When you’re running a small business, it’s understood that you’ll be learning some new skills that you may not have considered learning before. Setting up and launching your business website is usually one of those new skills!
We frequently encounter clients that feel a little overwhelmed and lost within the process. That’s why we wanted to explain really clearly about one of the first steps of setting up a website: choosing the right web hosting in Australia and around the world, depending on your business.
Finding the right web host for your website will depend on a few different factors and is one of the most important decisions you’ll make (getting it wrong could cost you thousands of dollars or your business), which we’ll explain in more detail in this post. So if you’re looking for tips on how to choose the right web hosting for your business, you’ve come to the right place!
What is the right web hosting in Australia?
Before we get down to the nitty-gritty, it’s important that you understand the fundamentals of website hosting.
You may wonder, “Why do I need a web host?” – well, the most important function of a web host is that it allows your audience to access your website! Without a web host, your website will not exist on the World Wide Web. If you want to publish your website on the Internet, you must have web hosting.
When discussing web hosting, it’s helpful to think of your website as a set of files and folders. Just like the filing system you have for your important business and personal documents, your website contains data that needs to be securely stored in order for it to function properly. A web host stores all those important files and folders for you, and these act as building blocks for your website.
A web host then provides your website – your entire bunch of files and folders – with a server. This is essentially where your website is “hosted” (hence the term “web host”). When users search up your domain name this connects to the host you have assigned your domain records to (referred to as domain nameservers or DNS records), their computer will connect to that server, and your website will then be delivered to their computer for viewing!
Now, while this is the basic function of web hosting, nowadays a web host usually does more than that. Web hosting in Australia and around the world now includes an array of other functionalities that allow your website to perform well. This can range from keeping your website secure, offering 24/7 tech support, and even updating your website plugins or software for you.
What’s the difference between a web host and domain name?
This is such a common question among our audience, so we figured this was the best place to explain!
Both a web host and domain name are required in order for your website to exist on the Internet. However, that’s pretty much all they have in common.
As we mentioned before, web hosting is a sophisticated storage system for your website which makes it accessible to your audience. Meanwhile, a domain name is what your audience needs to actually access your website. Otherwise, they’d be entering in an internet protocol (IP) address with random numbers. Nobody wants that.
Put simply, a domain name is an address for your website, much like you have an address for your home or business. A web host is the building in which your website is stored. One cannot exist without the other!
A domain name is usually in the format of www.YourWebsiteName.com, with some variations depending on your type of business and geographical location.
In order to secure this domain name for this website, you’ll need to:
- Make sure it’s available for use
- Pay a yearly or recurring subscription fee to use it
It’s important to remember that a domain name only gets you an address. You will still need web hosting to build your website and publish it online. It’s also worth noting that you’ll need to secure a domain name before your website hosting.
Note: Services like Squarespace, Shopify, Weebly, Wix and similar are hosting platforms themselves. You cannot purchase hosting separately for these services. However, you’ll still need to purchase a domain and decide where you want to run or host your emails.
How do web hosting services differ?
Not all web hosting services are created equal. There are three basic types of web hosting in Australia, and each one is different. You’ll need to figure out which one is most suited to your needs, to find the right web hosting for your business.
1. Low cost shared hosting
These are the cheapest web hosts available. They share their server with many websites, which might be okay for low-cost projects, but not great for a business in the long-term, no matter the size of your operations.
Due to their setup, this type of hosting poses many risks for a business:
- Slow site load time due to too much usage
- Poor performance and reliability
- Risk of getting blacklisted due to viruses on other accounts if web hosts don’t keep them separated (spoiler alert: they usually don’t).
If you have any type of important data at all, this is not a good option for you.
2. Dedicated server hosting
The server holds only your website and no one else’s, which means it does not get limited in performance. Dedicated server hosting is definitely a lot more secure than low cost shared hosting, and will result in a much more powerful website that’s able to handle a lot of traffic and perform really well.
However, this is also a more costly option, mainly because you either need to hire a server engineer or have a managed plan to run and check the server. It’s a good option for larger businesses with a budget that can be dedicated to it, but probably not the best option for small businesses on a limited budget.
We provide customised dedicated server managed plans based on individual needs, you can contact us to tell us what you need and we’ll provide a quote for you.
3. Managed hosting
This type of hosting provides additional features which help to grow your business. For example, here at LYF Solutions®, our managed hosting packages include plugin updates for WordPress, extra security services, and 24/7 support (among other things!).
One of the many benefits of managed hosting is that you won’t have to worry about updating and maintaining your server yourself – your web host does this for you. This saves you a lot of time and headache, and allows you to focus instead on growing your business!
How to choose the right web hosting in Australia
There are a few important things to consider when choosing the right website hosting for your small business. This list is a good guideline to help you through the process!
Remember, every business is unique, and so every website will have its own unique needs as well. So keep those specific goals and objectives in mind when you’re doing your research.
1. Server reliability
By far the most important factor in choosing the right web hosting company is how reliable their servers are. Everything from outdated hardware to connectivity issues can negatively affect your website. More specifically, it may result in your website going offline too often! Obviously, this is not a great thing for any website, but for a business website, this can lead to losing out on valuable traffic and revenue.
A great way to look into a web hosting company’s server reliability is to enquire about its uptime scores over time. Hosting uptime refers to the amount of time that your website is online. Anything other than that is downtime, which refers to when your website is completely inaccessible. When it comes to uptime scores, companies with scores of 99% annually are considered reliable. In general, we don’t recommend that you consider any companies with scores below that.
If you already have a website and you’re shopping around for a new web hosting company, tools like Host Tracker, Monitor Scout, and Service Uptime can help you look into how your website is currently performing in terms of uptime and downtime.
2. Credibility and reputation
This is a factor that is important in any business dealing. After all, why would you work with a supplier of any kind that may have a dubious reputation? Your web hosting company is no different, and should operate to a standard that is honest, ethical, and customer-focused.
A great way to look into a company’s reputation is to look at its social media presence. Are there a lot of dissatisfied customers leaving comments on their posts? Have people left reviews on the web about their experiences with this web host? Alternatively, do they not have any reviews at all (this can also be a big red flag)?
Another important factor when gauging a company’s credibility is its customer service. It’s imperative that you look for companies that promise 24/7 customer service. They should also be available to contact through multiple channels like live chat, emails, and phone calls. Again, reviews and testimonials from their existing customers can provide valuable insight regarding this.
You can also tell how much the company values its customers by how quickly and accurately your initial queries are answered. We always recommend communicating directly with a potential web host so you can suss out if they’re the right web hosting in Australia and fit for you!
3. Core values
More and more small business owners in Australia and abroad are realising that they only want to work with companies that share their core values. No matter what your values are, it’s important that you hold your website hosting company to you and your company’s set of principles.
For example, we often find that most of our customers discover us because they want to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle, and are seeking service providers in Australia that share that same value. Our Green Web Hosting packages allow for our client websites to reduce their carbon footprint, and we are committed to also giving back to the community and the planet in various ways including our commitment to 1% for the Planet.
We have found our core values resonate with businesses who share our concern for sustainability and ethical business development. This is why we highlight it as a point of difference that sets us apart from our counterparts.
You’ll be able to quickly determine a web hosting provider’s core values based on their website and customer testimonials. Make sure their values align with yours so you can avoid problems in the future!
4. Specialisation and areas of focus
Every web hosting company will have areas of expertise that are more suited to some websites compared to others. Some web hosts, like us, pride themselves on providing services that help small businesses and micro entrepreneurs. On the other hand, there are web hosting companies that focus fully on large corporations and conglomerates instead.
It’s important that you look into a web host’s existing customers and clients, and see if these clients have enterprises of similar scale and complexity to yours. You can also have a look at their range of packages – if you’re hard pressed to find one that suits you, they’re probably not the right web hosts for your business.
If you have an existing website, it may also be worth researching companies that specialise in the Content Management System (CMS) you’re using. This will help you avoid having to learn a completely new system when you transfer to a new web host!
While there are many ways you can keep your website secure on your end, your web host is one of the most important factors impacting your website’s level of security. Here are a few things that we consider the bare minimum in terms of web hosting offerings – note that your chosen web host should provide all of these as part of their services for you.
- Secure Sockets Layer (SSL certificate)
Also known as Transport Layer Security (TSL), this is a security protocol that encrypts the data on your website. It helps keep your website secure by showing meaningless symbols if someone tries to access your data. Having this certificate will show search engines like Google that your website is secure.
Frequent backups of your entire website will make it much easier and quicker to re-establish your website in the event of some kind of security breach. We recommend that you find a web hosting provider that does daily backups.
- Website updates
Your website will likely have plugins, apps, and software that will require updating from time-to-time. Depending on how many of these you require on your website, updating them can almost be a part time job! A good web host will take on these updates for you or can help you navigate this space, keeping your website secure and fully functional while freeing up your time to focus on other aspects of your business.
- Server maintenance
It’s also worth investigating that the web hosts also backup and update their entire server frequently too! It helps prevent data loss, connectivity issues, and of course, potential weak points in the server security. Server maintenance is definitely a vital added protection for your data. You should ask your web host if they review their server setup and maintenance independently, rather than only inhouse (hint: we do).
6. User-friendliness of the backend interface
This is a factor that directly impacts how you’ll be able to run your website. Not all Content Management Systems or backend control panels are created equal. Some are far more complex than others, and may involve a steep learning curve you simply don’t have time for!
As a small business owner, you simply cannot escape from the fact that you’ll need to be able to do some basic website-related tasks from time-to-time. This can include creating new email accounts, installing a new plugin, and managing domain names. So having a control panel that makes it easy can mean a world of difference.
Here at LYF Solutions®, we’ve found that our clients have found the cPanel interface and WordPress Content Management System both intuitive and easy to use. We know that most small business owners need to be able to manage their website quickly and efficiently, and we’ve found these two backend control panels to be the easiest to master. In addition, we added a 24/7 self-service dashboard to make accessing important features even easier.
7. Additional tools
As we mentioned before, nowadays web hosting usually goes above and beyond simply hosting your website. Many web hosts offer an array of different tools to help you create a high performing website for your business.
For example, here are a few additional tools we offer in our web hosting plans as part of our managed website solutions:
- Sucuri Speed Optimiser and Content Delivery Network, which speeds up your site by connecting your visitor to their closest server
- Elementor Pro, a powerful WordPress website builder that makes it easy to design your own website with drag and drop capabilities
- Pro WordPress themes by Astra and ThemeGrill, which includes a number of amazing templates for your website
- Discounted plugins such as LearnDash and Paid Memberships Plugin Pro
- Our premium plans Grow and Achieve also include monthly Google Analytics and social media reporting
When your managed web hosting includes a range of additional tools and features, it’s important to also look at how much value is in there for you. For example, our clients get access to numerous Pro versions of tools that would’ve cost them hundreds of dollars to purchase separately.
Is your web host able to accommodate your future needs as your business grows? As your website traffic increases, or as your sales begin to increase, it could just happen that your initial web hosting package simply won’t be enough. So it’s important to find the right web hosting in Australia that can grow with you.
Will they allow you to upgrade your hosting plan when you need it? Is this something they cater for? Transferring to a new web host is a time-consuming process that should be avoided where possible, so find a web host that can scale their services to suit your needs as your business grows.
Of course, we can’t leave you without mentioning this! The cost of web hosting in Australia can range from under A$50 up to A$1000 a month. It depends on all the factors mentioned above.
In general, shared hosting is suited to the low-budget range, managed web hosting suits medium budgets, whereas dedicated server hosting is best suited for a really high budget range.
Each web hosting company will also have different packages that include a variety of offerings that appeal to businesses of different sizes and budgets.
For example, we have three web hosting plans ranging from A$75 a month for our Start Up package, which includes tools like daily back-ups, SSL certificates, WordPress plugin updates, and 24/7 access to tech support.
Meanwhile, our premium services start at A$180 a month and include all of that, as well as access to premium website security tools, digital marketing or web development service hour/s, and Elementor Pro website builder.
Which package you choose depends entirely on your specific needs, so don’t hesitate to reach out to your chosen web hosting provider to discuss which of their products best fits your needs.
Why you should separate your email hosting and your web hosting
While most web hosting providers include email addresses in their packages (we certainly do!), we actually don’t recommend hosting your email on the same server or web host. Instead, we recommend utilising email hosting options like GSuite or Microsoft 365 instead. Here are a few reasons why you should separate your email hosting and your web hosting:
- You’ll be able to access emails even when your website server is down
It’s inevitable that your web host server will experience some occasional downtime or planned maintenance. Having separate email hosting means that you can still access your emails when this happens.
- Web host servers are geared towards websites, not emails
Unfortunately, most web hosting servers aren’t as well equipped at managing emails compared to dedicated email hosting tools!
- It makes it easier for you to change web hosts if you need to
If, for some reason, you need to transfer your website to another web host, it may be extremely difficult and time consuming to transfer all your email data as well. This might end up with you letting go of all that precious information if you can’t transfer it!
Common jargon of web hosts
You may see HTTP access codes when you visit a website such as:
– 301:A redirect that will take you to a new permanent location of the page or asset.
– 302: A temporary redirect for a file.
– 403: Forbidden message when you don’t have permission to view that file.
– 404: File or page not found.
– 500: Internal server error, when there was an unexpected error in the server.
– 503: when there is a temporary issue with the server e.g. site has exceeded its bandwidth limits or overloaded with too much traffic.
Know another term? The industry of web hosting can be quite complex at times. We try and simplify terms as best as we can. However, others out there may not like this level of transparency or prefer to use terms to confuse consumers. If you know a term that’s not here and think it would be useful, please contact us so we can improve this resource.
The myth of “unlimited website hosting”
Despite what some web hosting providers may claim, there’s absolutely no such thing as unlimited website hosting (or as some now try to sway it as ‘unmetered hosting’). As web hosts, we have to pay for all the bandwidth and disk space (storage) our clients use, so it doesn’t make business sense to offer unlimited bandwidth or disk space for our web hosting services!
However, it’s entirely plausible that your website will never approach a high enough limit to cause concern for a web company for bandwidth. It’s still not the most accurate representation of the bandwidth being offered, though! So make sure to ask for details from the web hosting provider if they’re advertising unlimited bandwidth because it is quite misleading.
For unlimited disk space, this should be avoided. Providers who don’t limit disk space signal that they may be putting prices up elsewhere or cutting costs in other areas e.g. over stacking servers with many websites.
Disk space is a higher cost when it comes to operating a hosting business. It’s more expensive than bandwidth because if you think about it, storage tends to remain the same over time. People don’t often do a digital clean up of all their files, they keep adding on more and more content, and emails. And all that content needs to be stored and backed up too.
So the demand for storage continues!
We recommend you do a digital clean up where you can. It’s not only good to keep your content up to date, it also helps to reduce your carbon footprint and ensures you are keeping consistent with your messages over time.
Look for plans that have room to grow on disk space. For instance, our clients can go over their disk space without their website going down. We do that so their website stays online, and at the same time transparently advise them when we see a trend in disk space going over their plan too much.
To cover the costs that come with greater disk space, clients are also aware that there is a A$2 per GB charge based on the excess they use over their plan. Again, if we notify an ongoing trend of over usage – we contact the client to provide them with digital clean up tips to help them reduce their footprint and costs.
Transparency is part of our ethos here at LYF Solutions®, which is why we would never claim to provide unlimited bandwidth or unlimited website hosting!
We offer anything between 35GB to 100GB of bandwidth, but most businesses don’t even come close to using that much bandwidth. In terms of disk space, we offer a range of options and flexibility to grow. How much disk space you need will depend on how many files and content you load to your site. If not sure, you can always contact us for guidance.
Why does your web host server location matter?
If you ask web hosts whether server location matters, you’ll find mixed responses. For some time we believed that it didn’t matter either until we invested in tests ourselves.
If you are an Australian business and the majority of your traffic is from Australia, it makes sense to use a web host that has an Australian server. Yes, you can use a Content Delivery Network like Cloudflare or Sucuri to help you, but all in all, if your business is in majority one location, you will enjoy less latency which is good for your visitors and conversions (sales).
Latency is the delay that occurs between the server and how far it needs to travel to load pages or content. If your website visitor is in Australia but your server is in the USA, this causes a delay for the data to transfer across from one side of the globe to another. It can be a few milliseconds, but every single second (even small ones) make a big difference.
Additionally, if you choose a server in another location – typically when a host does maintenance to the server and requires downtime, it will be during key peak periods your business would prefer to be online for.
If your business is global consider using a Content Delivery Network to speed up the site from multiple locations but choose your primary server as your main location or operations.
We are proud to say that given we are an Australian business our primary network is in Sydney, Australia. We also use a Content Delivery Network for Grow and Achieve plans, and clients have the option to use Cloudflare on any plan. Our dedicated server network offering has greater flexibility when it comes to server location around the globe.
Remember, support is crucial
Whilst you may not be 24/7, your business likely is. That’s where a reliable web host matters.
What’s even more crucial though is that when things go pear shaped, you should be able to connect with someone and get the response you need.
A good web host will offer 24/7 support online. Some hosts may even offer 24/7 over the phone support, which may be useful if you tend to call outside of normal hours.
A big question asked by clients these days, however, is how reliable that 24/7 support is. Many large hosts claim they have 24/7 365 day support. However, the experience clients receive often demonstrates that these support teams have too many tickets to reply or act on. Often tickets from providers get added to a to-do list which may not be responded to for several days, or in worse cases weeks.
If you want to see how fast a host is at replying to support needs, a cheeky way of doing this is to raise a support request via their live chat, call their phone line or raise a ticket. You can also check online reviews. If the company continuously has large queues or takes forever to get a hold of, this should be a red flag.
At LYF Solutions®, we take great pride in our service promise. It’s why 99% of LYF Solutions® technical online support tickets are answered within 2 hours with a detailed response. In addition, it’s why 100% of our technical support calls to date don’t take more than 10 minutes to get a hold of our teams.
We also have a quality team that monitors the ratings and effectiveness of our responses, to ensure our standards remain high. And proudly we can say that for the past 2 years we have averaged 10/10 from all our support surveys. Our founder also makes an effort to randomly sample tickets and calls to ensure we live by our values of continual improvement.
Being transparent about costs
Here at LYF Solutions® we believe in transparency when it comes to web hosting. Unlike many of our peers, it is our aim to continue to be more open about how we operate and the costs we have in running our business.
The following breakdown of cost percentage is based on the monthly figures of our Green Web Host Network on a monthly basis.
The costs that will increase and fluctuate in the coming years:
- Server Operations: the more demand our network achieves, the greater the need to upgrade it or add additional resources to it.
- Green costs (investments): as we grow, our green costs will too given our promise to drive a meaningful impact. This consists of our 10,000 native trees planted in Australia goal, our 1% for the Planet membership (we share 1% of our revenue, not only profit) and investments in GreenPower and renewable energy.
- Server Management/Support: As demand for the network continues to grow, so will the pressures it faces in resource management. That consists of our teams needing to continually monitor and audit the server. In addition, to respond 24/7 for technical support tickets and phone calls.
- Fluctuation in technology costs: Many technology and software are priced in US dollars. This can fluctuate the cost of the services by a large amount given the low exchange rate for Australian dollars. In most cases, there are no suitable alternatives to this at the moment.
- Legacy Plans: When we started our web hosting business, we wanted to compete with the big players, so we offered plans that started at $5-$10 per month. Truthfully, this was a mistake – as the legacy plans don’t reflect the true cost of hosting and make no return as we refuse to oversell resources.
- Server Management/Support: These costs can vary based on the type of clients we acquire to the network over time. In the hosting business and like any business, your aim is to provide a reliable experience so clients do not need technical support. The support is there to action items promptly in the interest of fixing issues. We expect these costs will fluctuate as we will need to continue investing in our knowledge base to assist clients, improve the welcome experience and provide additional support resources as the network grows over time.
- Marketing: To date, we have not advertised our Green Web Host Network through a targeted advertising campaign. Our key focus was to gradually increase the network experience organically and by building rapport with clients. In the future, we will be looking to expand the network, and this will mean marketing costs. We know that for our industry the typical ad click on Google Ads averages around $10.30 each. Note, that’s not even a conversion. So we understand when we do tap into the marketing space, this will be highly competitive and will likely increase costs short-term, until we are able to find the right balance.
We share these cost breakdowns to be transparent about the way in which we run our web hosting business. The cost breakdowns for other hosts may vary due to their nature, size and operations. The breakdown percentage is subject to fluctuation as the network grows and with other economic factors.
Choose your web hosting wisely
Choosing the right web hosting in Australia doesn’t have to be a painful process. Using the tips we’ve outlined above, you’ll be able to continue your research process with clarity. We are passionate about helping small businesses grow, and having a reliable, credible, ethical web host is a big part of that!
If you’re committed to making ethical business decisions and want to grow your business while also reducing your carbon footprint, our Green Web Hosting packages might be the right fit for you. Sustainability and ethical living are more than a fad to us – we walk the talk, and we want to help more small businesses do the same!
Drop us a line so we can discover how our services can help you grow your business more sustainably today.