Let’s say your small business has an amazing product, your sales and customer service teams are exemplary, and you have powerful marketing that drives customers to your website. Despite all that, without a reliable web host to deliver a stellar online retail experience, people are just a click away from supporting your competitors. Even major corporations aren’t immune to challenging website issues. As CNBC reports, during Cyber Monday in 2015, Target’s website crashed, resulting in not only loss of sales, but in negative sentiment spread through social media.
In 2018, worldwide retail sales will reach more than $28 trillion so it’s vital your business has a strong web strategy. It all begins with a website that functions correctly, which requires a stable Web host to guarantee very little downtime and a pleasurable user experience. Whether you’re launching a brand-new site or sprucing up an existing one, here are five features to keep in mind when searching for a Web host for your small business.
You can’t have security without stable backup solutions. If your website does get attacked, you’ll want to make sure all your site content is backed up and easily accessible so you can get back up and running again quickly.
Pro-tip: Try one-click off-site backup because it allows your data to get back online immediately. This should apply to both backup of data you input, as well as the backup of your Web host’s data in case something happens to its server.
Security should be at top of your mind when searching for a Web host since cyberattacks and malware threats can cause your site to crash, or put your customers’ private information at risk.
When choosing a Web host, search for one that uses encryption technology between the user and the server, or between the Web host server and your business server. This ensures communications are encrypted and protected from hackers looking to obtain data.
Pro-tip: Inquire about password storage — you’ll generally want your Web host to avoid storing passwords in plain text format.
When you’re searching for a Web host, learn about the built-in analytics it offers. Analytics can help drive your marketing and content strategy. It should also be updated in real time and easily accessible.
You’ll also want to work with a Web host that makes it easy for you to integrate changes to your website. Search for one that allows for simple and straightforward login capabilities, both to make updates to content and to access features such as email.
Pro-tip: Look for a Web host that features an easy-to-use control panel that allows you to not only access and edit any aspect of your website, but one that allows you to use search engine optimization tools.
4. Customer support.
The Web never sleeps, and neither should your Web host customer support team. Around the clock support is essential, especially for businesses with Web visitors from around the globe. Pick a company with qualified customer service agents available to answer your questions at any time, in the language you speak.
Pro-tip: Ask about typical wait times when calling support on the phone, and about chat and email support capabilities.
If you’re hoping your website leads to more business, you’ll want a Web host that can grow along with you and not crash as you grow. Ask a potential Web host what their uptime guarantee is. The closer you get to 99.9 percent uptime, the better.
Pro-tip: A substantial uptime guarantee comes from reliable server capability and support, so look for a host that’s heavily endorsed by reputable customers.
Also, be wary of shared hosting, which means your website will be on a server with many other sites. It can negatively affect your site if another website on the shared host is troubled in some way. It can also impact your website speed, which affects customer satisfaction. If you do go with a shared host, make sure the host has the ability to grow with you. Also evaluate any potential cost increases based on growth.
Putting a website online can be simple, but it will only be successful if your Web host provides the relationship your small business deserves. Get to know your host and how they can benefit your business before locking down a partnership.
Originally published on Entrepreneur.com. If you would like to read more from J. Boitnott, go to jboitnott.com