No one can deny that the quality and reliability of your Web presence can make or break your business. The average attention span of a Web surfer is a mere 20 seconds, and your competition is always just a click away if load times and connectivity aren’t fast, reliable, and browser-compliant. Support and back-end infrastructure are just as critical to your Website as aesthetic appeal. A gorgeous, multi-tiered graphical interface is useless if no one can get to it and no one will try more than once. Like the stage and silver screen, you get one audition, and that’s it.
For this reason, running your own server is a tempting prospect. You have total control, and can configure and reconfigure to your heart’s content, without having to concede to bandwidth limits or third-party server failures. Even SOHO businesses can afford to purchase the industry-standard HTML editors, and no expensive hardware is needed to quickly create a Website. But opting to do it yourself without counting the costs and consequences can end your business, or cause your site to be dismissed as amateurish. While amateur construction is adequate for home or hobby sites, it is increasingly necessary to outsource your hosting needs if you wish to operate as an effective eCommerce vendor.
Quite simply, eBusiness doesn’t end with the Website. Aside from handling the traffic that your site will attract, you need your server to maintain a constant connection to the Internet while simultaneously accommodating the needs of outside users. Few desktop PCs can handle such a load, and many home DSL and cable modem ISPs frequently prohibit hosting or any other high-bandwidth activities, which are so critical to eCommerce. Furthermore, there are the costs of site security, data backup, power back-up, redundancy, upgrades and transaction tracking to contend with, expenses that are far beyond the resources of even the wealthiest of small businesses. Furthermore, someone will have to constantly monitor and manage your infrastructure to ensure a constant level of connectivity, which will require the hiring of very expensive IT professionals.
A Web host will take care of all of this for you, for a monthly fee that is a fraction of the amount you would pay to purchase these services and hardware on your own. Many people are leery of turning control of their business over to a third party, and because of this unwarranted fear are dismissing the security and benefits that a host can provide. You are not outsourcing your business; rather, you are outsourcing the responsibility for keeping your business up and running. In the same way that a bricks-and-mortar warehouse hires security staff to watch the grounds, a Web host will keep a constant vigil over your virtual property, so you can focus on what’s important: building your business.
Web hosts allow small businesses to play in the same arena as the corporate giants, giving them competitive bandwidth and traffic volume accommodation. Most importantly, your Web host will help you secure a domain name, something that most individual ISPs and free hosting accounts (such as Yahoo!) can’t offer. Having a lengthy URL indicates that your business is hosted on a free server, and its amateur appearance will confuse your customers. Imagine the traffic that would be generated by a simple URL such as www.acmeflorists.com compared to www.yahoo.com/~128.hmpg/client2434/net~mypage/index_acmeflorists!
But how do you choose a Web hosting service out of the hundreds that are available? You’ll have to do some careful shopping to find the services and relationship you need, as the wrong decision can be disastrous.