December 7, 2014 One of the first things you need when you are building an online business is a website. Your website will be your public face and will largely determine how people perceive your business. That’s why it’s so important to choose your web hosting company with care. This is a decision that can have important consequences for your business. Here are some of the criteria you should use when selecting your web host. 1. Identify Your Hosting Needs Your specific needs will depend on the type of website you will be building. If you are starting a fairly simple business website, you don’t have to worry too much about technical specifications. However, for some types of sites, such as a large e-commerce site, you may have special needs. • Is Linux hosting appropriate for your site or would you be better off with Windows hosting? The majority of sties today run on Linux, but for certain applications, Windows is preferable. • Does your website require any particular software, such as a specific version of PHP, Cron Jobs or .htacess? • Are you building a very large site right away? If so, you may need a dedicated server like this plan or VPS hosting rather than shared hosting. While most small online businesses will do fine with Linux hosting and a shared hosting plan, if your needs are special you must make sure you choose a company that can meet your requirements. 2. Ease of Use You want to be able to build and make changes to your website as easily as possible. Depending on your needs and experience, you may want to use the web host’s site building tool. Some of these are more sophisticated than others. For example, do they offer a template that’s right for your business? You should also look at what kind of control panel the company uses. Make sure that it’s a user friendly control panel that you will have no problem getting into and using on a regular basis. 3. E-Commerce Tools If you are building an online store, you will have to find a web host that offers features that allow you to create a professional e-commerce site. This should not be difficult to find, as most web hosts provide access to at least one good e-commerce application. You should do some comparison shopping and make sure you choose a company that offers a platform that is appropriate for your needs. You don’t necessarily have to use the shopping cart provided by the web host. You could, for example, install WordPress and use one of the many e-commerce plugins that are available. 4. Overall Reputation When choosing a web hosting company, you should investigate their reputation in areas such as uptime, customer service and overall service. Uptime is extremely important when you have a business. While most companies boast of having uptime of over 99%, you should read customer reviews to verify this. Reviews are a good way to get a general idea of how popular and reliable the company is. It’s best to read a large number of reviews and look for patterns. 5. Cost of Web Hosting Cost is always a consideration when choosing any type of service. You have to be careful when comparing hosting plans, as this can be a little tricky. For example, when companies advertise a very low rate, this often requires you to sign up for a long period of time, such as two or three years. Another tactic to watch out for is very low first year prices that renew at much higher prices. In short, make sure you read the fine print before signing on the dotted line. You should also look at the company’s refund policy. Hopefully, you will not have to take advantage of this, but it’s reassuring to know that the web host has enough confidence to offer a generous guarantee.