Americans who would like to start up a web business in the UK should understand some of the subtleties of the differences between the two continents, America versus Europe. Generally speeds of hosts in the US are slower than those across the Atlantic, so if the business clientele is from one continent, it is better to keep the host geographically close by placing it on the right side of the ocean. The speed problems are less of a concern for sites with little load but for content rich sites full of media, consider going with a German or Dutch hosting service which have been clocked at faster speeds.
Price is certainly one big issue. The best way to find out prices of different hosts is to find a site that keeps track of monthly costs, such as this one that compiles statistics of cheap uk web hosting. Most certainly many will be indistinguishable in price, and this is where diligence in investigating the individual features will be important to ensure your business maximizes benefit per cost.
Another concern for those who cross over from the UK to the US or vice versa is the possibility that the business might shuttle back and forth from the UK to the US depending on life or business circumstances. In these cases it is wise to build in flexibility by going with a large company that has servers physically located on both shores. Amazon and Rackspace are two such providers. Setting up a site on Amazon’s EC2 service is one way to ensure you or your employees gain skills and experience with a web host translatable to either UK or US-based servers. Our own staff have written about comparing EC2 hosting to a standard host here.
Speed is just one concern among many. Technical issues arise all the time especially with a growing site or business. Suppose a new version of the content management system comes out and it breaks the site, good technical support will ensure the site returns to functioning status as quickly as possible. Distinguish between the claims or advertisements of the company and the actual behavior. Check them by calling tech support and timing how long it takes to get a live person on the line.
The terms of the contracts or the terms of service should be clear. Minimize surprises, such as unexpected cancellation fees or site transfer fees, by reading the terms of service. Find out whether the hosting company feels it has the right to shut off your site without notification. Will they give you a full refund if something goes seriously wrong?
Uptime is quite important independent of the speed of site. A very fast site with 90% uptime is much more frustrating than a site of moderate speed but 99% uptime. Find out uptime numbers from a different service that pings servers and records when they go down. When your site is hit by a surge in traffic, for example because of Facebook, Twitter, or Reddit, find out what services will be available to help keep your business up. Some hosting companies have built-in CloudFlare that caches and serves content when a site goes down. Such third party services ensure smooth growth in unique visitors.
An original, self-operated company will be a better than reseller that has no power over the levers of the physical servers. Generally your choice of host will be impacted by the set-up of your business. Tightly integrate your business plan and your technical plans by referring to this Forbes guide on building small business websites.
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