Find a good home for your web­site

Third-party web-host­ing com­pa­nies spe­cial­ize in run­ning web­sites for busi­nesses such as yours. Here are some tips to help you in se­lect­ing one that’s right for your prac­tice


for most fi­nan­cial ad­vi­sors, a web­site is a ne­ces­sity. The con­tent you choose to put on yours is only one part of the story, though. Where you set up your web­site is another.

To make your web­site avail­able to oth­ers, you’ll need to have it hosted on a web server — the back-end com­puter that holds your site’s files and dis­plays them to vis­i­tors. This isn’t some­thing you’ll want to do your­self. Band­width, re­li­a­bil­ity and other network con­fig­u­ra­tion is­sues would make run­ning a web server in your of­fice un­wise. In­stead, third-party web-host­ing com­pa­nies spe­cial­ize in run­ning web­sites for you. So, how do you find a good host? ded­i­cated or shared? The first jar­gon hur­dle you’re likely to face is whether to choose a “ded­i­cated,” a “vir­tual pri­vate server” or a “shared” host. Luck­ily, this choice will be easy if you don’t plan to have com­pli­cated soft­ware run­ning on your web­site.

Ded­i­cated hosts give each web­site a web server run­ning on its own com­puter. This is great for large sites with lots of traf­fic that run ap­pli­ca­tion soft­ware such as an in­vest­ment-man­age­ment sys­tem, for ex­am­ple. This op­tion would be overkill for the av­er­age ad­vi­sor’s blog web­site, though.

Vir­tual pri­vate servers look like ded­i­cated web servers to the com­pa­nies us­ing them, but all the servers re­side on a sin­gle phys­i­cal com­puter. These servers are cheaper, but still of­fer lots of power. Like ded­i­cated servers, they re­quire that you do all the work set­ting them up and in­stalling the rel­e­vant soft­ware. Geeks only need ap­ply.

If you just want to pro­vide ba­sic in­for­ma­tion on­line, you can opt for a shared ser­vice. This type of ser­vice hosts mul­ti­ple web­sites for dif­fer­ent cus­tomers on a sin­gle web server, and doesn’t let you tin­ker with the un­der­ly­ing, low-level con­fig­u­ra­tion of the server at all. In­stead, this op­tion presents you with a browser-based point-and-click con­trol panel that shows you only the things you need to ad­min­is­ter your web­site. fea­tures of shared host­ing Some con­trol panel-based, shared host­ing sites have fea­tures that make them es­pe­cially easy to use for cer­tain ap­pli­ca­tions. One of these is WordPress ad­min­is­tra­tion, a con­tent-man­age­ment sys­tem that lets you pub­lish and up­date your own con­tent on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. You can use WordPress to con­fig­ure your site around a spe­cific vis­ual theme and cus­tom­ize its for­mat.

A con­tent-man­age­ment sys­tem can be dif­fi­cult for non-techie users to set up, be­cause it in­volves up­load­ing the soft­ware and con­fig­ur­ing a data­base. To ease the process, many shared host­ing com­pa­nies will al­low you to in­stall and ad­min­is­ter WordPress di­rectly from their con­trol panel soft­ware. The same goes for ri­val con­tent-man­age­ment sites such as Joomla and Dru­pal.

De­pend­ing on what you want to do with your web­site, you might ben­e­fit from a host­ing com­pany that pro­vides other in­te­grated fea­tures. One of these is a site builder, a rudi­men­tary tool that en­ables you to cre­ate a web­site from scratch. A site builder typ­i­cally is sim­pler than WordPress to con­fig­ure, and is best suited for users who don’t ex­pect to up­date their con­tent much.

If you’re hop­ing to de­velop some­thing more so­phis­ti­cated, con­sider a host­ing com­pany that of­fers file trans­fer pro­to­col (FTP) ac­cess. FTP is the way to get files from your com­puter up onto your web­site so that oth­ers can see them.

If you’re work­ing with a third-party web de­signer to pro­duce a more elab­o­rate web­site than you can cre­ate with a ba­sic site builder, FTP will be an im­por­tant fea­ture for you.

Have you reg­is­tered the do­main name for your web­site yet? If not, you’ll have to do so be­fore any­thing else. A do­main ( in­vest­mentex­ec­u­, for ex­am­ple) is your ad­dress on the web. You must reg­is­ter it with a do­main regis­trar, which will help you find a name that hasn’t been taken al­ready, and then will charge you a small fee to claim it as your own.

You could find a com­pany that of­fers only do­main reg­is­tra­tion, or you could work with a host­ing firm that pro­vides do­main reg­is­tra­tion as part of its ser­vice and then helps you man­age the do­mains you’re us­ing.

If you’re hop­ing to gen­er­ate leads via your web­site, then you’ll prob­a­bly want to use email as a com­mu­ni­ca­tion chan­nel. Rather than us­ing an or @ya­ ad­dress, con­sider email that uses your own do­main name.

Most hosts will pro­vide an in­te­grated email-host­ing ser­vice that you can con­nect to your email soft­ware. En­sure that your host of­fers proper anti-virus and an­ti­spam tech­nol­ogy as part of the ser­vice.

For added value, look for a host that of­fers au­tore­spon­der ser­vices. These send emails au­to­mat­i­cally to you, en­abling you to cre­ate au­to­mated mar­ket­ing cam­paigns. Per­haps you’d like to email a po­ten­tial lead with an in­for­ma­tive ar­ti­cle a few days af­ter he or she reg­is­ters on your web­site, and then again with another a few days later. The con­tent of these emails might vary de­pend­ing on the in­for­ma­tion the vis­i­tors gave you about them­selves. Just make sure any mes­sages sent from your site com­ply with Canada’s anti-spam leg­is­la­tion. re­li­a­bil­ity and sup­port These snazzy fea­tures won’t mat­ter much if your web­site keeps “go­ing down.” Choose a host that of­fers re­li­a­bil­ity and pro­tec­tion against out­ages. Ask for up­time fig­ures (a mea­sure of the time a web­site is avail­able) be­fore sign­ing up. And look for fea­tures that pro­tect your web­site against cor­rup­tion or mal­ware. Blue­host ( www. blue­, from Provo, Utah-based En­durance In­ter­na­tional Group, for ex­am­ple, of­fers an op­tional web­site-backup ser­vice that lets you ac­cess your backup to re­cover spe­cific files and data­base ta­bles, along with a “site­lock” ser­vice that de­tects vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties and mal­ware be­fore they in­fect your com­puter sys­tem.

On that note, read host­ing site re­views to en­sure that a host­ing com­pany’s sup­port is ad­e­quate. Sup­port should be quick, ef­fec­tive and, hope­fully, avail­able 24/7. Af­ter all, cy­ber­crim­i­nals and soft­ware bugs never sleep.

You’ll find in­for­ma­tion about all these fea­tures and spec­i­fi­ca­tions on most com­pe­tent host­ing com­pa­nies’ web­sites, but what might not be as ob­vi­ous is in­for­ma­tion about a com­pany’s ethos. If your fi­nan­cial ad­vi­sory prac­tice has a spe­cific cus­tomer fo­cus or ser­vice phi­los­o­phy, then you might find a way to re­flect that in your host­ing choice.

This could be as sim­ple as us­ing a Cana­dian host (such as Van­cou­ver-based Cana­dian Web Host­ing) to re­flect a Cana­dian au­di­ence, or even find­ing a host in town so that you can say you’re sup­port­ing your lo­cal busi­ness com­mu­nity. This loy­alty to lo­cal busi­nesses can res­onate with clients.

Tak­ing this idea fur­ther, some host­ing com­pa­nies fo­cus on regis­ter­ing and host­ing do­mains for special in­ter­est groups (such as the LGBT com­mu­nity), which might suit you if you tar­get that mar­ket di­rectly. Oth­ers, such as Burling­ton, Ont.based HostPapa Inc. make a point of us­ing only re­new­able en­ergy to power their servers, which might be an ex­tra sell­ing point if you spe­cial­ize in so­cially re­spon­si­ble in­vest­ments.

Like choos­ing an of­fice or home, choos­ing your res­i­dence on­line isn’t some­thing you want to do more than ev­ery few years. A lit­tle re­search, along with some vi­sion into fu­ture web­site re­quire­ments, will aid you in find­ing a host­ing ser­vice that will be right for you.

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