Running several websites since 2004, I wanted to share some tips that may be of benefit to other Small online businesses!
Get Decent Website Hosting!
Its really not worth getting budget hosting for a website these days. A minimum for any website these days I would recommend getting cPanel hosting and make sure it has more than one processor and allows for multiple accounts in case of expansion. Here are some more things to look out for
This is Administration software for your website(s). You can log into it from any browser and administer various aspects from anywhere, things like email accounts, FTP accounts, MySQL databases,Website statistics, etc.
cPanel software will be licensed by the hosting company and should be inclusive in your hosting package. There are a few cPanel alternatives out there but I have tried a few but have found to date that it is worth paying the extra for cPanel so it is the only one I will recommend.
Hosting Package Types
Basic Shared Hosting
– Usually based on a single or small number of domains, if you can ever foresee the possibility of needing more that one website, this would be best avoided. There is likely to be restrictions on the number of databases and email accounts you can have which can quickly become restrictive. If you add another website in the future, you may have to get this extra, it may be on a different server and require different logins etc. You will most likely have hundreds of other people hosting their websites on the same server so if some of those websites are using lots of resources, or get attacked for some reason, your website will also suffer. Packages can be found from just £1 per month but I would recommend budgeting at least £5 a month if your business is going to depend on your website, that should at least give you a decent amount of resources and the ability to host more than one website.
– This is the minimum I would recommend these days. It should allocated you much more bandwidth, hard disk space and other resources than a basic shared hosting package. Even if you only want the extra resources for yourself (multiple website domains etc.) The extra resources and the power to administer multiple accounts from a central interface is a huge benefit. As with basic shared hosting, there will be other resellers on the same server as you and there is still the risk that their websites can adversely affect your websites. Packages start from around £20 per month but be wary of companies that offer unlimited resources, as they are offering this to everyone else on that server aswell!
– This is the bees knees as far as hosting is concerned, Not only do you get everything in a reseller hosting package, you have access to everything on the server, You should get root access and have powerful commands and resources at your disposal. If you are reading this article, you would most likely want to choose a managed server option as this hides some of the powerful functionality that you don’t normally need that you might unintentionally do damage with!. You can usually sell hosting or even reseller packages from a server hosting! Unlike Reseller or shared hosting, the server is self-contained for you so there is no danger of anyone else on the server slowing down your websites! You should get WHM to manage the server (which is like a parent of cPanel) and it is all powerful. (Several Virtual Servers will actually be running on a single machine but these days is not an issue, see below). Typical costs for a Virtual Private Server start at £40 per month
This is basically a virtual server(see below) but everything is virtualized. The storage can exist totally separate to the processing and the processing power is shared across a vast array of websites. This is great for small websites but is often not as quick as a dedicated server.
VDS (Virtual Dedicated Server)
All but the most powerful websites can run happily on a VDS these days. The technology has advanced so much and the virtualizations is so optimized that you would be hard pushed to tell if a server is dedicated or virtual. As mentioned in the hosting packages section, a VDS will be one of several running on a physical machine but the technology is now so advanced that this is no longer an issue. They are hardware independent so any problems with the hardware it is running on, the VDS can be quickly moved to another physical machine and you will be allocated minimum guaranteed resources.
This was the bees knees until a few years ago (and still is) but the massive expense of having a dedicated machine constantly running for you in some data centre somewhere is just a luxury these days and unnecessary for most people unless you have specific requirements such as massive storage for video streaming etc. Also there is the problem if the hardware fails, your entire server is down and has to be repaired or moved to another (identical) physical server. This would usually take hours but could take days to resolve particularly if there is an intermittent problem.
In summary, there are still some cheap and nasty hosting providers out there. Many will offer free or cheap websites as an incentive, but a lot of these cheap companies are the same ones I constantly read on forums that people are having problems with.
Phone numbers and VOIP!
08xx numbers – grrr!
Another pet hate of mine is 0845 or 0800 type numbers! These can cost a small fortune from mobiles, don’t work from abroad and I personally avoid calling them at all costs. If you want non-geographical numbers or specific geographical numbers that will not change if your business location moves, see VOIP below.
I cannot recommend VOIP enough. Its basically phone lines using the internet. You can have multiple VOIP phones that can call each other for free and they can be located anywhere with an internet connection such as home and business and calls can be transferred easily!
The requirements for VOIP are;
A decent broadband connection
Either really fast like fibre or at least one that will not have others on it using all the bandwidth watching videos or uploading etc.
VOIP phones or adapters
Special VOIP phones that plug into a standard RJ45 network port. They can often have multiple lines available from the same handset and many other advanced features not found on a regular phone system, such as conference calls etc. Adapters can be bought to convert standard phones into VOIP phones. I haven’t used these myself but I can see how they would be handy, particularly if you still want to access an existing landline and the adapter handles both simultaneously.
* NEW – Mobile/Computer Voip *
Since first writing this article, mobile data and apps have improved significantly, so much so that I would now recommend Zoiper as a VOIP client to run on your smartphone. I find this great to pick up calls when setup as an additional extension to my VOIP setup. (Of course if you are in Wifi range, your phone should be setup to use that as a preference to mobile data). There are alternatives such as Jitsu, but Zoiper is the most professional I have tried. There are also desktop computer applications, I have used Jitsu on Linux with some success but prefer the mobile app. Also these apps can have some cool extra features like call recording that you may have to pay for separately otherwise.
A VOIP provider
Although its possible to setup your own VOIP server, I have used a couple of VOIP providers and find them excellent. They can start with a small monthly charge and most allow you to expand as your business grows
Decent email management
Its one of my pet hates to see firstname.lastname@example.org or whatever as a business email address especially when they have their own website! Is it that they are blissfully unaware that they can easily multiple emails through their website domain? So email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org etc. It looks so much more professional and has other benefits!
These can either be setup as mailboxes of their own, or individually redirected to other email accounts elsewhere! So email@example.com can easily be redirected to firstname.lastname@example.org using cPanel. So if they move their hosting from btinternet they can just change their redirection to the new email provided by their new hosting company!
They could be redirected or collected by a centralized client such as gmail etc. (which allows access to multiple external accounts through a single gmail account). I don’t like this option myself as I don’t like google profiting from my email data however this or similar may be a great option for those requiring the convenience of something like gmail and its apps. But don’t just move to gmail, keep the power and control yourself by using an email address through your website forever!
Empower yourself by Hosting your own email!