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Tips for choosing a Web site host

Apr 12, 20043 mins
Enterprise ApplicationsSmall and Medium Business

Some from the owners of Edge*Modern, some from me.

Some from the owners of Edge*Modern, some from me

Sina Djafari and Drew Sanocki, the modern furniture retailers we met last week , say they found plenty of Web hosting choices but little guidance on how to pick the best provider. Let me relay their advice and add some details.

Because Djafari and Sanocki sell exclusively through their Web site, e-commerce considerations were most important. If you don’t sell through your Web site or refer all your customers to other retailer sites, then your hosting requirements will be different. Sites without built-in shopping carts and other online commerce support tools cost less. Your decision hinges on the amount of storage space you need, the amount of traffic you draw, and the host’s reliability and technical support. You can find great sites for $2 to $10 per month if Web sales aren’t required.

When you do need to start selling, the pair suggest you consider pre-built storefronts. Edge*Modern relies on presentation to sell modern furniture, a niche market heavily dependent on style. If your products sell more because of price, availability or in less-stylish niche markets, a pre-built storefront is the fastest way to put you in the e-commerce business. They recommend Yahoo’s Small Business merchant site and osCommerce .

Many hosting sites offer pre-built templates for fast site construction, and some offer optional shopping carts and checkout software. But be sure to have your credit card processing arrangements in place with your bank before signing up as hosting companies don’t include them.

Edge*Modern’s new host splits the difference between a shared host (where your site and dozens or hundreds of others run on one physical server) and a dedicated host (where your site runs on one server). The owners contracted for a virtual server with guaranteed response and bandwidth. Shared hosts cost less, and many now offer e-commerce services, so they make good entry-level Web sites. As your transactions grow, you can upgrade your hosting plan for more space, bandwidth and performance by contracting for larger portions of a server or using a dedicated server when traffic or security demands.

Determining your needs for storage space and bandwidth can be difficult. Find My Hosting provides quick calculators to help you figure out how to handle your expected traffic (see editorial link below). Essentially, the more site graphics the more storage you need, the more visitors, the more bandwidth. Every Web site host will happily upgrade your service level for a fee upgrade, so choosing your plan doesn’t have to be 100% accurate.

Technical support must also play into your decision. Do you want toll-free phone support 24-7? If you’re new at this, that level of service might make it worth contracting with one of the major national vendors. Hosting services advertise their tech support policies, and some offer user forums you can visit to get an idea of how current customers rate the service.

Sanocki and Djafari decided to contract with a reseller for one of the national plans (a Verio Gold Reseller and fully-staffed Web hosting company, because they could get personalized shopping cart help directly from the owner. That’s not available 24-7, but if you can find a reseller who knows the business and offers personal service, as Edge*Modern has found, it will be more than worth the price, I promise.

Good sites to start looking for hosts: