Hosting Services Support

Tips to get you started in the right direction

1. A Piece Of The Web To Call Your Own
It seems like everybody has a website these days, doesn't it? Giving yourself some kind of web presence is unbelievably easy. These days even people who are barely computer literate manage to create their own web page.

Having a web page seems like a good idea, right? You've heard of everything that the Internet can offer and you want a piece of the action! Excellent! That adventurous spirit will take you far! But before you go off full speed ahead, there are a few things that you may want to consider.

For example, who will host your website? Will you have a domain name? Who will design your website? What kinds of web applications will you be needing? What content will you provide to give users incentive to visit your site?

Let's face it, you don't want just any old website, you want a website that is unique to your business. You want a website that people will want to visit more than just once. You want a website that people will remember and bookmark. You want reliable, hassle free service and a professional website design.

These tips will help you sort out what you need to do to make that dream a reality. The emphasis is to help you find the best services available for your unique business needs. Towards that end, this document will not be advertising any product or service. It is hoped that you will find the information here helpful in researching your options and making the right decisions for yourself.

2. Choosing The Right Hosting Provider
In order to have a website on the Internet, you first need a web hosting provider. A web hosting provider gives you access to some web space. This is the space on the Internet that holds your business' web pages.

This can be tricky. Many web hosting providers promise the moon, but fall far short. Here are a few points to ponder when considering a web hosting provider:

- Do they provide technical support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? Even the best hosting companies can experience downtime and technical glitches. If your business absolutely needs these issues resolved at any hour of the day, don't settle for anything less.

- Do they have a toll free support number? Most web hosting companies allow you to contact them via email or a "Trouble Ticket". However, they should also give you a toll free phone number. It's not unheard of for some companies to make their clients wait hours and hours before responding. All the while the client is losing money from lost sales. The ability to speak to someone directly is very important.

- A feedback and support forum is also a good sign. The more methods of support a hosting company provides, the more committed it shows they are to resolving any issues you may have.

- Avoid web hosting providers that make unrealistic promises like Unlimited Bandwidth or Unlimited Data Transfer Allowance. All hosting companies have to pay for their bandwidth. If your business starts to get enough attention to make it a liability, you may find your account unceremoniously terminated with little or no reason given.

- Even if you don't know how to modify your website, it's a good idea to make sure that you have the ability to upload and download files. Some companies design and set up your entire website for you, but don't give you access to make modifications. This forces you to use them whenever you want to make any changes at all. You should have the option of hiring a third party to modify your website.

- Be wary of providers that insist on long term contracts. The sad truth is that many hosting providers are not very reliable. What you want is the ability to change your mind and switch providers if they fail to meet your expectations. The terms of a long term contract may lock you in and give you no option to request a refund.

- Look for the Terms of Service (TOS) on their website. This document details exactly what is expected of you in order to be eligible for web hosting. If you can't find it, chances are there's something they don't want you to know!

- Be wary of online hosting reviews. Many websites that rate hosting providers are commercially based and give the highest reviews to the companies that pay them the most. Look for reviews and ratings from other users, especially from people you know. Well known computer magazines may also contain trustworthy reviews.

- Does the provider have a variety of plans so that you have the possibility of upgrading at a later date? An average website can get away with 10 megabytes of storage and 5-10 gigabytes of bandwidth. It will all depend on the type of content you provide and how popular your website is as well, so make sure you monitor how much you use each month.

- Does the provider supply an easy to use control panel that allows you access to your account? You should have access to set up email addresses, databases, and view your account information all from one place. Some providers may even supply access to automatically set up pre-set web applications like newsletters and discussion forums.

Be aware that there are some large companies that make more money from new users constantly signing up than they do from recurring business. So even if it's a large, well-established organization they may not have the incentive to provide you with quality support.

Also be aware that there are many re-sellers and small time operators who may have good intentions, but don't have the resources to give you the quality support that you need. A re-seller in particular will have to pass on your support request to the main hosting company and act as a middle-man.

Above all make sure to do your research before settling on a web hosting provider. And make sure that you have a backup choice for if you run into problems. Often you only discover a company's shortcomings when a problem crops up.

3. Getting It Designed
Now we get to the part where you create your website. The choice here is between hiring a designer or getting your hands dirty and doing it yourself. Learning HTML code and creating web pages is a rewarding experience that you might want to consider. There are also many applications available that allow you to create nice looking webpages with absolutely no coding required.

If you're the do-it-yourself type of person, this is a very tempting option. And creating web pages can be a very interesting and fun creative experience. And with some applications all you have to do is choose from a selection of pre-made designs and fill out a few fields and your website is created like magic.

That's wonderful, right? You can set it up yourself and print the address on all your business cards. It feels like you've really accomplished something - and you have. Let's face it, being able to publish a document that's available for the whole world to see instantly is amazing. The Jetsons may have had flying cars, but even they would have been impressed with this kind of technology!

But there are a few things to consider. Your website is your business' storefront on the Internet. If you've done a good job it will have a professional look and feel and be easy to navigate. But Internet surfers these days are more discerning than ever. The slightest oversight may be a flashing neon sign proclaiming "An Amateur Made This!".

Professional website designers are aware of the common pitfalls of web design and how to avoid them. They may also have the qualifications to install web applications for you or have them custom created. If you want to set up a shopping cart with some sort of online payment system, you're likely going to need a knowledgeable professional to make sure everything is set up properly.

When choosing a designer, ask for 3 examples of websites that designer has created. All professional web designers have a portfolio of their previous work that they're willing and eager to show prospective clients.

Don't be afraid to ask for a demonstration design of what the designer envisions for your website. A good designer can whip up a nice demonstration graphic fairly quickly, and should be prepared to give you more than one design to choose from if you request it.

The choice to go with a certain designer will be largely based on aesthetics. If you like the designs and you get a good feeling about a designer, then by all means make that choice. Don't accept anything less than the knowledge that this designer understands what you want and can deliver the goods.

You should be prepared to supply your web designer with all the content that you want on your website. You should have the following at a minimum:

- An Opening Statement: This is the first thing that your visitors will see when they come to your website. It should concisely describe what your business does and the kinds of services available on the website.

- Contact Information: A list of people to contact along with phone numbers and email addresses and mailing addresses.

- Business Information: Visitors to your website will want to know about who they're dealing with. Write out a page about the founding of your business, the community it operates in, and your general business goals.

- A list of products or services offered: You're going to want prospective customers to be able to see your prices online. You may even want them to be able to buy directly from the Internet. It's crucial for a designer to know what you offer.

You may also want to write out a FAQ. FAQ stands for Frequently Asked Questions. Having a list of common questions and answers about your business and the services you offer can save visitors a lot of trouble. Also, if you have any terms and conditions make sure to supply them, they should be openly available to all inquirers.

Remember, you're the one who knows best what kind of design is right for your business. You know how you want things to be presented, and you're the one best capable of selling yourself to the public. Make sure that it's your unique vision that's being represented by your website, don't accept anything less.

4. Additional Content
Internet users these days are more discerning than ever. If you want to bring in visitors and potential new customers, you're going to have to supply them with more incentive than just what your business does and your price list.

Your business is your passion. You've forgotten more about what it is you do than most people will ever know. You are an expert, a professional. What people want most from you isn't your sales pitch, it's your expertise.

Write articles and advice on the subject of your business. If you sell antiques, write an article about how to recognise a good bargain when antique shopping. If you sell books, write book reviews. Give this content to your designer, it should be an integral part of your website.

If you want more content you can search online for articles. Many people will allow, even encourage you to copy articles that they've written. Make sure that you have the author's permission and that you give them full credit for their work.

Setting up additional content is the most effective way of bringing traffic to your website. Web surfers will only go so far to comparison shop for products and services. But they'll go to great length to find interesting articles and advice. If your visitors enjoy your article and benefit from it, they're more likely to trust you. And if your visitors trust you, they're more likely to do business with you.

Hopefully these tips have helped you become more informed in choosing how to set your business up online. Good Luck, and have a fulfilling online experience!

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