If you’ve ever purchased new website hosting, you’re familiar with the sales pitch. Unlimited storage! Unlimited visitors! Add security features! Add another domain name! Add a pony for just sixty dollars more! Cupcake buffets for everyone!
It’s designed to be so overwhelming you say “Sure, fine.” and add it all to the cart without thinking. Or if you’re stingy like me, ignore all the wed design add-ons out of spite, once again, without thinking.
But we should be thinking. These add-ons wouldn’t be offered if they weren’t helpful. Some add-ons are actually must haves. Of all the tempting offers you’ll see while purchasing hosting, these five are worth serious consideration.
Be taken seriously when you email customers and colleagues. Use an email address that matches your website’s domain name (which should match your business name). Unfortunately, it’s harder to get your bonafide business address than just signing up for Gmail.
First, if you haven’t registered your business for a domain name, you can’t get proper business email service. Use a company like GoDaddy or Namecheap to search for a domain and pay for your registration. Many website hosts give you one free year of domain registration with purchase of hosting.
Purchasing website hosting is when you’ll inevitably see email on sale. Be cautious when you see what they offer. Any offer like “Unlimited free email inboxes!” is hiding something. Namely, that you’ll need to use their web-based email interface and have tightly limited email storage space.
Most clients I work with expect something like they’re used to in their personal life or at other companies where email was already figured out. The supposedly free email thrown in with hosting just doesn’t satisfy.
Instead, consider a paid email service provider. Google Apps is inexpensive and gives you the Gmail experience. And Microsoft Office 365 Business Essentials is the Microsoft version of Google Apps so you get the Outlook experience if you prefer. Or, engage a local IT service provider to guide you through setup of business email on their own systems.
Don’t settle for email as an add-on to your website. Email is a core service for business worth investing in.
Sometimes I watch HGTV and I’m reminded why I rent an apartment. These renovation shows always uncover termites or water damage or some other hazard resulting from neglect. Then they fix it up for their reno and everyone is happy. Until the new homeowners realize they have gutters to clean and a raccoon to evict.
Doing maintenance, in general, just sucks. And websites are no different. Paying for website hosting is like renting a plot of land and moving in a mobile home. If the land has a problem, the landlord might step in. But they couldn’t care less about your property, your website.
You’re responsible for your own website maintenance. That is, unless you pay someone else to do it for you. Not all website hosts offer service like this, but if it’s offered, take it. You have a business to run and marketing to plan. Pay a little extra to remove the burden of core software maintenance and ensure you’re always up to date.
Malware Removal and Security Help
Buuuut what if you forget to maintain your site or actively neglect it. What if you don’t ensure your website is properly maintained with updated core software.
Without regular maintenance, you can just about bet your website will be hacked or vandalized. Even with regular maintenance, there’s always a chance you’ll have the bad luck to be taken down by a hack.
So, what do you do? Unless you’re an Internet security expert, you probably can’t fix it and not every web designer or website expert is willing to wade into the waters of hacking cleanup. They would much rather build brand new things than make repairs. And nobody will do it for a low cost or quick turnaround.
Good news though. Some website hosts offer services from SiteLock or Sucuri bundled with your hosting purchase. These anti-hacking plans can run $200 a year, which could be more than all your other website related costs combined.
But it could be worth it. When you pay up front, through the nose like that, you get support from technologists who have decided to cleanup hacks and repair websites as their main job. They do this every day, just like your web designer designs websites every day. And they’re basically on call to get websites back as quickly as possible.
If your website is important to you, if you lose sales when it goes down, I think this add-on is worth the investment.
Backup and Recovery Tools
Of course, even if you have access to website cleanup services, there might still be a point where they can’t help. Some hacks just can’t be cleaned. Sometimes you need a time machine. A robust website backup plan is absolutely required.
Some website hosts include this in their core website hosting offering. Others make it an add-on offered at checkout. Just make sure you have it.
Daily backups are fairly standard. That means your website host keeps a copy of your website for 24 hours before replacing that copy with a new snapshot. But your website could be hacked for a week or more before you notice. Invest in backups that happen more frequently and are kept for a month at least.
Finally! The grandaddy of add-ons. The add-on most likely to be misunderstood and ignored: an SSL certificate to encrypt your website traffic. While backups and regular maintenance protect your investment in your website, SSL is mostly about protecting your customers.
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, the technology for making a secure (encrypted) link between your website and your customer’s browser. It prevents unwanted snoopers from seeing what your visitors are doing on your website. This is especially useful if you’re asking customers to make a purchase with their credit card or fill in sensitive personal identification information.
Encryption used to be a bonus, an added expense you could do without as long as you were not selling directly through your website. But years of increasingly frequent and high profile website hacks mean everyone’s concerned about protecting their info and activity online. SSL is an important part of protecting current and future customers.
Take advantage of the SSL offered with your new website hosting. It’s probably not actually a “deal”, but offered at or near full price. You’ll buy it eventually anyway, so just pick it up now.
Website hosting is one of the most important small business purchases, but also the one I’ve seen many decision makers struggle to decide on. The flood of add-on options doesn’t help. A simple-seeming choice quickly doubles in price before you know it and with little explanation from the hosting company. It’s easy to turn down important purchases tucked into the junk.
Make sure you’ve got a plan for your business email going in and beware of those “Unlimited” offers. Recognize the reality of ongoing website maintenance and the risk of hacking. Definitely make sure you have backups, be willing to pay for cleanup and website restoration. And of course, protect yourself and your website visitors. SSL is one of the easiest, best things you can do to build a trust relationship with your online visitors.
Take care to slow down and read the offers when you are purchasing website hosting. And if there’s a component missing (like SSL or backups) add it on yourself so you get the complete package.