Websites are so important to businesses in the digital age. No matter how tech-savvy your operation is, your website is crucial – acting as a signposting device, a marketing tool, a place to showcase your work to earn and grow your reputation and a way to take and process orders. Customers’ first port of call is so often a Google search – and your website is key to capturing their attention when they do this. Yet far too many SMEs are still not taking this opportunity. One study even found that 60 per cent of very small businesses (those with up to six employees) don’t have a website at all.
To the modern, smartphone wielding, digitally savvy customer, they don’t exist and that’s not good news for those businesses. A key reason for a lack of web presence (or even a poor offering) is that they just don’t know how to go about establishing their website. It can seem daunting, yet it needn’t be.
If you’re an SME that needs to embrace the power of the web, here’s what you need to know about the key step of web hosting:
You need to sort your domain name: Your domain name is your full web address. Websites would, ordinarily, be identified through a long series of numbers (their IP address), but domain names allow this to be a series of words instead. Typically, you’ll want this to be your business name. You need to register your domain name to ensure you get your own bespoke web address. This will last for a number of years and so you’ll need to ensure that your registration is kept up to date if you don’t want to risk losing your domain name.
Find a host for your site: Your domain is only a name – next you need to rent a space for the site that carries your domain name. Some companies offer packages that are geared up for the needs of small businesses. Check out website hosting from WestHost, for example, to see what this entails. Essentially, they will provide you a corner of their servers for your site. Think of this as renting a shop on the high street, only digitally.
Check your site will be able to meet your needs: A host will give you the space to operate, but different types of space are available. To return to the shops analogy, this is the equivalent of picking a different type of premises. Whereas you would pick the size, shape and location of your shop, office or warehouse, you also need to make some decisions about your website.
How much space do you need? You should consider the server space and bandwidth you are getting. Some hosts place a limit on this, which might be an issue if your business attracts a lot of visitors or grows in size. You also need to think about email inboxes and any limit on the size and scope of these. Some hosting companies can give you unlimited server space and bandwidth and can handle 100 emails and hour for you, which would certainly end any questions you have in this regard as an SME.
Level of service: You also need to find out two more things. What backup provision does your host offer and what is its level of customer service? The latter, according to SME Toolkit, should be seen as the ‘defining factor’ of a good web host service. If your site is down then you are at risk of being plunged back into the darkness alongside those without a page. You need to be confident that your host can ensure your downtime is limited and be on hand if you have any questions.