One way to promote your small business effectively is with an online presence. Although many ways to promote your business online exist, the focus of this article is on small business web hosting. While there are a number of companies offering hosting service, each with a myriad of features, there are several important points to consider when making your decision.

Are they reliable?

Is their service "up" at least 99% of the time? Just for the sake of comparison, consider this for a moment. What do you think would happen to the level of business at your favorite restaurant if they were closed whenever you attempted to go there? At first glance, you might find it merely an inconvenience. If, however, it were to happen repeatedly, you would most likely find another place to eat. It's essentially the same for your small business website. Since time is money, each minute that the site is "down" can equate to lost revenue for you.

How reliable is their technical support?

Are they available 24/7? How available will they be on weekends or holidays? For instance, if your business generates a large portion of its revenue during certain holiday periods, such as Christmas, then the availability of technical support during those times becomes extremely important.

How many email accounts are provided?

Most small business web hosting plans supply a large number of customizable email addresses. How many email accounts do you need? Unless your business is exceedingly large, you should have more than enough email addresses at your disposal in order to assign one to various areas of your business, as well as assign one to each of your employees.

Does the hosting company offer an email autoresponder?

An auto-responder feature sends an instant reply when site visitors send you an email. From a marketing standpoint, an auto-responder is a valuable feature. For example, if your website offers a subscription to a periodic e-zine, newsletter, or free report in exchange for the potential customer's name and email address, it allows you to stay in contact with them in the future on a regular basis. This helps build trust. A person is more likely to purchase a product or service from someone that they trust.

Will it be convenient for you to perform routine maintenance?

From time to time, you may need to perform maintenance on your website. Will you be able to manage passwords or update information without contacting technical support each time?

What options are available for e-commerce?

Is a shopping cart provided? If you're new to the world of e-commerce, you may not be familiar with the term "shopping cart". A shopping cart is a bit of software that functions as somewhat of an online grocery cart. It allows your customers to select items for purchase from your site. If you plan to accept credit cards on your site, can you provide a secure shopping experience? This is done through the use of technology called SSL.

Can you host more than one domain?

Are you hosting only one domain or multiple domains? With certain web hosting companies, you can host multiple domains. They may or may not provide this feature. Even if they do allow you to host multiple domains, it may not be free of charge.