How to Choose a Web Space Provider

As a small business owner, you already know that jumping into a big business decision without proper groundwork is a bad idea. You’ve probably put a great deal of time and effort into other aspects of your business, so why should your web space be any different? These principles apply to every type of web space, including bloggers and other non-business sites. Here, we’ll review the most common rookie mistakes, as well as easy ways to avoid the hassle. Choosing one of our top recommendations can eliminate many of these mistakes from the beginning.

Shop Around

We shop for bargains everywhere…don’t make the common mistake of jumping on board with the first web space package you stumble across. This happens so often because many of us simply lack a background in tech knowledge. While you don’t need an IT degree to purchase a sensible web space package, you do need to take a bit of time to comparison-shop. Even if the first package you find does happen to be a great deal, resist the urge to purchase. The package will still be there after you’ve shopped around a bit.

Research your options just like you would research before any large purchase. Compare basic features and their prices, along with the more uncommon features you feel will benefit your web space. There’s no magic number when it comes to comparison shopping, but it’s a good idea to review at least three to five companies before making a decision.

Choosing the Best Features

A big part of creating the best possible web space for your business is choosing the right features. There are tons of site features available to you, from common to downright strange. Knowing which features will best benefit your business is key to making smart purchasing decisions.

You can start researching this step by visiting sites which offer similar products or services to your own. Bloggers can approach it in much the same way; visit and study blogs which you enjoy, find entertaining and visually appealing.

Study all these sites, taking the best features from each. Think about how each feature will benefit your visitors, and how it will generate more business or traffic. In addition, think about cost and maintenance. A great feature which is never updated or maintained won’t draw visitors—it’ll drive them away.

For those just starting out, it’s best to start small. Begin with a web space package which isn’t quite bare-bones, but doesn’t pile on the extras either. These mid-level packages give you room to grow without overwhelming you with maintenance tasks and higher costs.

Preparation is Key

Before your web space goes ‘live,’ it should be tested, re-tested and tested several more times. Test every single feature, using a variety of devices, browsers and platforms. In short, ensure that each and every potential visitor will be able to take full advantage of every feature. Once you’re up and running, this thorough testing should be carried out on a regular basis to keep up with updates and fixes. Properly maintaining your web space does require a bit of dedication on your part, but the increased business and visitor traffic you see will be well worth the effort. If your site is live and hasn’t been thoroughly tested, now’s the time!

Do You Really Need E-Commerce?

E-Commerce, for many online sellers, is somewhat like the last frontier. You want to offer the service, you think you’re ready, but something keeps holding you back. What if you make a mistake? What if something goes wrong? What if…what if…?

This type of thinking, although common, is ultimately bad for business. Your web space deserves all the time and attention you can give it, and your customers deserve the utmost in convenience. In short, if you’re selling products, you do need e-commerce. Here, we’ll review the best ways to get started and the benefits your customers will enjoy.

Start with Existing Marketplaces

For the truly commerce-phobic, sites which incorporate e-commerce are an excellent way to become familiar with selling online. Etsy, which is dedicated to handmade and vintage products, is a great example. Through these sites, you can become familiar with the process of handling credit card and PayPal orders. After a while, once you feel more confident, you can move up to offering e-commerce in your own personal web space.

Choose a Trusted Platform or Software

There are several reliable and trustworthy selling platforms out there, each backed by a reputable security guarantee. These are your choices—don’t be tempted to cut costs by choosing an unknown provider. When dealing with customers’ money, safety is key. Your web space needs to be a safe place for customers to shop, and a cut-rate e-commerce provider is a very dangerous way to save a few bucks.

Make It Convenient

In the past, you’ve probably found a product or service online, only to find that you can’t purchase it. Frustrating, right? Don’t let your customers go through this—they’re likely to end up becoming somebody else’s customers.

Convenience is huge when it comes to online shopping, and a checkout right on your web space is the most convenient option. While some online sellers start by offering products through a larger site such as Amazon, keep in mind that this also automatically places other products in front of your customers. Start small if you must, but keep your own e-commerce web space as your ultimate goal. In today’s society, where we’ve all been conditioned to expect service at a single click, your customers will appreciate the effort.

Show Your Accepted Payment Methods

Whether it’s actually true or not, seeing a verified, familiar e-commerce checkout logo on a web space automatically instills a level of trust in customers. Seeing that your web space will accept their credit card or PayPal lets them know that you’re serious about your business, and have taken the steps to ensure a speedy, convenient checkout experience. This speaks volumes about your reliability as a seller, and nearly always leads to increased sales.

If you’re on an extremely tight budget, you may want to begin by accepting only PayPal. This is low-cost in nearly every scenario, and is quickly becoming one of the most trusted forms of e-commerce. Once the increased sales start rolling in, you’ll have enough extra cash to advance your e-commerce into having your own credit card merchant account. In the meantime, however, your customers will still feel an increased level of trust at seeing an e-commerce name they know related to your web space.

Look Professional

There are a few major, nationally-known sites which simply do not offer e-commerce. This is common in the worlds of haute couture, for example. However, these sites can afford to avoid e-commerce because they are so well known. For most small businesses, this level of name recognition is still years into the future.

In order to appear as professional as possible, e-commerce is a must. Regardless of how detailed your product or service descriptions, or how beautiful your photographs, customers will feel they’re dealing with an amateur if they can’t purchase via your own web space.

Conclusion

Although it can be daunting at first, e-commerce is a true must for any serious business-related web space. Not only will it make purchasing more convenient for your customers, but it will lend your site an air of professionalism and consumer trust which can’t be found through any other site component. Want to get started today? Check out these hosts, all of which let you install an e-commerce system with a few clicks!

Annual or Monthly: The Best Billing Cycle for Your Web Space

Depending on which company and package you choose to set up your web space on, you’ll have to make a decision between annual and monthly billing cycles. There are disadvantages and advantages to each type of plan. Here, we’ll take a look at the best—and worst—points of each.

Annual Billing

Disadvantages

In an annual billing cycle, you pay up-front for an entire year’s worth of web space services. These services may include each feature on your site. In other instances, you might pay for a year’s worth of basic service, then add on individual features later at an additional cost.

Some companies make an annual package look extremely attractive by piling on additional website features. However, take a good look at each of those features, and determine which ones you’ll actually use before making your purchase. In many cases, these extras are a great value. Sometimes, however, they simply float around, unused.

Annual billing’s biggest disadvantage is its lack of flexibility. One-time billing sometimes means that you’re stuck with the service for an entire year—or at least stuck paying for it. This is often a sign of a less-than-reputable hosting service, and can easily be avoided by checking out our top picks. The best hosting services often offer money-back guarantees on annual packages, allowing you to check out the features and benefits without the risk.

Advantages

The biggest advantage of annual billing is cost. In nearly every case, the bundled price of a year’s worth of web space services is lower than paying month-to-month. If you are extremely familiar with the company and package, annual billing can be a great way to save money. Another advantage is the convenience of making a one-time payment and not having to worry about it for the rest of the year.

Be absolutely certain that a package is right for you before you make a purchasing decision. In addition, try to seek out companies with reasonable fees or penalties for early cancellation. These simple tactics will avoid feeling stuck, and can provide you with an extra layer of flexibility should your web space needs change.

Monthly Billing

Disadvantages

In nearly every instance, paying for your web space services on a monthly basis will cost you more money. Service companies want to retain your business, and offering annual packages at discounted rates is a great way to accomplish this goal. While this is the only major disadvantage of monthly billing, for those on a budget, it can be a deal-breaker.

Advantages

Ironically, although monthly billing costs more in the long run, it can be a budget-friendly option for small business owners who are truly strapped for cash, simply because a single monthly payment is lower than an annual payment. While this makes monthly billing attractive and sensible for many individuals, be sure to keep the ultimate total price in mind when structuring your web space budget.

As you can see, there’s no right or wrong when it comes to choosing a billing cycle. It all depends on which plan works most efficiently with your needs and budget. You can get started right way by checking out our comparisons of top plans.

 

Top 5 Web Space Mistakes

For those who aren’t already well-versed in running their websites, the web hosting market can seem complicated. It’s actually very easy to avoid making the biggest mistakes when looking for web space. Here are five of those, and what you should be doing instead.

1. Placing too much importance on a single aspect.

Yes, your site may very well require a lot of large video and audio files, and that would make having a good amount of disk space available very important to you. But it’s still not the only thing that matters. Good web space needs to have a variety of different things acting in tandem; you will regret it if you pick an otherwise substandard option because of one particularly attractive bullet point. Look for a provider that boasts an attractive feature set all around, not just in the one respect that you care most about.

2. Undervaluing tech support

Things generally do not go perfectly. Your web space should always come with solid tech support as a hedge against that. If possible, that should include live support via chat or telephone; however, even if those aren’t doable within your price range, a good ticket system and a sizable knowledge base are essentials. If the tech support isn’t up to par, then you want to look elsewhere, period.

3. Taking the host’s word for things

The job of a web host’s website is to convince you to give them your custom. They’re going to accentuate the things that they have going for them, and they’re going to downplay the things that they don’t. Once you’ve found an option that looks good, look up more information elsewhere. User reviews are ideal here. See what people who’ve already taken the plunge have to say about the quality of their service. The last thing you want is to be roped into using a substandard hosting provider because of the marketing. If you need to find a good web host fast, click here to see the web hosts we recommend.

4. Paying too far in advance

Yes, most paid web space is cheaper if you pay for it for years at a time—or more, for that matter. But doing so also locks you into them for the intervening time period; this is a big commitment, and it’s one that you should only really make when you’re confident that you won’t regret it. To start out, consider paying only for a few months; that way, if you decide that things aren’t working for you, it’s no hassle for you to move. Once you’re confident in your selection, then by all means go for the best bargain available—but don’t make big purchases prematurely.

5. Using over-specialized hosts that run single software packages

If you just intend to run a blog, a forum, or some other common piece of software, it may seem odd to go to the trouble of using general-purpose web space to set those up when you could just pick one of the many hosts that will run the same software for you, often free of charge. Dodging the hassle of managing your own software is attractive, but it’s still not worth it. You have very little control over “your” site with such a host; they choose when things are updated. They choose which plugins and themes you have access to. They choose which ads you run, and make all of the profit from those. You save a little work in the short term, but you’re going to make things much harder in the long run.

How Much Web Space Do You Need?

For the average layman who just wants to get his web pages hosted, it can be confusing to have so many web hosting packages to choose from. Just about all of them offer a competitive range of packages based on at least two areas—web space disk size and bandwidth. Prices for similar packages differ from one hosting company to the next. You could end up with a package that is short of your needs for a very attractive price offer.

Determining your disk space needs

Text in a web page eats the least amount of file size, so that even an all-text 100-page site may require no more than 5MB of web space storage. It’s the multimedia content that creates large file sizes.

Photos can go up to hundreds of MB each if you make high-resolution images available for download.

Sound files in MP3 format also take up space so that a 3-minute pop tune can easily require 7 MB at the format’s highest audio bit rate of 320 kilobytes per second.

Video files require a large amount of disk space. A 30-second video could eat up 25 MB of web space depending on the format and video resolution. Some site owners simply embed videos from a separate provider such as YouTube to save on their own hosting costs.

Estimating your bandwidth needs

Each website is unique, and estimating your minimum bandwidth or data transfer usage will depend on several elements. A rough formula to follow is:

[average file size of your web pages] * [number of visitors you expect each day] * [number of pages each visitor will view] * [30 days in a month] = total monthly bandwidth or data transfer usage

For instance, if you have 20 web pages each averaging 10 KB of text with around 100 KB of images per page and a best estimate of around 100 visitors on average per day who would view around 5 pages, using the formula above, you can compute: [10 KB + 100 KB per web page] * [100 visitors] * [5 pages per visitor] * [30 days in a month] = 1,650,000 KB, 1,600 MB, or 1.65 GB per month. You need to find a hosting package that a monthly 1.65 GB can safely fall into. Hosting packages with 2 to 5 GB of bandwidth per month would be just right with some room for a near-term expansion in traffic.

Weighing your options

Personal websites with a few pages of text and images can often be satisfied with free hosting topped at 2 GB of bandwidth and around 100 MB to 150 MB of disk space allocated for you each month. Just be aware that your site could be littered with ads that can annoy your site visitors, and problems in your hosting may not be met with good technical support that a paid hosting company can provide.

For business usage, it’s best for you to look into professional web hosting providers. They usually start with 5 GB monthly bandwidth and 200 MB of web space from $3 per month, with significant savings if you sign up for long-term hosting. In most cases, a startup or small business website can benefit from the minimum paid hosting packages if it rarely uses more than 1 GB of data transfer per month, at least in the early months. Even if you sign up for a year’s service. professional web hosts won’t mind if you step up to a higher package should the growth in your traffic and website sophistication warrant a higher bandwidth and web space.

However, there’s a better alternative. Because disk space and broadband telecommunications have both gone down in cost, unlimited disk space and bandwidth are now commonly offered in many hosting solutions priced above $3 per month.

For a growing business, it makes good sense to avail of these unlimited offers. This allows you to grow your business without worrying about whether or not your web host can support you. It also helps you in case of large spikes of traffic. You don’t want your website to be down just when a lot of visitors are coming in.

At the end of the day, it’s always better to get as much as you can for your money’s worth. There are plenty of affordable web hosts that offer unlimited disk space and bandwidth, so this is definitely recommended.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Free Web Space

When you want web space, you may find it interesting just how many providers offer it for free. It goes without saying that “free” is a very attractive price; all other things being equal, you’d always want to take the free option.

Unfortunately, that’s not the world we live in; there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and so free hosting is a different beast entirely, with its own set of benefits and drawbacks. The question is, is web space worth paying for, or is free hosting sufficient? Let’s find out.

Advantages of Free Web Space

Well, first off, it’s free. That shouldn’t need clarification—you’re getting the service without having to pay for it. You can take the money you’re saving and go see a movie or something.

Unfortunately, that’s where the list of pros begins and ends. There’s no other respect in which free hosting could be superior to paid web space. That being said, that one pro is pretty massive, yes? It’d be enough to form an argument for free web space entirely on its own.

So now it’s time to examine the downsides of free hosting—to see what you’re trading in for that oh-so-attractive price point.

Disadvantages of Free Web Space

Fewer Features

Hosting providers are businesses. They’re not operating for you to run your website; they’re operating in order to make money for their owners. Most free providers also provide paid plans—the free plans are designed to get potential customers for those paid plans. What this means is that, by default, the free plans are going to have fewer features than the paid ones; you need to have motivation to upgrade, after all.

Advertising

One common problem with free web space is the forced advertising placed by the hosting provider on your website. This is a real problem; while your own ads can be an unobtrusive way to monetize your content, the hosting provider’s ads will often be large, tacky things that create a poor impression on users. They also prevent the possibility of using your own ads without turning pages into a horrific mess of ads upon ads that no one will go out of their way to view.

Limited Disk Space and Bandwidth

Disk space is typically limited in free hosting. Most free providers offer 512MB to 1GB of disk space for you to use. That’s not bad, but it’s not good; it’s enough space for basic HTML pages, yes, but complex scripts, images, audio files, or downloadable applications will all burn through your space with great rapidity.

The steep limits on bandwidth are also an issue. If your site becomes popular, users can easily eat through the handful of gigabytes you’re given in traffic, pulling it down until the next month.

Conclusion

If you’re planning to put up a small personal website for your friends and family to see, free hosting isn’t so bad if you know what you’re getting into.

But if you need a website for business or professional use—or if you simply want to avoid the headaches—invest in paid web hosting. In all respects besides the price, paid web hosting is simply a better choice. Just make sure you choose a good web host on which to build your online presence.