When planning a website, the obvious place to start is with a great design and wonderful words. But even the most stylish website can fail without a good hosting server. Jonathan Crossfield offers some strategies for getting it right.
The internet appears to pull information out of the air, but every webpage, every byte of data, and every image is stored on a computer hard drive somewhere, waiting for your browser to access it. This hard drive is called the server, and the process of storing the data is called hosting.
Many people are unsure what to look for in a hosting package, especially as many web host companies explain their packages in technical terms, rather than listing the benefits to you as a customer. For the non-technically minded, the flood of specifications, data limits, bandwidth levels, and so forth can be extremely confusing.
A clear understanding of the issues involved in selecting a hosting package will allow you to take more control of how your website works – and even save money by finding a great deal.
Do you want to:
- Beginner: include interactive features such as shopping carts or blogs?
- Intermediate: add video or other large data files in your website?
- Expert: secure your website from failing when your company hits it big?
If I buy a new car, I don’t need to know how the engine works. Instead, I talk to someone more knowledgeable who can recommend a car that does what I want. If it’s red, has a decent stereo, and gets me where I want to go – I’m sorted.
A hosting server is the ‘engine’ of your website, and you shouldn’t have to become an IT whiz kid to select the right one. By knowing what you need from your server, you can ask the right questions and choose a hosting package that delivers the best performance for the best price.
Is it for you?
- You need a reliable hosting package
- You want an automated website
- You need to reduce administration
Campbell started mmamerchandise.com.au after identifying a gap in the Australian market for a specialized mix of martial arts merchandise. “I was buying my stuff from the US and the orders were taking months to arrive. In fact, I still have a couple of things outstanding from over two years ago.”
The website was a success, and Campbell built a solid customer base. But problems with his previous hosting company prompted him to look for a better solution.
“There were a couple of occasions when the website went offline without warning. I would find out after a couple of days that there was a problem, which wasn’t good service from the hosting provider.
“With the website down, I was losing business with every minute, so it was important to get a hosting provider that could both keep the website alive and also communicate with me when there was a performance issue.”
There were other opportunities for improvement as well.
“I was spending hours every day updating the stock inventory on the website. I had to change each listing manually when someone bought a product and it was becoming a real pain. I needed to find a way for the website to do the work of tracking inventory for me.”
Solution: business hosting, $29.95 per month
- 200MB space / 10GB transfer
- Ideal for dynamic websites and content management systems
- The ability to create more functional websites that attract customers
After talking to Sam at Netregistry, Campbell decided to upgrade his hosting package from a static to a dynamic server. This would allow him to add a Content Management System (CMS) to his new website, which would automatically update changes. Netregistry’s stable infrastructure and on-site technicians meant that problems could be fixed quickly, avoiding or reducing website downtime.
Although the Business Hosting plan costs a little extra each month when compared to a static server, the difference is more than made up by the extra business the website now brings in.
“On top of my other business as a personal trainer, I was spending hours every day working on the website. I now have that down to less than an hour a day. The website does it all for me. It updates stock, sends automatic emails to customers, and adding new stock to the site is much easier.”
Campbell also credits the new flexible website with the massive upswing in sales he experienced in February. “The customers love the new site and the hosting hasn’t failed once.”
Is it for you?
- Your website includes lots of video or other large files
- Your website is growing fast and needs more space
- You need to reduce the risk of problems
Glen Jackson launched swop.com.au in 2007, offering an alternative to the usual auction sites and online stores, and providing a facility for people to swap, buy or sell goods and services. As the first website of its kind in Australia, Glen hopes swop.com.au will grow into a strong brand offering unique opportunities for a wide range of users.
One way Glen hoped to make swop.com. au more attractive was by including a video facility. “I added a feature so that you can video your car and upload it to the site. This makes it easier for someone to make a choice. They can see clearly what they’re getting in a video – it shows a lot more than a couple of pictures will.”
Allowing visitors to upload video and images meant that Glen needed a larger and more reliable web server solution. He was also having problems with his current web developer. “If I needed changes to the website, he would say it would be done by next week. Three weeks later he would still be working on it and charging by the hour. It was a nightmare.”
Solution: premium hosting, $99.95 per month
- 2GB space / 20GB transfer for extra space and flexibility
- Shared SSL Certificate for customer security
- 300 email accounts
- Scripting and database support
After doing some research, Glen contacted Netregistry. “When dealing with Sam, I just say what I need. Sam sends me a quote and takes it on. Everything is clear. I know exactly what the quote covers, what is included, how much it costs, and when it will be done by. And that is exactly what happens. Much better service.”
Sam spent time understanding the website and suggesting solutions to Glen’s hosting problems. By putting Glen onto Netregistry’s Premium Hosting package (formerly Enterprise Hosting) Sam could provide a large 2GB of space for data storage as well as the database features and dynamic tools swop.com.au would need. More storage allows for video content. But as viewing video online can use a lot of bandwidth, the Premium Hosting package also provides a higher bandwidth limit, reducing the risk of extra payments when the website has a lot of visitors.
Glen hasn’t needed to worry about his web hosting provider since.
Glen is now ready to upgrade his site. “Soon I want to add a video to the home page to attract more attention. It will make us stand out and provide a great additional marketing tool.”
With 250 unique visitors to the website each day, increasing all the time, and a Google AdWords campaign providing strong results, Glen feels able to cope with the increased demand on his servers. “If I had to start again, I would do better research and make more enquiries. I fell into a trap with my first hosting service and it cost me. If I had dealt with Netregistry in the first place, I would have saved a lot of money and mucking about.”
Is it for you?
- You need to cope with large amounts of traffic without problems
- You need a lot of storage space for a rapidly expanding web presence
- You want personal technical service tailored to your needs
When Franco Lagudi was asked to appear on the Fox Business Show in New York, he knew his websites buyblitz.com and buyblitz.com.au were about to make it big. He had always had faith his online shopping mall for food retailers would be popular, but with national US television coverage, Franco knew his hosting server would need to cope with thousands of new visitors, stretching his bandwidth requirements.
Franco had previously hosted Bublitz. com on two separate servers, but began looking for a different solution when he started planning his online strategies for 2008. He wanted to ensure his hosting package could not only cope with high traffic but that he would receive personal telephone technical support to correct any problems quickly.
“I needed to make sure that, no matter what, my infrastructure and servers did not go down at the time when I needed them the most.”
Solution: dedicated hosting, from $220 per month
- 99.9% uptime guarantee
- Highest level of security and performance
- Massive storage sizes and transfer quotas
- Fully customisable
- On-site technical support
Anil Gupta is Netregistry’s head technician and is based next to the servers at our hosting center in Pyrmont. Having technicians stationed near the servers allows Netregistry to respond very quickly to any problems and offers outstanding flexibility in tailoring individual hosting solutions.
Anil and Franco chose a dedicated hosting server configured specifically for Bublitz. As no other websites share the same space, Franco has maximum flexibility and capacity for his data. “I was shopping around, but Anil came back with the right answers faster than anyone else. I knew what I was looking for and Anil fine-tuned it very quickly.”
With buyblitz.com housed on the new, dedicated server, Franco is confident that when traffic floods through, potential clients will find his business, rather than an error message. In March this year, Franco followed up his Fox Television appearance with a major news story in the New York Times to announce his latest project, The SOC EXchange.
Prompted by the success of buyblitz, this new online shopping experience gives users the opportunity to sell their goods online for a fraction of the cost associated with sites such as eBay. Socexchange.com is also hosted on Franco’s dedicated server and will soon expand to include a local version.
With Franco’s hosting plan allowing him to expand his business quickly, the server can comfortably handle traffic peaks.
Many businesses only upgrade hosting after an increase in traffic has pushed their website offline. Franco was wise to prepare in advance. “Like any retail store, you need to serve people coming through the door, not turn them away.”
- Web host. A company that administers webpage storage servers
- Server. A specially configured hard drive that stores website pages and serves them to browsers when the right addresses are typed in.
- Static, standard or basic hosting. The server software is not configured to run applications on your website, or store data acquired.
- Dynamic server. Configured to allow your website to have databases capable of storing, manipulating and generating information into new webpages in response to viewer requests.
- Dedicated server. Most websites share space on servers as they rarely take up much individual space. A dedicated server is one that has been specifically bought or set up exclusively for one customer. A dedicated server is used to meet the demands of a large website, or because a company needs to administer multiple websites.
- Bandwidth. Amount of data that can be accessed from a server daily.