In the last decade, commerce has moved online – and not just for big guys like Amazon, but for millions of smaller companies selling their wares and capabilities. At the same time, these business owners have also seen an increase in the options available for how they host and manage their mission critical sites and in the number of hosting providers in the marketplace. Without the benefit of in-house technical expertise, overwhelmed by the options available and frazzled by time constraints, many small business owners struggle to find the right hosting provider. Choosing a provider is often viewed as a necessary evil rather than a strategic partnering decision and as a result their business could likely suffer for it.
In a recent study conducted by Liquid Web, nearly 80 percent of small and medium business owners responded that they expect their business to be even more reliant on the web and cloud technologies five years from now. These business professionals understand that having a strong web presence is necessary if they want their businesses to succeed.
Astonishingly, the survey revealed that 86 percent of respondents believe that selecting the right hosting provider will affect a company’s competitiveness. With the potential for web presence to make or break a business, hosting is now part of the foundation for producing better business results.
While business owners want a hosting partner who can help their business succeed, more than 1 in 5 respondents reported that the state of their business limits their selection. This is most prevalent in organizations without internal IT staff or who cannot afford third party expertise to assist in the selection.
With an increasing number of businesses betting their success on their web presence and cloud reliant technologies, it is troubling to see the percentage that make this critical business decision based on price alone. It can be a costly mistake, especially for businesses that can’t afford downtime, slow site performance or security breaches. Instead, ask a hosting provider:
- What is their track record on uptime? What service level agreements are in place in the event of an outage?
- Do they own their own infrastructure and are they on-site with the servers 24x7x365?
- Does a cheaper price mean that they utilize older or refurbished hardware?
- Do customers have around the clock access to highly- trained, certified technicians?
- What do current customers say about them? Ask for data.
Business owners must also ensure their hosting provider can support their potential for growth. For example, Infoplum AFP needed to insure their application would withstand billions of global requests during the FIFA World Cup without interruption. Since 2008, Liquid Web’s Cloud Sites platform helped them serve 4.1 billion requests or 153 million hits per day and over 100 million pageviews.
And CrazyEngineers, an online outlet and forum for professional engineers and engineering students, switched its host provider to Liquid Web after multiple issues with the previous host. As the CrazyEngineers site grew in popularity, Liquid Web was able to upgrade its server to withstand this large influx of web traffic easily handling a 70 percent increase in traffic that occurred over less than three months.
Businesses need a hosting partner they can trust. Three factors top owners’ concerns when choosing a hosting provider:
- In Liquid Web’s survey, 88 percent of respondents considered security one of the most important criteria when selecting a hosting provider. Unlike large corporations, most small businesses lack the advanced tech support and funds to recover from a security breach. Owners want a provider that has built in security at the network, platform and application level. Ask about the provider’s security expertise and proactive monitoring. A good hosting provider is constantly blocking malicious activity, offering security solutions and helping with compliance needs.
- Almost half of respondents have experienced technical issues with their hosting company in the past 12 months. From the survey, the average number of technical issues is 4.5 – an unacceptable figure when even one technical issue could be detrimental for a business that is web-dependent. Not surprising, reliability is considered one of the most important criteria when selecting a provider according to 89 percent of respondents. Web-dependent businesses deserve 100 percent power and network uptime. While every provider may promote great service and high availability, ask them what they do when it doesn’t happen. With a hosting partner, owners should expect service level agreements that guarantee everything from response times and hardware replacement to compensation for downtime.
- When choosing a hosting provider, it is important to dig deep on the expertise of support personnel. Not every company offers 24x7x365 service and a tiered support model can cause delays in finding and addressing any hosting issues. Insure that the hosting provider offers access to experts around the clock and on the first contact – consulting on the product that is best for each business, helping if the site or application is slow and proactively flagging any issues. Having certified experts on-site and near the servers means if there is an issue, it will be fixed quickly. No middleman. No finger pointing.
The Liquid Web survey revealed that businesses are often held back from choosing a better hosting partner by the “what-if” situation migration presents. Nearly a quarter of consumers who aren’t switching to a new provider cited too much work for the migration as the biggest reason for maintaining the status quo. The right partner will have dedicated teams who can provide advice and expertise that can deliver a smooth migration experience.
If web presence fuels a business, then the site is mission-critical. Pick a partner – not a price. Think of hosting partners as part of the solution, not the problem.