Travel back ten years and you would find that most small businesses didn’t have a website. Nowadays, twenty minutes of downtime is a cause for major concern, let alone actually having a site!

If you’re picking a web host for the first time, or changing your current provider, there are five key questions to keep in mind or discuss with your developer.

A little forethought now can pay huge dividends later down the line. Just consider, for example, that you discover that a host isn’t up to scratch. In order to switch, you’re looking at the transfer of thousands of files, several databases, potentially hours downtime and re-installation of any site software.

1. Do you need shared or dedicated hosting?

Most web hosting packages can be divided into two camps: those with dedicated and those with shared servers. A server is essentially a computer that stores all of the information about your website. People are able to access that information through their web browsers.

Shared servers tend to be inexpensive but have numerous drawbacks. Because you’re sharing computer space with other websites, you only have limited access to resources. Dedicated servers, which are on the other end of the spectrum, allow you complete control of available server space, bandwidth, webmail accounts etc.

Virtual private servers (VPS) exist as a midpoint between shared and dedicated servers. They provide the best of both worlds: dedicated resources without the cost of maintaining a dedicated server. For most business, they are ideal. Digital Bird, for example, makes use of VPSs for the majority of clients.

2. Can you scale with this hosting company?

Some web hosts cater to small business exclusively. Others tailor their packages to meet the needs of large enterprises. Different hosts have different solutions and you should consider them in the context of your business.

A startup expecting significant future growth, for example, will benefit from choosing a host that can streamline the process of upgrading to larger amounts of server space. A small accountancy firm, on the other hand, will likely have no need for enterprise-level services.

3. How reliable is technical support?

There are two factors to consider here. The first is whether or not a hosting company has a good in-house technical team that’s available 24/7 and that can be reached via your preferred means of communication in your language. Direct communication channels, like phone and live chat, are preferable because they enable you to get in touch with a specialist immediately.

The second is whether or not you want specialised advice regarding the type of website you will be hosting. Some hosting companies, for example, specialise in WordPress sites, whilst others have in-depth experience with eCommerce portals.

4. How robust are security features?

Robust and effective security features are particularly vital if you’re conducting transactions or collecting sensitive data through your site. SSL encryption, which will encrypt the data being sent to your server. is a must. A reliable firewall is another necessity.

It’s also important to check how often backups are carried out. Any good web host will provide them regularly. At Digital Bird, for example, sites are backed up daily, and this is a good benchmark by which to evaluate hosts.

5. Are there any hidden add-ons?

Not all hosts are upfront about which services aren’t included in their packages. As providers strive to offer the cheapest prices, certain features inevitably get pushed aside. They’ll snag you with a cheap introductory offer then charge you more for email accounts, domain privacy, and software installation

One of the big issues that businesses face is in regards to bandwidth. Bandwidth is important because it refers to the amount of traffic that your site can deal with. Make sure you check how much it’s going to cost you if you occasionally go over your allotment. That way, an article on The New York Times and the subsequent short-term spike in traffic, won’t break the bank!

If you would like to discuss any of these questions with a developer at Digital Bird, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Head over to our capabilities to learn more. We have a wealth of experience and can discuss exactly what you need from a web host.