What Hosting Should I Get?

What Hosting Should I Get?

When you start building a website for your small business one of the first things you will need to figure out is what type of hosting you will purchase. Hosting is the server space where you will store all of the files for your website so that they can be accessed through your domain (which is a separate thing and doesn’t have to be purchased from the same company). Website hosting runs the gamut from budget shared hosting for about $5/month all the way up to dedicated servers and managed hosting that comes with it’s own support team for hundreds of dollars. As a small business you are probably looking to get the most bang for your buck, so we will outline two options that we usually recommend to our clients.

VPS Hosting

This is our top recommendation for clients, because it provides the most flexibility and security. If you use some of the great coupon codes found here at this link you can save yourself a lot of money too. So what is VPS Hosting? Well it stands for Virtual Private Server, it’s halfway between a shared server and a dedicated server. You do not have a fixed amount of storage and RAM and you can adjust them as necessary. It gives you a lot of flexibility, without having to pay for a dedicated server when you don’t need it yet.

While your website might start off with low amounts of traffic, if you run a really successful marketing campaign or have a blog post that goes viral the sudden spike in traffic can cause huge problems if you aren’t set up with hosting that can handle it. At best your website will run very slowly (because your bandwidth is topping out) or at worst the site won’t load at all because the server is just too overwhelmed. With VPS Hosting, that’s no problem!

Shared Hosting

Shared hosting is definitely your cheapest option, but you get only what you pay for and are limited in what you can do. You will have a fixed and finite amount of storage, bandwidth limitations, and you are more vulnerable to XSS attacks. If you don’t ever expect to have a significant amount of traffic coming into your website and you don’t need to be serving a lot of large photos or video then it might be completely adequate for your needs and your most cost-effective option. Most hosts will give you the option to upgrade your account down the road if you find you are outgrowing your shared hosting plan.

Really make sure to take some time to consider what kind of website you will need, and how much traffic you expect to get in both the short and long term. If you hire a web developer or a firm, ask their opinion as well!

WordPress Resources

WordPress Resources

Hands down my favourite content management system to work with is WordPress, it started out as just a blogging platform but has developed into a very flexible and customizable overall content delivery system. You can make any kind of website you need with it these days from ecommerce to community sites. Here are some great resources to help you get the most out of your WordPress install.

WordPress Hosting

Many web hosting companies have started offering web hosting specifically for WordPress. They install WordPress for you, and set up an optimal configuration for your server so that your website will run fast. There is debate about whether WordPress hosting (which charges more than regular hosting) is really worth the extra cost: especially since WordPress is a free application that anyone can install themselves. Still, if you like the convenience of having your website set up for you, you can get some GoDaddy WordPress Hosting Promo Codes here to save around 25% off the regular price.

Themes

wordpress themes

There are a lot of themes out there for WordPress, there is absolutely no good reason to use one of the default ones. You don’t need to be a wizard with code to find a nice theme that matches your logo and/or brand. Any paid theme (ranging in price from around $25 – $60) will have a ton of options for customizing everything from the logo, colors, and fonts to the layout. For paid themes, Themeforest is your best bet. The themes are of very high quality, extremely customizable, and if you are having any trouble with your theme the developer will provide support for you at no extra charge. Quite a few of them offer tutorials and instructional videos as well.

If you’re on a tight budget there are plenty of great themes available for free through the WordPress website as well. You probably won’t get the same level of customization as you will with a paid theme, but there are plenty of really clean and beautiful ones. Plus you can’t beat the price!

BuddyPress

If you are looking to build a community site or intranet, BuddyPress is the way to go. It’s a robust WordPress plugin that will add social network features to your site like profiles, internal messaging, user groups, and activity streams. The extended profiles let you add an unlimited number of profile fields so that you can have profiles that are completely customized to whatever your site is about. And did I mention it’s free?! The video below will walk you through the installation process

WooCommerce

There are a few ecommerce plugins available for WordPress, but one of the most popular ones is WooCommerce. Like BuddyPress it’s quite robust with lots of different configurable components. The base versions is free, although there are some premium plugins that can extend it’s functionality even further for things like table rate shipping, subscriptions, and different payment gateways.

Websites on a budget

Websites on a budget

Your website should be an important part of your marketing and customer service strategy, and as such you should treat it as an important investment. However, when you are a small business or sole proprietorship you often don’t have a big budget for anything, especially when you are just starting out. The good news is that there is a lot of tips and tricks you can use to keep your costs low while still building a quality website.

Keep Hosting and Domain Costs Low

Through some frugal shopping you can find web hosting for incredibly cheap. Even VPS (Virtual Private Server) Hosting can be had for over 40% off with the right promo codes. GoDaddy always has tons flying around. Dreamhost and Fatcow are two other ‘budget hosts’ where you can keep costs incredibly low while you build up resources. (Update: we found a good resource for coupons here).

Appointments and Scheduling

If you really don’t have the budget to spend a significant chunk of cash on your company website then you will just not be able to get a fully customized and integrated appointment booking system. Don’t despair though! While you might not be able to get it built right into your website there are several online services that you can pay a monthly or yearly subscription fee to that can handle it for you. Your clients will be directed to your company’s page on the services website and can set up their appointment from there. Pretty seamless, right? And you can’t argue with the price, BookFresh has packages starting at $19.95/month.

Online Payment Processing & Client Billing

One of the easiest ways to take payments from clients is to use PayPal, if your clients don’t have a PayPal account they can use a credit card with their system as well. PayPal does take a small percentage of any payments that you receive, but when you compare it to the expense and hassle of setting up your own payment gateway it is well worth it.

Paypal is a great solution for people who have a product to sell, but what if you run a service that you need to bill hourly for, like a small web dev company? We here at Ibsen Co. use Freshbooks and it’s been a great investment. You pay a monthly subscription fee that varies depending on how many clients and projects you have, and it’s very easy to track your hours. If you are the type of person who gets caught up in their work and doesn’t really notice things like start and stop times, they provide a very handy timer that you can use to track time spent on projects. You can also include any expenses accrued by the client, and when it comes time to generate an invoice it’s a one-click process that makes a very professional looking document that you can choose to email to your clients or print off to send in the mail. You can also accept payments from your clients through your FreshBooks page, they can pay with PayPal or any major credit card. Everything is there, so worth the small subscription fee!

Web Designers vs. Web Developers – Which one do you need?

Web Designers vs. Web Developers – Which one do you need?

A lot of people think that a web designer and a web developer are the same thing, but they actually specialize in different areas of website building. You might be asking yourself which one you need to build your websites business, or do you need both? The answer will depend on what your main goals are with your website. In this article I will try to break down the difference for you and help you to determine what your business needs are.

Web Designers

Web designers are the ‘artists’ of the web. They design the look and feel of a website, including things like colors, fonts, the interface, and the layout. They may also be able to design your logo for you if that is something that you require. They typically have training in graphic design, and some will have gone further and studied things like user experience design. It’s great to have a website that looks pretty, but not so great if it’s difficult for the end user to understand how to navigate it. In the early days of the web I remember a lot of Flash-based websites that had all kinds of moving parts and interesting graphics, but that I ultimately left in frustration because I couldn’t figure out how they worked. Speaking of Flash, if you contact a web designer who says that they specialize in Flash I would advise moving on and finding somebody different. Flash technology is not supported on the majority of mobile devices, which means customers would not be able to use your website on a smartphone or tablet.

Most web designers also have at least a basic understanding of HTML code (think of it as the building blocks of websites) so that they can turn their designs into a functioning website, and if you can find one that can turn their design into a theme for a content management system like WordPress or Joomla even better, as that will give you the ability to be able to easily update your website on your own.

You should use a web designer if:

  • You have a lot of great photography of your product/service
  • You need a logo designed (although not all web designers will offer this service)
  • You have a strong brand already set up for your product labels/print media and need your website to integrate with that seamlessly
  • You don’t need any complicated applications to be part of your website (shopping carts, booking systems, client log-in areas)

Web Developers

If web designers are the artists of the web, then web developers are the architects. Web developers specialize in learning the programming and coding languages that turn a design into a functioning website and add features like contact forms, forums, shopping carts, and log-in areas. We at Ibsen Co. fall into the web developer camp, and although we don’t think we are especially skilled at design, we’re good at taking a pre-existing design or theme and altering it to a clients needs. We always recommend that clients use WordPress and find a theme that is close to what they want, we can modify it from there to add in your company logo and update the colors to match your branding. ThemeForest has an excellent selection of professional and high quality themes that we can work with. In general we suggest that you use a web developer if you need a site that is functional over graphics-heavy and specifically branded.

Should I use both?

If you need a website that is both specifically designed to your brand, and needs a lot of functionality then you should definitely employ the services of a graphic designer and web developer. Most small to mid-size web development companies will employ both types of professionals, and often more like SEO specialists, which is yet another facet of website building!

Whatever you end up choosing remember that communication and keeping it simple is key! You hired these people for a reason, listen to their years of experience and expertise so that you can avoid this kind of a situation!