You’ve just started your own business and things are going well. Most likely, you’ve been growing steadily at the local level. This means most of your success has been thanks to word of mouth, existing networks, and direct orders of your product or service. This is relatively sustainable for the short term, but there inevitably comes a time where you exhaust these local networks and need to move on into new markets where you may not already have a foothold.
In the age of an overwhelmingly digital-focused economy, gaining these footholds and reaching untapped audiences means developing a web presence. In 2017, it isn’t news to business owners that it’s very difficult, if not almost impossible, to succeed without a web presence of some kind. Staying competitive, reaching consumers who do their research primarily online, and advertising are just some of the reasons why executives agree that every small business needs a website.
This is usually a progression. Often, the first presence a small business has on the internet is social media related. If you started with just a Facebook business page, you’re not alone. Many businesses do. But, one quickly realizes the limitations of such a solution. Direct selling is out of the question. Sure, it’s a good way to keep followers in the loop on upcoming events or promotions, but from there it’s a matter of either directing customers to visit your physical location, call a phone number, or send an email. This is inefficient and could be causing you to miss out on more business.
Once you’ve outgrown the social media only approach, things get a bit trickier. There are so many hosting options available, it can be difficult to decide on which to pursue. Your initial impulse may be to shop by price but know that the least costly options often come with significant limitations.
Coming to the realization that you need a website to grow your business isn’t the hard part. The numbers will bear out eventually. Not being found on Google when everything is one swipe away on a smartphone has a way of making your decisions for you. The difficult part of establishing a web presence is deciding on a platform and then how it’ll be hosted. It’s safe to say many business owners want to be as hands-off as possible when it comes to the technology side of running the business. Content and design are of interest, sure. But what goes on in the backend at a server level may not be all that interesting. Energy is better spent running the customer-facing portion of the business. That’s why managed hosting is often so popular.
But even then, that doesn’t necessarily narrow down the seemingly endless amount of options available when it comes to web site hosting solutions.
You can start all the way on one side with a content delivery platform that also provides the hosting for you. Think of something like WordPress.com or Shopify. This is on the low end of solutions. Then there are offerings like shared hosting, dedicated servers, and so forth. The question is which one makes the most sense for your business?
It’s a matter of scale
Ultimately, when deciding on how and where to host a website for your small business what you want to look for is performance relative to your needs, a scalable solution should your business grow (which of course is the goal), and a measure of control over your hosting environment.
This is why the simple content platforms that host for you are generally poor ideas. You have no control over the hosting environment and you’re sharing server space with many other businesses which bring its own risks. This is very similar to shared hosting where the content platform doesn’t host for you, but you’re hosting your site with a provider that offers very low priced monthly plans with minimal resources. It’s like being in an apartment building. Yes, you have your own unit and some autonomy, but if your upstairs neighbor’s tub leaks, you’re going to suffer, too. It’s the same idea with shared hosting. Security breaches in a neighboring site can endanger yours. Additionally, all of the sites on a physical server are using the same resource pool. What that means is if one site sees a sudden spike in traffic that uses up a great deal of bandwidth, your site could feel the slowdown effects of that. There are no guaranteed resources set aside for you specifically. That’s not to say shared hosting doesn’t have its place. But, for the business owner who is looking to bring in revenue through their site and comfortably operates while experiencing high visitor traffic, shared hosting generally isn’t enough.
Why the investment in high-performance servers are worth it
If you need a hosting solution for your business, generally you’re looking at virtual private servers or dedicated servers if your traffic levels are high. Essentially, you need a hosting solution with robust enough hardware specifications to make sure your site sees no performance hits whether it’s from heavy code, a content management system, or high levels of traffic. Having enough bandwidth to support your traffic is important as sites that take too long to load or have slow performance can be detrimental to your business.
Kissmetrics conducted a study on how page load times affect your bottom line. What they found may surprise you. It takes only a few seconds of waiting to make customers unhappy with their experience. 47% of customers expect a site to load in two seconds or less. 40% of customers will actually abandon a site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load. If you sell products on your site, that can add up to a significant loss in revenue. Even if you aren’t engaged in e-commerce and your site is purely informative, the poor experience will reflect in customers not getting the information needed to make whatever conversion you are aiming for.
Peak traffic times should be about opportunity and revenue, not worrying about if your site’s performance will suffer under the heavy load. While in the early stages of your business’s growth you may not have to worry about bandwidth sapping traffic, that day will come. It’s much easier to scale your hosting if you’re already using a flexible solution like a private server. With lower cost solutions like shared hosting, the only real answer to traffic-related issues is to migrate to a different service which brings its own complications.