When it comes to conversations and articles about branding, the focus typically turns to its visual and visible aspects: fonts, logos, blogs, social media posts and the like. But the core of branding is the emotional reaction that it engenders in customers and prospects. As a result, that involves a lot more than just what you show people. Customers’ service expectations — in person and on your website — are part of your brand as well. Does your website provide the smooth service customers expect?
What to Look for When Choosing a Web Host
Make sure you consider this when shopping around for a web host. Choosing the wrong host can negatively affect customers’ experiences with your website and therefore undercut your efforts at building a good brand. When comparing web hosts and hosting plans, keep these important points in mind:
- Limitations of Shared Hosting.
With shared hosting, your website files live on a server with the files of possibly hundreds of other websites. A server can do only so much, so high traffic on another site on your server can slow customer access to your own site. It works the other way, too. If your site starts to take off and you’re using a shared server, your bandwidth might get throttled as your web host tries to maintain some equity of access. People don’t like to wait. If they can’t access your site quickly, they’ll go somewhere else. Not only does this affect your bottom line — you may have just lost a customer — but now your brand is associated with slow online access.
- Secure Servers.
Unintentional slow-downs are one thing; malicious attacks are a whole new ballgame. Web hosts will outline the types of security options they use to keep your data secure as well as other add-ons they will give or sell you to help security. Make sure they’re up to snuff. Your host should have secure servers, but they shouldn’t be your only line of defense, especially if you collect personal data from users through your site. Some big businesses have been beset by negative press in the recent past from the exposure of identifying information. Don’t let that be you.
- The Truth about Uptime
. Web hosting sites pride themselves on the uptime of their services, but that number might not mean what you think it means. First of all, you shouldn’t even consider a web host that doesn’t offer 99.9% uptime or better. But don’t be fooled: If a web host offers 99.9% uptime, it probably doesn’t mean that it will be down less than 9 hours a year. Uptime percentages usually only indicate unplanned downtimes — scheduled maintenance isn’t included in that number. Think about what that means. If a web host, in an extreme example, were to take its servers offline for maintenance for an hour every couple weeks, the resulting total uptime is about 99.6%. That’s four times the posted downtime. When you’re researching web hosts, look for the real numbers. Try to find out how often the servers go offline for maintenance.
- Don’t Forget Your Own Downtime.
Things can go wrong on your end, too, adding to how often your site goes down. Data corruption, failed updates and all manner of human error can keep customers from connecting with your site. Part of the pain of your downtime problems can be alleviated somewhat if your web host offers an easy-to-use interface, but you need to take necessary precautions at your end, too, such as establishing regular backups, on-call IT staff and off-site data storage.
If you’re really stuck, you will wish that you had a web host with responsive, 24/7 customer service. Don’t choose a web host that will leave your customers hanging around while you try to hunt down a customer service representative. They won’t hang around for long.
The bottom line? There’s a lot more to finding a good web hosting service than just price. Keep due diligence in mind and verify web hosts’ claims. Find guidance from review sites, blogs and bulletin boards (such as WebHostingTalk). Failure to do so can damage your brand, your business and your bottom line.
Image credit: Kittikun Atsawintarangkul on Freedigitalphotos.net