How to Set Up an Online Store - Choosing Your Web Host
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This is a site dedicated to web hosting, after all, so you knew we’d get to this topic sooner or later. Again, there are plenty of articles on this topic (and you can find a few of them on this site). Right now I’m going to cover, very briefly, some of the things you need to look for in a web host, if you want to give your online business startup the best chance of success.
If you’re going to handle any kind of financial transactions through your website, you need to make sure your web host offers secure servers. This means that they offer SSL encryption. You should find out whether your prospective web host offers SSL encryption as part of its regular package or charges extra for this service.
When your website is your storefront, if your website is down, your store is closed – or worse, effectively nonexistent. So you need a web host that offers at least a 99 percent uptime guarantee (and will provide some kind of compensation if it doesn’t live up to its guarantee, so it has some incentive to keep its word). While asking about a web host’s uptime guarantee, you might also inquire as to its back up systems in case of emergencies.
You will also need a private CGI-BIN directory if you are conducting ecommerce through your website. It is into this directory that you upload binary scripts and/or interactive programs. These kinds of programs are involved with payment processing and shopping cart management.
Even small offline businesses try to keep track of customer information and sales records; indeed, if the business is big enough to pay taxes, this is essential. Online businesses have a somewhat easier time of it, since web logs and statistics give them the raw data they need (which of course still needs to be processed and analyzed). Make sure your web host will give you access to your web logs.
How comprehensive is the hosting company’s customer support? You want a company that will offer 24/7 support. May companies say they provide that level of support, but what about the quality of support? This is something you may have to research online at the various web hosting forums. Web hosting customers will be quite forthright in the condemnation of a bad host.
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