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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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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Excellent E-Commerce Customer Service

12 Principles for Excellent E-commerce Customer Service

One of the most important ways that businesses differentiate themselves from their competitors online is through the quality of their support. It’s an especially important part of success in e-commerce, since people are often using e-commerce because they want a convenient, fast and easy experience – so they want help to be immediate and effective when they need it.

 

Does this perspective toward the supreme importance of customer service sound inflated? Consider that more than three-quarters of consumers have abandoned a shopping cart because they became frustrated with the quality of service, according to statistics compiled by Help Scout. Plus, the aphorism that “bad news travels fast” holds true: word of a customer service failure gets to more than double the people that a service success does.

 

Since customer service is such a critical piece of your business, it’s wise to fine-tune it as much as you can. Here are some thoughts on customer service excellence:

 

#1 – Open by listening.

 

As is also true with sales and marketing, leading with the ear rather than the mouth can be a powerful way to connect and problem-solve, notes Jamie Carmichael of UK business directory Yell.com.

 

What is the customer saying? As you listen, make sure you understand what they want (with clarifying questions as needed) and provide your best expertise.

 

#2 – Give fast and accurate answers.

 

Obviously, the purpose of customer service is functional: people want answers and to move on with their days. One simple and straightforward way to solve problems faster is simply to be available at all times, 24/7. That way no one is ever having to check your hours and jot down a note to get in touch the next day; they can simply take action.

Typical ways that companies provide help 24/7 are through live chat and through content, such as a blog or a knowledge base.

 

#3 – Simplify the process to quit your service.

 

Make it easy for people to cancel your service whenever they decide that makes sense. Typically people have already decided they are going to close the account before they get in touch with you, so efforts to try to retain their business will often prove futile. Plus, if canceling is easy and respectful, they’re likelier to come back.

 

“[F]ollow up with a phone call or email or survey to determine the reason for their departure,” advises business coach Donna Guntner of Foxonlinelearning, “but don’t force them to go through this process to exit.”

 

#4 – It’s positive to provide brief explanations.

 

Despite the overarching effort to be as efficient as possible with customers, it’s also not entirely positive to feel that you want the interaction to be completed rapidly. It can be very helpful to express why something the customer wants can’t happen – what exactly it is that’s in the way. A little bit more time can humanize the experience more. Being as open as you can with your conversations makes the tone feel that you are people working together toward the same basic goals, rather than a sort of cog in an anonymous system.

 

#5 – Become an expert at apologizing.

 

When something goes wrong in a customer’s use of your service, accept blame as possible. That’s helpful, according to help desk software LiveHelpNow, because admitting to fault on your end can defuse potential conflict. Keep in mind that the customer may still walk away upset if you give them a refund. For cases in which your company was clearly in the wrong, apologize profusely and mention the steps that actually should have been taken by the company.

 

#6 – Be cautious about automation.

 

It makes sense why so many businesses are turning toward automation to solve many of their customer service issues: it’s highly affordable. However, as Carmichael notes, be aware that the result is often very expensive in terms of the user experience suffering. When someone is trying to move quickly, they may become frustrated talking with a bot – especially if the bot is malfunctioning or otherwise failing to properly address their issue.

 

#7 – Understand that each situation is unique.

 

You of course want to have standardized, cookie-cutter ways to solve the most common problems that arise. However, there will be times that the policies related to a particular product or service don’t apply. Watch our for these exceptions to your rules. You will earn trust and loyalty from customers by recognizing that their case is special and suggesting a customized solution.

 

#8 – Go to your customer for answers.

 

If you are having difficulty figuring out a solution, ask your customer for their perspective. They probably has something in mind that they feel would make sense given the circumstances. Even if that final answer is not exactly what you want, the customer may also feel that they are not getting exactly what they’d hoped.

 

Although it may be a compromise to zero in on something workable, this approach allows you ”to end on a positive note,” notes Guntner, “and while the customer may not return to you, he probably also won’t tell everyone he meets that you’re an ogre, either.”

 

#9 – Provide simple calls to action.

 

If your customer needs to take a set of steps, make sure that you convey instructions properly, and that everything is fully understood. You can deliver an extraordinarily streamlined and effective checkout process, but a customer or prospect may still leave irritated if you aren’t paying as much attention to your support.

 

How important are next steps? Carmichael actually suggests that every single time you talk to a customer who has a problem, you should close out the call with clear actions that should follow the call (on both sides, as applicable).

 

#10 – Be respectful and friendly.

 

Customer service should be infused with positivity. Greet them, use their names, and always express appreciation for their business. Be grateful, and consider building in a customer loyalty program and even setting aside an annual customer appreciation day.

 

#11 – Don’t over-reference your legal files, and make sure they aren’t excessive.

 

No one wants to have to leaf through a small-print agreement filled with difficult-to-decipher legalese to determine exactly what your stated policies are. Yes, you can fill your Terms of Service contract with parameters intended to protect you; but that will not always mean that the customer is happy in the end. In fact, it can be a good idea to highlight anything in those pages that might be unfavorable to a customer later.

 

#12 – Be amazing.

 

Customer service should be considered a central concern, not something that’s optional. It’s necessary to be thoughtful, and to set aside a substantial investment and time, if you want exceptional customer service – around which you can strengthen your brand. With each one-on-one interaction, bear in mind that the customer will feel incredible if they get the sense that you are taking extra steps to help them. “This feeling comes across not only in what you do, but how you do it and, perhaps more importantly, why you’re doing it,” explains Carmichael.

 

*****

 

Do you want out-of-this-world support? At KnownHost, our Birmingham, Alabama, support office is staffed 24/7/365 – so that we are here for you day and night. Compare our managed VPS hosting plans.

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What Can You Do with a Virtual Server?

What Can You Do with a Virtual Server?

This article describes what a virtual private server (VPS) is and how it relates to other major technology concepts: virtual private networks, the virtual machine (VM), shared hosting, and dedicated hosting. We then look at especially compelling reasons to use a VPS and a few of the most prominent ways that one can be used.

 

  • Virtual Private Network vs. Virtual Private Server
  • Getting to Know the Virtual Server
  • Strong Reasons for Adopting a VPS
  • Typical Uses of a VPS
  • Managed vs. Unmanaged

 

Virtual Private Network vs. Virtual Private Server

 

Two major concepts that have closely aligned names are the virtual private network (VPN) and the virtual private server (VPS). While both are virtualized and centered on privacy and security, that’s about as far as the similarity goes.

 

VPN: This technology allows you to securely use the internet and connect to private networks (such as a company’s internal one). All traffic is passed through an encrypted tunnel, and each device uses a remote, proxy server – concealing your IP address, what you do, and where you are.

 

VPS: The virtual private server is an advanced, secure way to divide the resources of a physical server (the main host) within a data center. A hosting provider creates VPSs by slicing up one piece of hardware into multiple, independently operating instances.

 

Getting to Know the Virtual Server

 

Perhaps the best way to approach the virtual private server is the idea of a virtual machine. A VM allows you to run an emulation of a computer within your computer, drawing on the resources of the physical one –  disk space, RAM, CPU, etc. This tactic allows you to run an entirely separate operating system (OS) solely for the purposes of the VM, even if its type and version of OS are identical to what’s on your hardware.

 

Because you only are using a portion of the resources for the VM, you can have several of them running on one computer or server, as is common with hosting services. A hosting provider that offers VPS hosting has a vast number of physical servers that each contain multiple virtual machines. While demarcation and intrusion prevention within the physical machine is not a huge concern on your own PC, VPS hosts must have security safeguards in place to ensure isolation of each customer’s server. That’s why the terminology virtual private server is used – to denote the attention paid to privacy and the server programs that are typically loaded onto this type of VM.

 

Strong Reasons for Adopting a VPS

 

Shared hosting, cloud hosting, and dedicated hosting are the three main alternatives to a VPS.

 

Shared hosting: With shared hosting, your site is stored and served from the same physical machine as many other customers – possibly hundreds of them. All domains are drawing from the same CPU, RAM, and other resources.  This type of hosting is the lowest-priced option. However, your site’s speed and reliability suffer from other users, and you don’t get root access.

 

Cloud hosting: This type of hosting is slightly more expensive than shared hosting (similarly priced to VPS hosting). Rather than using a single server to store and load your site, a cloud system distributes resources across many different computers for faster response times. However, this model typically doesn’t give you root access, and its distributed structure presents fundamental security challenges.

 

Dedicated hosting: This format means that an entire physical server is used solely for your site and applications. While you do have all the resources reserved for your own purposes, a dedicated server is substantially more expensive than shared hosting.

The primary reasons that someone will choose a VPS are performance, flexibility, error-proof sandbox, and security. Let’s look at each of those factors:

 

  •  – Performance – When you switch to a VPS, you will get guaranteed resources. That means traffic spikes on other domains stored on the physical server won’t slow down your site.
  •  – Flexibility – A VPS can be considered your own remote computer. While the primary purpose of a VPS for most hosting customers is to serve websites, you can perform any functions on your VPS (within the hosting provider’s guidelines) as you can on a PC.
  •  – Error-proof sandbox – Virtual private servers give you “do-over” potential because they exist within a virtual sandbox. Damaging a virtual server won’t impact the operating system running on the hardware itself. “The VPS can be rebooted or reinstalled without much issue except maybe for lost data (so always keep backups),” notes Joel Lee of MakeUseOf. “On a dedicated host, a mistake could cause permanent damage.”
  •  – Security – Other users within the physical server can’t hack your virtual sandbox and access your VPS through the relatively simple means they can on a shared server.

 

Typical Uses of a VPS

 

Above, we got a basic sense of what a VPS is and factors that make it attractive. Now, let’s look at some of the ways that this route is useful to people on a day-to-day basis:

 

  1. Serving a website

 

The main reason that someone signs up for a VPS is that they need a server through which to run their site. When you adopt one, you should notice that your site is performing better than it was on a shared account (because of the guaranteed allotment of resources). Also, the full root access gives you better control. You are able to install and get rid of whatever programs you want.

 

Example: You can use a VPS to run your e-commerce platform (Magento, WooCommerce, Shopify, etc.). With the stronger resources of a VPS over shared hosting, you have a competitive advantage over many other sites in terms of stability, speed, and general user experience.

 

  1. Hosting a server or business files

 

Sometimes people will use a VPS to run a Minecraft server or host Mumble for private chatting. Businesses will often use it to host media or other files.

 

  1. Testing

Virtual servers are a cost-effective way to test anything before you bring it live. That includes new environments, operating systems, applications, frameworks, or anything else.

 

  1. Torrents

 

You can use a VPS for torrenting, in which case the machine is called a seedbox. By moving your torrent activity to a VPS, you clear out that bandwidth on your local system and designate a 24/7 machine for that purpose.

 

  1. Backups

 

You can also use a VPS for the storage of key files. That’s something that customers will often do if there is extra space available beyond what they need for their primary purposes. Assuming that it’s leftover space, you are able to effectively get free file storage in this way – and it’s within a private environment, so your security is strong.

 

Managed vs. Unmanaged

 

One final key consideration when you look into a virtual private server is whether you want to get an unmanaged or managed VPS plan.

 

If you are unsure which way to go and perhaps don’t feel technically confident with a VPS, “it is recommended that you go with a managed VPS solution,” advises Creativeoverflow. “[I]t is better to go ahead with a specialist hosting company that can manage the technical aspects of your VPS solution.”

 

*****

 

Are you considering a virtual private server to run your website or for any other purpose? At KnownHost, our hosting packages – all of which are managed based on our 15+ years of experience – offer great speed, incredible support, and a 99.9% uptime guarantee. Compare managed VPS plans.

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