to support times. If real-time support is offered only during West Coast times, and you’re on the East Coast, the company may not be a good fit for you. Nothing makes me gnash my teeth more than knowing I have to wait until noon Eastern to get support because the company doesn’t open its phone lines until 9:00 AM Pacific time. Grrrrrr!

Redundancy Plans

“Redundancy” is a fancy word that means the company has a plan for when a server goes down. Usually, this plan entails having another server or servers immediately take over for the one that’s failed. When a company doesn’t have redundancy, it means your Website can be down for hours.

Redundancy also refers to the Web hosting company’s plan for catastrophic failure – e.g. what happens should its data center be subjected to a natural disaster? Many companies will have a second data center located in another state or even another country, so while the company may be offline for a few hours while they transfer everything over, at least it’s not down for days.

When researching Web hosting companies, don’t be afraid to call and ask this question! Your Website is your business – and if it’s down, your business is down. It’s that simple.

WordPress Compatibility

WordPress is a Linux-based, open source system based on MySQL. As such, it runs best on Linux-based servers.

Some Web hosting companies, such as MediaTemple, offer WordPress optimized hosting. Others, such as GoDaddy, give you a choice: you can choose between Windows- or Linux-based hosting.

The problems associated with hosting your WordPress Website on a Windows-based server include slow load times and “broken” functions.

With one Website I worked with, for example, I used to have to wait two to three minutes to upload a photo through the WordPress media tool. If the blog post had three or four images, this process would take FOREVER. Drove me insane.

Easy-to-use Control Panel

Most Web hosts include a Control Panel, the place where you set up your email and email users, access Web mail, set database permissions, and find FTP information. When researching Web hosts, ask to see the Control Panel. It should look something like this control panel from MediaTemple.

mt-cp

Great Reviews

The last thing you want to check is the company’s reviews – which is pretty easy to do. You can do a search on Twitter (just enter the company name into the Twitter search box to see what others are saying about it). You can also use Google. Run this search, “company name + reviews” to see what others are saying.

No matter how great a Web hosting company is, you will find negative reviews. When I research companies, I read everything – good and bad.

I look to see if the company has responded to the negative reviews and if the good reviews outweigh the bad. I also pick up the phone and call the company – and will bring up the bad reviews and ask about them.

If the bad reviews outweigh the good, or if the company responds to reviews in a negative way, I move on.

What’s your experience with Web hosting? Do you have a horror story? Or, has your Web host gone above and beyond? Share your stories in the comments section.