Choosing a web design company

For many companies – particularly small businesses and start-ups – the web is going to be their major and in some cases only marketing tool, so when you choose a web design company you may literally be putting the future of your business in their hands.  It is not a decision to be taken lightly, nor is it an area where saving a few pounds should be your primary concern. You really need to take  an in depth look at a web design company before you give them your work.  It is easy to put up a glossy front, but is there any substance behind it?

The web design business is an amateur’s paradise. Start-up costs are very low, obsolete versions of poor software are given away by magazines and anyone can call themselves a web designer. Furthermore, there is a perception that ‘anyone can do it’ and that it is just a question of learning to use a new programme. The results are out there for all to see – ugly, poorly designed and hard to navigate sites that break in some browsers, that do not get any visitors and that do not show up in Google. Unless you are very certain of their capabilities you are doing your business no favours if you employ an amateur

The other option is to do it yourself. Web design is not your business however. Did you build your own computers? Do you deliver your own mail? No, of course you don’t – so why tie up valuable resources and time designing and publishing your own web site only to be disappointed with the result. Your time is more valuable than that.

So – you have decided to use a professsional website design company. There are thousands, so how do you choose? Here are some questions to ask:

How long have they been around? Businesses that have been around for ten years or more will have seen a lot of changes in the way the web works and have obviously adapted successfully. New businesses may not still be around when you need some changes made to your site. Your site could vanish, and you could lose control of your domain.

Have a look at their portfolio. Look for at least twenty websites, preferably more – if they only have a handful then they are either new starts or   just playing at it.  Do you like the sites? Do they work? Try some Google queries – do the sites show up for sensible search terms? Are the sites easy to use?  Good navigation is essential – do you always know exactly where you are on the site, can you find the information you want?

Does the company seem  interested in your business? When you ask them for a quotation do they give you a generic flat-rate quote or try to sell you things you don’t want,  or do they talk with you at length to find out more about your business, how it works and what you hope to get from the website? Do they baffle you with jargon or explain things in easy to understand terms?

Check the small print.  Are there extra set-up fees? If there are staged payments, what do you get at every stage? What sort of hosting do they offer? Will your site be able to expand with the business? How will it be updated? Are there any ongoing charges? Most importantly, make sure that you will own the copyright to all the material on the site including design and layout. We sugggest that you ask your web designer for a copy of all the files once the site is live and paid for.

What sort of support can you expect? We hear stories of ‘unavailable’ web design companies all the time. Make sure you have a phone number, not just an email address – and make sure it is not a premium rate number. Ask them what the turnaround time for an email reply is, and how long it will take to make a simple text change to the site. Remember, in many cases the same company will be looking after your business email account – you need to be sure they are there when you need them.

Lastly but not least, for genuine testimonials.  The best recommendation any business can have is a testimonial from a happy customer. Have a look on their website – are there any testimonials? If not, why not? You can also  ask the company if they are happy to provide references, and if you are still not sure you might even want to contact one or two of their existing clients and ask them if they would recommend the company.


Anatomy of a project – Oban and Lorn Online

Directory sites have become the bane of the web, clogging up Google searches and giving little in return. Millions of these abominations have been set up by people with a ‘brilliant idea’ who have just discovered the web. Usually the plan is that people will be so entranced by their genius that they will queue up to pay for entries or advertising on the site. Friends with businesses  a get a few free  entries, the site fails to perform in search engines and no-one else is interested. It gathers cyberdust.

For a directory site to be any use it has to be inclusive, not exclusive. If I want to look up, for example, bed and breakfast establishments in Oban, I want to be able to look through a complete list, not just those who have paid to be listed. I want some sensible information and if it interests me  then I want to be able to click straight through to the establishment’s website.

But, I hear you say, who would set up such a directory? What is their motivation if not to sell paid entries?

Well, there is a business model – although I have to say it is not a ‘get rich quick’ scheme. Firstly, spend dozens or hundreds of hours setting up the  site. Research it so as many  relevant businesses as possible are included. Code it all carefully by hand, optimise it and wait a few years for it to rise to the top of Google for lots of relevant search terms.  Keep it up to date and make it easy for new businesses to contact you to add their listing – but keep editorial control, no automated submissions. Then try and sell some advertising.

A new look for Oban and Lorn OnlineSo why would people advertise if they can have a free listing? Well, because with dozens of your competitors sharing a page or section of the directory – and with that page attracting lots of potential customers – it is in your interest to make your business stand out. Now make the advertisements so cheap it is almost a no-brainer and perhaps – just perhaps – you will start to make a tiny amount of money from the site.

We set up such a site – Oban and Lorn Online – in October  2000. Over the years it has made us a  steady trickle of money – a few hundred a year at best – but it has also brought in some new web design business as well, so for us it has been worth it.

However, at the age of 11 years and counting the site was looking dated to say the least, so it has now had a complete update.

A total of around 60 hours has been spent creating a new look, converting the old HTML-only layout to a new CSS-powered model,  integrating the site with social media, transferring the data manually to the new format, checking all entires for validity  and adding lots of new sites. We hope you will like the result – a shiny new fully inclusive Oban business directory listing over 400 businesses that will continue to perform superbly in Google for all manner of relevant search terms. Help us to keep it up to date and let us know of any businesses or organisations  in the area with a website that is not included.

We do not expect to get rich any time soon . . .


Oban and Lorn Online

Writing content for your website

Content is king

Writing good quality copy that reads well, keeps the search engines happy and attracts clients to your site is vitally important. Good text means good copywriting.  The words on your website need to fulfil two very different and potentially conflicting functions. They need to capture, inform and entertain your target market, ensuring that page views translate into business, and they also need to ensure that Google and other search engines rank your pages highly.

Input a few relevant search terms for your industry into Google and have a look at the sites that come top. You will find clear, concise text with a reasonable but not excessive percentage of keywords and key phrases.

So what should you include? In addition to clear and full descriptions of the businesses and services you provide you should consider including sections or pages containing information that is not of immediate relevance to your business but is of interest to your potential clients. Well-written articles may well bring in potential customers. For example, if you are selling fishing tackle it makes sense to include articles on where to fish and how to fish.

How do I know if what I have written is good?

Read it through –  out loud. Does it flow? Is there a logical progression of ideas? Are phrases and words all too obviously repeated as ‘Google bait’? (If so use a thesaurus and a dictionary to improve the text). Does it have anything original to say? Does it emphasise your USP (Unique Selling Point)? Are your top three keywords or key phrases in there sufficiently often without being obtrusive?

Good copy writing is as important as good design, if not more so. A site that cannot be found or that has sparse or poorly presented information or that reads badly or doesn’t make sense is a liability, not an asset. A good web design company can suggest research and write copy from scratch or alternatively co-edit and optimise any copy you provide yourself. If they are for any reason not able to offer this service then you might want to consider the services of a specialised copywriter.

Copywriting & SEO For Existing Sites

If you already have a site you are happy with the look and feel of but which is under-performing in Google and other search engines then you might want to start by taking a look at your copy. Web copywriting does not just involve writing informative keyword-rich paragraphs of text, you need to think of the layout as well.  You need to look at your page titles, use of header tags, keyword density and overall readability then rewrite the critical areas of your site to do better for your chosen search terms. Rewriting the content and tweaking the layout on a fundamentally sound site which is underperforming may be all that is required.

Business Gateway’s Web Building Courses

I see that the  local Business Gateway is once again advertising  short one-day workshops to show businesses how to build their own website. The advertisement says ‘Learn from scratch how to build and manage an attractive website for your business’.

What they don’t tell you is that Business Gateway is promoting a proprietory website design system known as Spanglefish which is run by a company based outside Argyll, and that they are bringing in and paying  tutors from outside Argyll to do the training.

There are several aspects of this that I have isues with. Firstly, there is plenty of web design and training expertise within Argyll, so why is Business Gateway not using this internal talent pool and supporting local businesses?  I thought that was their function.

Secondly, why Spanglefish? It is a proprietary  system that supports its costs by running  advertisements on your site.  If you point your own domain at the site it will probably kill your site’s visibility in the search engines, and if you don’t then you have a ‘fishy’ URL and everyone knows that you are a cheapskate using a free sitebuilder.

There is a superb free open-source content management system available in the form of WordPress which is ten times as capable as Spanglefish. In fact, WordPress now powers 15% of the world’s top one million websites. Why oh why are Business Gateway not promoting this superb business tool?  With WordPress you are not tied to any specific company or internet service provider, and you know the software is under a programme  of continuous development with a massive worldwide support community.

So – wrong trainers, wrong software, no support for local web designers and developers. Otherwise it’s all great is it?

Not really. A business website is for many small and start-up businesses their most important and cost-effective marketing tool by a long way.  I  have seen some nice Spanglefish sites, but I have also seen some horrors.  Amateur sites that are never finished, that are poorly designed or even an eyesore, that can’t be found in Google – these are an abomination and can actually harm a business. Sometimes no website is better than a bad one or an incomplete one. In addition, transferring a Spanglefish site to another server or ISP should you wish to is far from straightforward. 

As already mentioned,  there are various small web design businesses in Argyll with decades of experience between them. By suggesting that small business owners or new starts can save a few pounds by creating their own websites  Business Gateway is undermining these  existing small businesses and devaluing public perception of their expertise.

I am sure that Business Gateway would not  run vehicle mechanics courses to encourage businesses to maintain all their own vehicles as well.  Ostensibly doing your own vehicle maintainance could save more money and possibly be easier to learn than web design, but somehow the idea seems daft. It is obviously more sensible to use a local garage, so what is the difference when it comes to a company’s main marketing vehicle, their website?

Encouraging businesses with limited IT skills and limited time to waste a lot of their valuable energy learning a new skill that others have taken years or decades to acquire is not necessarily doing them any favours. Steering them  towards a limited and proprietory system that locks them into a specific provider strikes me as downright irresponsible.

So – is it worth anyone’s while attending these workshops?  Well, if you are thinking of starting a business and know nothing about web design then why not? There are worse ways to spend a few hours and you will pick up some useful information. Don’t commit yourself to Spanglefish though, or to anything or anyone else, until you have done a bit more research and some hard thinking. ‘Free’ websites can carry a hidden price tag.

If  in the end you are determined to do it all yourself then I suggest finding a cheap host that provides WordPress pre-installed or as a ‘one-click install’ and use the most successful, best-supported, free and flexible content management system available today.


Hard times mean your website is vital

Our local paper when we lived and worked in rural Aberdeenshire  used to carry a strapline for its advertising department which read: “Stopping advertising to save money is like stopping your watch to save time”.  Today we can say that they were both right – and wrong.

With more competition and reduced markets most businesses realise that advertising is more important than ever – but savings have to be made somewhere.  A dilemma? Not really.  It is time to make a bigger commitment to the web and reduce or eliminate your spend on print advertising.

Why? Well, for a start print advertising is becoming less effective as many magazines experience falling circulation. Most consumers are going to stop buying magazines and newspapers long before they lose their internet connection. In fact, broadband connections in the UK are at an all-time high.

Secondly, a professionally designed website can be fantastic value for money, the best bang you can get for your advertising buck by a long way. In many sectors the net is the FIRST place people look for information and price comparison, and provided your web designer has made a good job of optimising your site for the search engines you can be right up there near the top of Google with much bigger competitors. And of course new social media sucha s  Twitter and Facebook offer easy, free publicity and traffic via direct links to your website.

Thirdly, even if you intend to carry on with print advertising a good website can reduce your budget. All you need to do is attract attention with a catchy one-liner then follow it with your web address. If you distribute printed material – brochures, leaflets etc – then including these in PDF format on your website can create big savings.  So – your website should be the last place you are thinking of cutting back.

A well-designed and promoted website  will help you beat the ongoing ecnomic gloom by increasing your ROI for your marketing budget while increasing brand awareness and market share. You know it makes sense!

Why WordPress?

Wordpress logoUsing WordPress For Content Management

  For many years we encouraged clients to steer clear of content managed websites.  Too many content management systems were either cumbersome or required frequent complicated security updates or took up too many server resources and were very slow.  Many clients did not need the complexity of a CMS when all they required were occasional updates to prices or details that we could do for them at no cost in any event as part of their hosting and support package.

Then it  all changed when WordPress came along. WordPress was developed as a blogging platform, but it has since blossomed into a fully fledged content management system.  We watched its development closely, and by the time WordPress  3.0  was released in June 2010 we decided we were  happy to recommend it to almost any client wanting a website they can manage themselves. 
So we acquired  the software and the expertise to allow us to create custom templates and tweak the stylesheet to create unique, good-looking sites.  We learned what plug-ins really enhance the functionality of WordPress and what ones to avoid. We learned that WordPress is so much more than a blogging platform and  can even be used for e-commerce and download sites. Finally the CMS had come of age. Today, WordPress powers something like 15% of the top one million sites on the internet.
As with any CMS (Content Managment System) there are limitations and using the editor to get exactly the layout of text and images you want can be frustrating –  remember the first time you used Word?  However, with practice and/or support and  with judicious use of suitable plug-ins (‘bolt on’ bits of software that enhance the functionality of WordPress) you will be amazed at what you can create.
Some clients prefer the complete design flexibility of a bespoke hand-coded website, so for them  we can  design a bespoke site then a matching WordPress template to create a client-controlled subsection of their website. The main content that requires infrequent updating remains managed by us, but dynamic parts of the site – special offers, news pages etc – can be kept updated by the client and integrated with social media such as Twitter and Facebook. The advantage of this approach is that we can create a matching WordPress site for clients with existing sites, linked in to the main site’s navigation menus.
For new starts on very limited budgets a customised and hosted WordPress site with a bit of tuition to get you going represents an ideal compromise between the inadequacies of proprietary systems  like Spanglefish and the cost of a full bespoke website plus management. Both time and cash outlay can be kept low, and you are in control of a professional looking website from day one.
We will be writing many more articles on WordPress in the coming weeks and months – ‘How To’ articles,  case studies and more.  In the meantime, see our main website for more information.

Stay Safe Online in 2012

 Just a reminder to everyone to stay safe online this year. The internet is a fabulous place, but it can also cause a lot of grief.  Based on problems people have come to me with over the last 12 months, here’s a few reminders and suggestions that I hope you will find useful:

 1 – E-mail and phone calls

Don’t fall for any e-mail scams.

a) If it sounds too good to be true it almost certainly is. You have NOT won any lotteries you don’t remember going in for and no-one needs your help laundering some dodgy money.

b) Your bank, credit card company etc. will NEVER send you e-mails telling you that you need to update your security details and offer you a link to click on. NEVER click links you are unsure of in an e-mail. If you hover your mouse over the link you can usually see the destination in the status bar at the bottom of the e-mail screen. A link that says ‘MyBank Credit Department’ may when you hover the mouse over it turn out to be going to … hquick.php or some equally unlikely address. Only access online banking etc. through your web browser, never from e-mail links.

c) Don’t forward virus warnings, chain letters etc. to all the contacts in your address book. These things are essentially manually transmitted viruses, clogging up the internet and wasting everybody’s time. In addition they usually expose all the addresses in your address book to everyone else in your address book – not a good idea as it compromises everyone’s privacy. (See d) below)

d) If you DO decide to send an e-mail to all your contacts use BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) instead of CC – this way no-one can see the entire contents of your address book.

e) Just because an e-mail seems to come from someone you know doesn’t mean it has. Their e-mail account may have been hacked. This is particularly common with web-based e-mail accounts such as Hotmail. There has been a spate recently of e-mails purporting to come from someone you know who is stranded abroad with no money/credit cards etc. Don’t whatever you do answer these.

f) If your own Hotmail or other web-based e-mail account is hacked you should IMMEDIATELY change the password.

g) Don’t open e-mail attachments unless you are sure what they are. Your anti-virus programme should be set to scan attachments automatically anyway, but be careful. In particular do not open .zip files or Word or Excel files from unknown sources without scanning them first. pictures – .jpg, .bmp, .gif or .png – are usually OK.

h) Microsoft will NEVER phone you to discuss security issues on your computer. This is a common scam. NEVER, EVER give a stranger on the phone remote access to your computer.

i) SNOPES is your friend. Snopes is a website that lists the vast majority of common scams. If you are unsure of something it is worth checking Snopes out.


 2 – Viruses and malware

a) Make sure your antivirus protection is up to date. I am currently recommending Microsoft Security Essentials as the best free antivirus solution – but remember that you can only have one antivirus programme installed at once, so do uninstall your current AV programme if you are installing a new one, or there may be trouble ahead . . .

b)If (heaven forbid) your copy of Windows won’t pass the ‘Windows Genuine Advantage’ test then you will not be able to install Microsoft Security Essentials. In this case I would recommend Avast.

c) Check that your antivirus programme is automatically downloading and installing the latest updates. If it isn’t then make sure you update it manually. If you got a free 3-month trial of Norton, Macafee or some other ‘big’ antivirus programme when you bought your PC you will need to pay when the trial period expires or it will stop working. This is an ideal time to uninstall the costly, resource-hungry monster and install MSE instead.

d) If you are installing an antivirus programme make sure you do it either through the programme’s own uninstall routine or via the Uninstall option in the Control Panel. Just deleting files will not do it and will cause problems.

e) Antivirus programmes will not necessarily catch all nasties – to stay completely safe I recommend installing the paid-for version of Malwarebytes’ Anrti-Malware, whcih gives real-time protection. This programme will co-exist happily with your antivirus programme. It costs £20. There is a free version which is very good at finding and detecting malware when you instigate a manual scan with it, but the free version does not provide real-time protection.

f) A lot of particularly nasty viruses will pose as anti-virus programmes themselves. If you suddenly get a pop-up window saying your computer is infected make very sure that it is from your own AV programme before you take any action. If it is a new type of window or warning then do not click anything – switch the machine off then reboot in safe mode and run Malwarebytes (see below)

g) If your computer does catch a virus or become infected with malware then switch it off immediately, start it in Safe Mode (repeatedly press F8 while booting up and select Safe Mode with Networking initially). Run Malwarebytes. (You may be unable to download it as many viruses and worms block access to antivirus and antimalware sites. It is handy to already have the last the free version of Malwarebytes installed on your PC for a rainy day). This is often enough to fix the problem. Other options include using System Restore to go back to a time before the problem occurred.

h) If after trying the above you are still infected then don’t keep trying the same old things or constantly restarting your computer in the hope that it has miraculously fixed itself as the problem may become worse. Contact someone with more knowledge than yourself.

i) Filesharing websites (sometimes called Torrent sites) are a rich source of infection. Only use them if you are very sure of what you are doing – and check for other people using your computer (esp. teenagers!) using these sites.


3 – Back-ups and other common sense stuff

 a) Computers can and will go wrong. Sometimes they can be fixed, but if the hard drive – where all your documents, photos etc are stored – becomes damage you can lose everything. Back up anything you cannot afford to lose or would not like to lose

 b) The built-in Windows backup is not great and is not easy to use, especially in older versions of Windows.  The easiest way to back stuff up is to drag and drop the relevant files onto some external medium. The best thing to use these days is a USB stick (also known as a Flash drive or memory stick). These are cheap. Get one big enough for your files (8Gb is usually plenty) and use it regularly to store a back-up of anything you create or upload to your computer that you want to keep safe.

c) If your e-mail is important to you and it is stored on your computer (i.e. if you use Outlook, Outlook Express, Windows Mail, Thunderbird etc) then you might want to keep a backup of this as well. To do this you need to find out where your mail is stored then copy that whole folder onto the memory stick. You can usually find where your mail is stored from one of the menus in the e-mail programme, otherwise use Google.

d) You might also want to back up your Favourites.

e) Don’t let friends or relatives install anything on your computer or change your settings without your permission, and if you give that permission make sure you know what they have done and why. People seem to think they have a god-given right to mess with other people’s’ computers because they know a little more than the hapless owner, but this is very much an area where a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Messing with your computer and its settings without your permission is no more acceptable than going through your underwear drawer, so just firmly but politely tell them to leave everything exactly as they found it.

Have a safe 2012 online! 😀

Search Engine Optimisation

Have you been approached by SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) companies offering to work some sort of miracle that will get your site on the first page of Google for all sorts of keywords? Well, maybe they can – but it will cost you. And again,. maybe they can;t. There is more b/s spoken about SEO than almost anything else on the web.

When we build a website we optimise it as we build it – which is the easy way to do it. SEO is not something you can just  ‘bolt on’ afterwards. Here’s a few hints and tips for you:

Page title tag

 – ideally a maximum of 63 characters (including spaces) with all major keywords /phrases included if possible. Don’t repeat any single word more than twice.

META content tag

 – one or two sentences containing the main key phrases. (Don’t worry about any other META tags, they are not important)

Keyword rich text

 – make sure your major keywords/phrases come up regularly in the text on your home page but don’t overstuff the text with keywords. Apart from anything else it needs to read OK for humans too.

Use H1 and H2 header tags

 with key words for section headings but don’t over-use

Use appropriate ALT tags

 for images (but don’t stuff with keywords)

Check your menu system

–  make sure that whichever navigation system you use can be easily followed by search engine spiders. If you are using a Javascript based system you must have text links as well, or at least a site map with a link to it on the home page.

Easy navigation

 – never more than 2 clicks from any page to any other page (1 is better).

Avoid ‘black hat’ techniques

DO NOT on any account employ any ‘dubious’ techniques (‘black hat’ SEO) – Google is likely to penalise you heavily for this. This includes but is not limited to :

~ Text that is the same colour as the background

~ Duplicate pages or obvious ‘doorway’ pages that are written purely for search engines

~ ‘Stuffing’ pages with keywords and phrases or using phrases that are not in context. Keywords/phrases should be between 5% and 20% (max) of content

~ Don’t use images or Flash instead of text. Google cannot read Flash

~ Don’t link to ‘link farms or FFA (free for all) sites



1. Once you have done all the above you have done about as much ‘on-site’ optimization as you can and it is time to look at links.

2. MAKE SURE you submit to the Open Directory as soon as the site is complete, and follow their listing guidelines

3. Now get going on your incoming links campaign. Find as many relevant sites as you can and ask them if they will consider linking to your site.

4. The best links are links that:

~ Are from popular sites with a high Google page rank (check the PR of the page your link will be on) ~ Are from sites that are themed with your site in some way – i.e.the link is relevant ~ Include keywords in the link text.


Reciprocal Links

A lot of sites will only offer you a link if you give them one back. It is usually worth creating a links page just for this. Only put links up which are:

a)  relevant to your visitors

b) (obviously) not in direct competition with you

Ideally you will swap links only with sites that have an equivalent or higher PR than your own site/links page. (Get the Google toolbar if you don’t have it – it shows Page Rank)

OK, that’s about it for search engines. Just a couple to finish off:

Google is critical, most others a waste of time. Make sure you list in DMOZ (the Open Directory) and Google WILL find your site, but get as many other links – reciprocal if necessary – as you can. DMOZ is also the basis for unpaid results for several other search engines.

DO NOT use any automatic submission software or site as it will submit your site to a load of FFA pages and Google may penalise you.

Finally, for more on Google factors  look here

Domain Registration Pitfalls

Quite often when we get a new client they will tell us proudly: “We have already registered a domain”.

I know they feel good about this but my heart sinks. Which registrar is it with? Which ISP? Do they have a control panel? If so, do they have the password? Can you change the IPS tag from the CP? Can you repoint the DNS? Change the nameservers?

A quick guide to the technobabble:

IPS tag: A short sequence of letters and numbers that identifies the registrar with control over the domain name

DNS: The system that determines which physical computer or web host a domain name points to. If you change the physical location of your web site files you have to re-point the DNS so the domain name sends the browser to the new location

Name server: A computer on the internet that translates your domain name to a numerical value (IP address) that points to your website.

Registrar: The organisation that registers your domain name for you. When we host your website for you we set up the website on one of our (Webfusion) servers. We need to transfer the domain name to our registrar (123-reg) which involves getting the existing registrar or ISP to change the IPS tag. Sometimes this can be done through a control panel the client has access to, but you may have to ask the registrar – often by fax – to do this for you. The ‘work’ involved on the part of the ISP is a few mouse clicks and the entry of a few characters into a box, so why does this so often prove difficult?

Well, some clients have had domains registered for years. They may just be paying a ‘parking’ fee, but others will have been sold a full hosting package which they did not need at the time and which they are not using. Such accounts are good cash cows for ISPs and when they are asked to change the IPS tag so we can gain control over the domain they will make it as difficult as possible as they have nothing to gain and a bit of regular income to lose.They also want to sell you a hosting package hemselves (if you do not already have one). The answer is to be firm and be persistent. In the case of a or domain name you can as a last resort get Nominet (the authority in ultimate charge of UK domain names) to change the IPS tag for you, but there is a charge for this of £80.

Because too many ISPs are difficult about changing the IPS tag we much prefer to register your domain name ourselves. We charge £10 to register a domain and put up a holding page. (Once you have a web hosting contract with us we incorporate the regular renewal charges for your domain in the annual hosting fee).

The moral of this article is: if you are thinking of a website for your business and you do not yet have a domain name, then get your chosen web design company to register the domain for you; it will be much simpler and usually cheaper than doing it yourself. (If you have a domain hosted with us and want to move to a different web hosting provider we will change the IPS tag within 48 hours via a simple email request with a follow-up phone call. We do not usually charge for this)

Web Hosting – an Introduction

What is it?

 For your website to be available 24/7 worldwide it must be stored on a computer or network that is intrinsically reliable and has a robust connection to the internet with guaranteed bandwidth. It is not hosted on machines at our Oban premises as we only have a standard broadband connection to the web.

We create our clients’ websites here then upload them to state of the art servers in a brand new data centre with cooling systems, high-level security and fire detection/suppression systems and power back-up capabilities to ensure that in the event of a power cut, customer data remains online and available. There are knowledgeable support staff on duty here 24 hours a day, with engineers either in the building or on call. Building security systems, automatic data backup systems and multiple gigabit connections to the main internet backbone complete the picture.

 Why is there such a range of products advertised?

Obviously this all costs money, and this is what you are paying for when you pay hosting charges. In addition, our charges cover maintenance of the registration of your domain name plus our personal support. You may wonder why some hosting is advertised at £2/month or less while a dedicated server can cost you up to £200 per month. You may ask, what is a dedicated server? Do I need one? Is the hosting Webcraft offers good value?

Well, a dedicated server means yours is the only website on that server. That means you are not only paying for your own physical machine, you are also paying for all the ancillary facilities in the data centre plus support for that machine. You only need a dedicated server if your site has a large amount of traffic.

Most of our clients’ sites are hosted on servers that host many other websites on the same physical machine. That allows us to keep costs down and offer a huge range of features without compromising the performance of your site. Because your site does not have a whole physical machine to itself we are able to offer comprehensive hosting and support packages for between £10 and £15 per month.

Is ultra-cheap hosting worth it?

We think our hosting is exceptional value for money. Occasionally though a potential client says they have been offered hosting for a much lower figure, so how is this possible? Well, the data centre may well not even be in this country, it may be in the US, with all the hassle that the time difference can cause and expensive support issues if you need to phone them (assuming this is even possible – support is often through a ticket system only). In addition there will usually be many more sites on each physical machine, resulting in reduced performance. There may be no database facilities, or limitations on data storage and there are often restrictive monthly bandwidth limits. As with most services, you get what you pay for.

Occasionally and reluctantly we build and maintain sites that are hosted elsewhere. We cannot offer any performance guarantees in this case, nor can we guarantee that your web server has the necessary facilities to run all the features you may want on your site now or in the future. Overall, our advice is to always let the company responsible for building and maintaining your site host it for you as it will make it much easier for them to support and maintain it.

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