Hosting for a Growing Business

Why You Need to Keep Your Hosting in Mind When Expanding Your Business

The goal of any business owner is to reach such a point of success that there is an opportunity to grow and expand. Other than the first sale or the hiring of the first employee, this is probably the most important major milestone of a young business. You’ve outgrown your current mode of operating and need to reorganize. It’s exciting, nerve wracking, and it means more money once you’ve spent some reinvesting back into the business. Expansion is often a process and it means taking a serious look at every aspect of your current operations.

 

What can this look like? It can mean seeking out new office space to lease, hiring more people, buying more equipment, and broadening your marketing efforts. A lot needs to be done in order to keep up with increasing customer demand. So, you’ve gone through and taken inventory of everything you need to reconsider during the expansion process. You did remember to rethink your website hosting, right?

 

Expansion can mean making the leap to a dedicated server if you’ve outgrown your current VPS. Maybe you’re still on a shared hosting plan and it’s time to seriously consider switching to managed VPS hosting. No matter what your individual circumstance is with your current hosting, there’s a significant chance that you’ll soon be in a position where you need to upgrade if every other aspect of your business appears to be growing.

 

Unlike the other parts of your business in that you’ll focus on reinvesting in, hosting may not appear as so cut and dry. For example, when it comes to the decision to hire more employees, it’s fairly easy to see when your current headcount just can’t keep up. Everyone gets stretched thin, quality dips, things take longer. It’s time to hire. With hosting, it may not be so obvious until actual problems arise. If you’re not regularly monitoring your bandwidth usage and performing testing, you may not know your site is being overburdened until conversion metrics start to appear they’re on a negative trend. Chances are an investigation would show higher bounce rates and other indications potential customers can’t reach the finish line of making a purchase.

 

If your business is reaching new heights, it’s important to take a serious look at your current hosting solution and determine how you should proceed in scaling. Here are some things you should know.

 

Issues Surrounding Bandwidth

 

For a longer explanation of how bandwidth works in regards to a hosting environment, check out this explainer. The short version is, bandwidth gets used up when visitors need to download content from your server. The higher the bandwidth, the more people that can be on your site simultaneously without experiencing performance issues. Text requires less bandwidth than images. Videos would need more. But, even your CMS may lead to bandwidth issues if it has background processes that require visitors to keep downloading even if they are not aware of it. Heavy development builds of a site can be a leading cause of bandwidth issues, second only to traffic. WordPress is rather famous for this.

 

You know how bandwidth can get used up, but practically speaking what does that mean? Running low on bandwidth can give you performance issues. Your host will warn you if you’re running up against your limit, in which case you’ll either need to make some tweaks or upgrade your hosting plan. Visitors that come to your site, especially during high traffic periods, may be presented with two poor experiences. The first is an error and an inability to even access your site. The second is even if they are able to access the site, it will be very slow and difficult to navigate. Customers are not willing to wait all day for a site to load, so they’ll just leave.

 

Why Upgrading Your Hosting is Worth It

 

If your customers are having a poor experience, they’ll take their business elsewhere. They are far more unforgiving when it comes to their online shopping or consumption experience than many people realize. Each second of page load delay reduces conversions by 7%. 3-4 second page load time is the sweet spot for how long people are willing to wait for a page to load. 40% of shoppers will abandon a site after about 3 seconds. Your expansion can quickly deflate if customers are bumping up against the limits of your current hosting solution.

 

Moving on from your current host, especially if it’s shared hosting, may appear to be an additional expense but it’s one that is necessary. Looking at what you’re paying now side by side with what you could be paying doesn’t tell the entire story. If customers have a positive experience with your site, the increase in business will quickly make any upgrades worth it.

 

What Should You Upgrade To?

 

It’s hard to give a definitive answer of what kind of hosting solution you should opt for when upgrading your hardware. If you’re currently using shared hosting, anything would be a good upgrade. This is especially true if you operate an e-commerce business. The VPS vs. dedicated server debate is a bit more complicated. Dedicated servers provide the most resources, but also come at the highest price. For e-commerce, the additional security and horsepower of a dedicated server might make more sense for you. Complicated databases, complex development, and high traffic will require a hefty amount of resources. Smaller or more informational based sites with steady traffic in the thousands of visitors would probably do just fine on a VPS.

 

Switch to Managed Services?

 

It’s important to make an additional note on upgrading to a new hosting solution. While you may be on the fence about whether a VPS or dedicated server makes more sense for your individual needs, one across the board suggestion every business owner should probably take is to opt for managed hosting.

 

While managed hosting can cost a bit more than unmanaged hosting, the time saved from not having to worry as much about your server is worth it. Managed hosting actually cuts down on expenses overall because it lets you and your team focus on the day to day operations of your business rather than needing to wear your IT hat. As your business grows, keeping your team focused on their strengths rather than getting bogged down by investigating every server issue will be an important part of a successful expansion. Knowing that there is some level of complementary DDOS protection, automatic backups, and monitoring of performance is quite valuable. While managed hosting doesn’t absolve you of performing your own extra backups or taking security measures, the basics are covered so you’re not left establishing everything from scratch.

 

Conclusion

 

A successful business of any size relies on reliable, high performing web hosting. If customers can’t reach your website or they suffer through a poor experience, that can quickly add up to a significant loss in revenue. You need a hosting partner you can trust to provide great customer service and hardware that is up to the task of handling all of your needs. Contact us today. The team at KnownHost is dedicated to providing you with the hosting solutions you need for your business to be successful and to grow.

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Managed Hosting for Your Team

Looking to Refocus Your Team? Managed Hosting Can Help

Budgets, budgets, budgets. Businesses of all sizes live and die by them. But, it’s small businesses that really have to walk the tightrope of skepticism of every single expense. There are some things that are non-negotiable in the modern, digital-focused economy. For example, every business needs a hosting solution. It’s incredibly difficult to gain any kind of meaningful traction without a website for your business. Executives agree on this. However, while having a website is a given, the hosting solution you ultimately choose isn’t. As you know, there are many options available to you when it comes to web hosting.

 

If your business is running lean and you need your team to be strategically focused, managed VPS hosting could be the solution you’re looking for. You’re probably thinking that sounds all well and good as a suggestion, but why? Isn’t that kind of hosting more expensive than a basic hosting plan that’s a few dollars a month?

 

This is a fair concern and one that many business owners have. If you’re just looking at the numbers side by side comparing monthly plans from different hosting providers, sure substantial differences can be found. But, it’s what’s being offered in those plans and how they affect your site’s performance along with the burden on your team that’s really important. Suddenly, the decision isn’t so clear. Paying a little bit more per month for a managed hosting solution could actually save you money in ways you may not have considered. It’s not just about the costs, either. Managed hosting can help you work more efficiently so that you can focus on what you do best: providing a quality product or service to your customers.

 

Don’t spend resources, both monetary and employee time, where you don’t have to. Here are some of the ways opting for a managed VPS hosting environment can help you reorganize and grow your business.

 

No Need to Hire More Staff

 

If your business is still in the early stages, you know how critical it is to keep your overhead costs as low as possible. One of the ways to do so is to assess how your team is using their time. We’re not talking about letting go of underperformers or anything like that. Rather, the idea is to use the team you currently have and to keep them focused on the jobs they’re already doing.

 

With simpler hosting solutions, you are given a login and that’s that. The server and hosting environment are now your responsibility. Are you experiencing downtime? Better figure out why. Has everything on the server been backed up recently? Someone on your team would need to be responsible for that. In fact, you would need someone just monitoring your site full time in order to deal with any issues ranging from the smallest thing to major concerns. Hiring a full time IT person just to make sure your site is functioning properly probably isn’t a cost you’re looking to take on. While managed hosting still leaves certain responsibilities up to you, basic issues like investigating the reason the site went down and getting it online again or a simple backup are taken care of.

 

Not needing to hire someone to monitor your site full time is worth the additional costs of managed hosting, which leads us to the next point.

 

Security and Expertise

 

You’ve decided that it would be too expensive to hire additional personnel just to monitor the site. So, what’s the alternative if not managed hosting? It means you or someone on your existing team needs to stay on top of security and performance issues. Do you have a background in managing servers? If not, this task can easily become overwhelming.

 

As with all things in life, it’s easier to leave things in the hands of the experts. You can consider managed hosting an investment in peace of mind, which is quite valuable. Instead of having to wear many different hats, you and your team can instead focus on their core competencies. That is, focusing on doing the job you’re already doing well. With managed hosting, you’re leaving the basic task of keeping a server running up to the professionals who do this for a living.

 

Additionally, with managed hosting, there are more security measures in place to protect your site. Being the responsible party for navigating a DDOS attack isn’t exactly an easy job and can become overwhelming. Managed hosting brings security through redundancy and constant monitoring. A lot of work goes into being able to maintain that 99.9% uptime guarantee. That’s work that would be cost prohibitive to do on your own.

 

Save Time and Money

 

Sure, time is money. But for the purposes of managed hosting, let’s separate the two. We’ve talked about the time aspect quite a bit. As a business owner, you simply don’t have the time to constantly check on your server and make changes to it. If you hire someone in-house to do it, yes, that person will require a salary. But, it can cost you time as well. You need to manage that person. There will be performance reviews and meetings. More employees mean more time spent on the management side of things rather than the execution.

 

The thing about being responsible for a server is that it’s time-consuming enough on a good day when things are working smoothly. If at anytime there is an actual crisis, you won’t have any choice but to put all of your energy into resolving the problem yourself. That’s not to say managed hosting is completely hands off. But, you will spend significantly less time worrying about the nuts and bolts of keeping your site going if you leave it in the hands of the professionals.

 

Scalability

 

The ability to have a business that scales as needs change is important if the business is to remain successful. This is true for start-ups, especially. Managed hosting can help with scalability. As you grow in popularity and see more regular increases in traffic, you may see your bandwidth limit approaching. You may even start to be concerned about slowdown and site performance. Managed hosting offers solutions in a few ways. For one, you have customer service representatives you can contact if you know in advance traffic might unusually pick up (say you’re running a promotion) or if you’re noticing some performance issues. Secondly, if you know that you’ve outgrown your current hosting plan, you can easily have your plan changed to a higher tier. You can even get assistance migrating to a different solution entirely. Is it time to move on to a dedicated server? Piece of cake.

 

Conclusion

 

At KnownHost, we know how important your hosting solution is to your business. If refocusing your team while maintaining a high-performance website that keeps your customers happy is a priority for you, we’re here to help. With managed VPS hosting, you can have peace of mind knowing your server environment is being monitored and is working properly while you focus on running the day to day operations of your business. Contact us today. Our team of experts is here to answer any questions you have and to help you find a hosting solution that makes the most sense for your business needs.

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Customer Service and Online Success

Why is Customer Service So Essential to Online Success?

Linda is using the Internet to shop for an umbrella for her father, a really nice one to replace one that he’s had for years. She really likes the look of one that she finds on a designer umbrella site; it’s sleek, compact, and has great reviews. However, she is specifically concerned about durability and doesn’t see that mentioned in the customer comments.

 

Linda wants to speak directly with support. She goes to the umbrella designer site’s contact page, and she doesn’t see an obvious way to get help. All she finds is the corporate office number. It appears the only way to contact the company for help with an ordering issue is through their main office during normal business hours.

 

Linda leaves the site, and she never returns.

 

How quickly do customers expect support to respond?

 

Are your customers like Linda?

 

71% of online shoppers expect to be able to access support within 5 minutes, while 31% expect to get help immediately. When support does not arrive within the expected period of time, 48% say that they would then leave the site. Those figures are according to the LivePerson Connecting with Customers Report, a poll of 5700 consumers from the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Australia to gauge their online expectations. (The poll was conducted by UK market researcher Loudhouse, as commissioned by LivePerson.)

 

Why do shoppers abandon a site?

 

A general topic of exploration in the study was reasons that shopping cart abandonment occurs. Unlike brick-and-mortar shoppers, online users know that they have other options literally at their fingertips – so if they can’t get the information that makes them confident with the purchase, they will go elsewhere. However, the good news is that you can keep more of these customers on your site through strong support – via phone, email, helpdesks, live chat, and even content such as your blog or FAQ pages.

 

Support isn’t the only reason you experience abandonment, though. Here are a few reasons that consumers said they commonly abandon online purchases:

 

  • Exorbitant shipping costs – 70%
  • Not enough details on the product, service, or shipping – 56%
  • Unable to find the answer to a question – 37%
  • Inability to find support on the site – 30%.

 

Notice how everything but shipping costs has to do with needing help or information.

 

What are other customer support needs?

 

5 out of 6 poll respondents (83%) said that they need support when shopping online; that rate increased to 90% among a population of shoppers LivePerson categorized as inexperienced, or “dependent.”

 

Also, consumers do not have very much patience when it comes to being able to get help. Fully half of consumers (51%) said that they would only try to access support once if they needed assistance before buying something online. On the other hand, after completing an order, consumers are likelier to make repeated attempts to get support; 76% say they try to get their questions answered at least twice post-purchase.

 

Brick-and-Mortar vs. eCommerce

 

The customer service experience that people get online and in a physical store is of course very different (remote communication vs. face-to-face interaction). Of course people enjoy the convenience of online shopping, but they did rate in-store service better in this survey: 77% reported general satisfaction with in-store assistance, while 67% reported that same satisfaction on the web.

 

To the consumers surveyed, their three key concerns with customer service were that their problem gets resolved quickly (82%), that they only have to contact the company once (56%), and that the representative who helped them was pleasant (45%).

 

How do customers want to get their questions answered?

 

People aren’t all created alike, so people will turn to different avenues to get their questions answered. However, some of those options will get used more than others. The top three responses from the survey all had to do with human interaction of some form: phone was first with 61%, just ahead of email at 60% and live chat at 57%. Beyond those channels, some of the other means to get help included content, both brand-created and user-generated: FAQ came in at 51%, with customer forums at 34% and recorded video tips at 17%.

 

What is the impact of reviews on consumers?

 

Linda, now back looking for an umbrella, is checking reviews; and, especially now that she just had an issue finding support, she is particularly focused on that element. Now she sees that the new designer she’s checking has 24/7 support. The only prominent complaints Linda sees are from customers who are writing in all-caps or who seem to have unreasonable expectations. In other words, things look good, and she proceeds to purchase her umbrella through that second designer.

 

It’s not all that surprising that Linda carefully checked reviews, or that she would see mentions of support in that context. After all, a study of user data performed by Moz found that an incredible two-thirds (67.7%) of Internet shoppers are impacted by what they read in reviews. For that study, Moz looked at 1000 respondents via Google Consumer Surveys, asking them (in part) how important reviews were in their decision-making process when they purchased an item online. The degree to which shoppers see reviews as influencing their decisions varies, but 54.7% told the researchers that what they read from other shoppers was at least “fairly” important in their decisions of what to buy.

 

How does customer service become a marketing tool?

 

There’s sometimes excessive demarcation between different departments, roles, or tasks within companies, when often an integrated approach is best. Companies are increasingly realizing the role that strong customer service can play in their marketing plan. Unsurprisingly, 7 out of 10 US consumers say that they are likelier to increase what they spend with brands when they experience high-quality customer service, according to a 2011 American Express Survey.

 

Since shoppers value customer service so much, it makes sense that they will talk to others about it, whether in person or through online reviews. Signs.com is a company that has seen the positive impact of an investment in customer service on reviews (as well as retention and referrals).

 

COO Nelson James told Business.com in February that the company had implemented a customer-service-centered marketing strategy. James said the company uses it as a key differentiator; he believes it is the primary retention tool the company has.

 

This line from James is especially compelling in terms of the connection between customer service and reviews: “The majority of our customer reviews are based on how our customers are treated by our customer service team.” Reviews certainly give customers more confidence, as seen in the above discussion on their impact.

 

Looking at marketing and customer service as pieces of the same dual effort can have other benefits as well. You can improve internal communication and build more unified messaging company-wide. When these two fields are brought together more closely, the customer service team can be aware of any content or promotional discounts that might be of use to improve the customer experience. In this way, the way that you shape your marketing plan will foster interdepartmental collaboration.

 

Another big benefit of unifying your customer service and marketing efforts is that you deliver better answers through social media – since your social content managers don’t always have the immediate answers.

 

As you can see, customer service isn’t just important in its own right but can help to enhance your company in other ways as well.

 

*****

 

Setting up strong customer service or support is invaluable to online business, as described above. Do you want to really make an impression? Offer a support office that is both based in the United States and active at all times, 24/7/365; that’s what we do at KnownHost. Read our customer reviews.

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The Need for Reliable Hosting

What Amazon Web Services’ Glitch Tells Us About the Need for Reliable Hosting

The business world is in a state of rapid change. In an effort to remain competitive and expand their influence, many of the biggest companies are diversifying their services in order to attract new customers or further entrench existing ones into their ecosystems. We see this with companies like Apple who have branched out from computers and smartphones to cloud services, music streaming services, possible original video content, and an upcoming car of some kind.

 

Amazon has been famous for this since its inception twenty years ago as a surprisingly successful online retailer of books. You’d be forgiven if you forgot that’s how Amazon started considering how very different the company looks now. In fact, many users of a certain age probably aren’t even aware that Amazon started as a bookseller since we can get nearly anything delivered right to our door from the retail giant.

 

Amazon has even recently gotten into the cloud hosting game. Are they angling to replace independent hosting companies that offer dedicated servers? Perhaps, although it remains to be seen if Amazon’s robust (and expensive) suite of cloud tools and services make sense for the typical small to mid-sized business owner who just needs a reliable and cost effective way to keep a website online. But it is certainly interesting to observe what the company is attempting.

 

It’s true that many start-ups have shown interest in Amazon Web Services. There’s a toolset for everyone’s needs, really. But if you’re a business owner with a standard sized e-commerce or informational site, is that kind of solution the best for your needs? Would traditional hosting be the better option? Recent events have also put a spotlight on the risks to business owners when something goes wrong within a tremendous company offering a myriad of services.

 

What Happened

 

At the end of February, many different companies from national names like Netflix and Slack down to independent, small businesses began to experience issues. For some, their sites were completely down. For others, cloud tools stopped working. And for many, certain assets just stopped loading. What happened was for a period of about four hours, Amazon Web Services as a whole experienced a disruption in service. Because the service is so complex and isn’t just a hosting company, every kind of business with something kept in Amazon’s cloud whether it be software, a website, or image files felt the effects. It’s was unknown what caused the incident exactly, but the speculation was a software glitch or plain old human error. It turns out it was indeed human error that took servers offline. Whatever the cause, it threw many online businesses and services into turmoil for hours. Residual effects were felt for days afterward. Downtime of any length costs a business money.

 

So, as a small business owner, what does that mean for you?

 

Decentralization

 

We all know the saying “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” This is often good advice depending on what the topic of conversation is, but in this instance, you can see the downside of this bit of common wisdom. Nothing is perfect, after all. But for business owners looking to just have a site they know will be reliably reachable and a customer service team that can be contacted 24/7, Amazon Web Services might be juggling too many balls in the air at once. It’s a cloud deployment service above all. So things get divvied up and stored in different parts of the world on different physical machines. One region goes down, disruption of some kind will occur and it’s hard to identify what that would be. If it just so happens that your images are coming from one location, but your other website components reside elsewhere, you can find yourself with no images displaying on your site which is exactly what happened to many businesses who use Amazon S3 for image hosting in particular.

 

At the end of the day, the typical business owner doesn’t want to have to think too much about their hosting. Like with most things tech based, many would prefer to “set it and forget it” while they work on other aspects of the business. While this isn’t really possible considering you’ll at least sometimes need to tinker around in your hosting environment, or at least have a developer do it, working with a company that handles hosting exclusively does add some simplicity to your operations.

 

Service Level Agreements

 

When you sign up for a hosting plan, you also agree to the SLA. This basically says what to expect as far as performance and hosting company responsibility when it comes to your VPS or dedicated server.

With a complex business model like Amazon’s, there isn’t just one SLA. There are different agreements depending on what products or services you’re signing up for or hoping to use. A web server has one agreement, databases have another, and storage a third. You’ll also have to make decisions regarding keeping all of your information in one Amazon “region” or choosing to split your data amongst different regions for the sake of security through diversity. What happened during this temporary service downtime in February is one entire region went offline. That’s why businesses saw different levels of disruption.

 

A typical service level agreement is actually much simpler. Exemptions to the uptime guarantee are listed. It’s important to note them. But otherwise, that promise of 99.9% uptime is there. That’s actually the industry-leading number. Not every hosting company will make a 99.9% uptime guarantee, but KnownHost does

 

With many hosting companies, you’re told where the data centers are. You know exactly where your website and information may be stored. Also, a hosting company that focuses only on hosting will have a better grasp on its limited number of physical hardware locations. That’s not to say things never go wrong. They certainly can. But the response is what’s critical.

 

Customer Service

 

Getting the right tool for the job is the key to everything. For some people, a cloud service like AWS makes sense. But for the vast majority of people who just want to host their website and know that should anything happen, they have a customer service team they can easily reach, independent hosting is the way to go. At KnownHost, we’ve been providing excellent customer service and reliable hosting for years. With 24/7 support, you can be confident knowing that someone is available to offer assistance should you encounter problems related to your site’s availability or perceived performance.

 

There is something to be said for turning to specialists when it comes to wanting things done well.

 

Conclusion

 

No technology is perfect. But, the performance and reliability of your website is an integral part of your business’ success. Whether you need a powerful dedicated server or a flexible VPS, host your site with an independent hosting company that offers top of the line customer service and industry leading uptime. Contact us today. The expert team at KnownHost is here to help you achieve your business objectives with our high performing servers and knowledge. Whatever your needs, there’s a perfect hosting plan for you.

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