Making Website Happen

By this time you’ve gone through the hardest part of building a website, the thinking. Now comes the easy part, the technology (believe it or not!). Once the goals are clear, it is simply a matter of choosing the right tools for the right job.

Selecting a host

Now that you have an idea of the scope of the website, you can compare hosting providers. A website needs to reside on a hosting computer somewhere (unless your organization hosts the website on its own servers). The hosting provider business is competitive with vendors constantly vying to top each other with new features, services, and pricing plans. Your best bet is to read the latest reviews. Do a simple Google search for “hosting reviews” using the name of the company you want to investigate. You can also ask fellow organizations of roughly the same size about their hosting experiences.

Size does matter

But in this case, it’s traffic size. Hosting plans are generally priced based on levels of site traffic (also called bandwidth) and server space. If you go over your allotted bandwidth, some hosting companies will hit you with a penalty or, worse, your site may simply crash, making it impossible for anyone to view. Most hosting companies offer the option to upgrade your bandwidth on the fly. If you know you are about to make a huge marketing push, it is wise to choose a hosting provider that can instantly upgrade your bandwidth to handle the traffic spike. Also, if your site houses its own videos (not embedded from other video-sharing sites like YouTube) or large files for users to download, you may need to increase your bandwidth package. When Oprah declared the Amazon Kindle as her “most favorite thing in the world,” her loyal fans briefly crashed Amazon’s servers. (You should have such problems.)

Uptime reliability

How much reliability do you really need? While 99 percent uptime reliability sounds great, realize that it means up to 87.6 hours of downtime a year. Here’s a quick breakdown of what the “Nines of Reliability” mean:

Nines of reliability

Two 9s (99 percent) = up to 87.6 hours or 5,256 minutes or 315,360 seconds of downtime per year

Three 9s (99.9 percent) = up to 8.76 hours or 525.6 minutes or 31,536 seconds of downtime per year

Four 9s (99.99 percent) = up to 0.876 hours or 52.56 minutes or 3,153.6 seconds of downtime per year

Five 9s (99.999 percent) = up to 0.0876 hours or 5.256 minutes or 315.36 seconds of downtime per year

Six 9s (99.9999 percent) = up to 0.00876 hours or 0.5256 minutes or 31.536 seconds of downtime per year

Seven 9s (99.99999 percent) = up to 0.000876 hours or 0.05256 minutes or 3.1536 seconds of downtime per year

If you have a high traffic site that you want to be up 99.99999 percent of the time, expect to pay almost as many digits for only three seconds of downtime a year. Hosting companies guarantee uptime service by making virtual copies of your website on a variety of servers all over the planet so that if one crashes, another somewhere else takes over instantly. For most organizations, seven “nines of reliability” is overpriced overkill.

Other hosting features

If you are going to have an e-commerce element on your website, you will need to do your homework to select the right solution. Many hosting providers have off-the-shelf shopping carts, credit card processing, and more, which are robust enough for most clients. If you plan to blog (which could be a good marketing idea), some hosting providers also include blogging software. If you’re going to accept and store customer information on your website, then you’ll want to ask about the levels of security they offer. One of the most trusted things an online shopper can see when buying online is the s in https://. The s means it is a secure site.

Dedicated vs. Shared Hosting

Less expensive hosting packages are “shared,” with a number of websites hosted on a shared server. Having a dedicated, exclusive server hosting your website costs more. However, for some organizations, peace of mind is paramount.

If one of the other sites on that server sees a huge spike in traffic, that could affect the speed of your website. A dedicated server means you “own” that server and no other website’s traffic will affect your speed. For most small to medium-sized organizations, web hosting via a shared server is sufficient.

The prelaunch website

Some people think they have to wait until all of the design plans are fleshed out before they can launch a website. Here’s a web marketing tip—start small, then snowball. Consider building a professional and informative holding page for visitors who stumble onto your website to boost credibility while creating contacts and connection. A well-designed holding page (also called a prelaunch website or “Coming Soon” page) with essential information like contact information, logo, tagline, and address attracts visitors to stay longer to learn more about the organization. It bolsters credibility and increases the chances of these viewers returning to the website once it has launched.

You can even ask users what’s most important to them and benefit from the free market research. Let them help you design your web marketing. Give them what they want by asking them for it!

An online marketing best practice for a prelaunch website includes having clear contact information and inviting people to sign up for your e-mail list to be notified when the full website launches. Being able to e-mail a list of opt-in recipients to promote the full site is a solid way to begin online marketing.

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