The internet has changed a lot of old, set habits - the way we communicate, the way we consume content, and the way we shop. These dramatic and remarkable changes have happened within the span of 10-15 years - a stunningly short span of time when you consider how dependent we've come to be on the internet.
One of the biggest challenges businesses have had to face in the 21st century is making the transition online. Even today, major businesses and industries (such as the publishing industry) haven't found the perfect way to move online. The internet has completely rewritten the rules and made it very easy for upstart organizations to go up against entrenched older players and steal their market share.
Therefore, if your business hasn't moved online, now is the best time to do so. The internet is still in its infancy and it will only penetrate deeper and develop further as a platform. Even if you start today, you will have a serious advantage over firms who haven't yet made the transition.
One of the first things you will need to move online is a reliable web host. Web hosting is a much misunderstood subject. Once you start reading about it, you will be overwhelmed with the number of options at your disposal. Web hosting companies are a dime a dozen, and at first glance, all seem to offer the same features at usually the same price. However, once you dig deeper, you will realize that a lot of them are basically hosting resellers - the equivalent of a mom and pop store selling a big retailer's personally branded products. To get the best possible deals, therefore, you should go to the very source - the big hosting companies themselves.
Hosting can be divided into two broad categories - dedicated, and shared. With dedicated hosting, you get a dedicated server which is used by just your site(s). In a shared hosting plan, as you may have figured out, you share the server with a number of other members.
Dedicated hosting is ideal for sites with a lot of traffic or sites that may experience spikes of traffic in the near future. If you are starting out online, you will hardly fall in this category. This kind of hosting is quite expensive, usually starting at $50+ per month. You should stay off dedicated hosting until your site becomes large enough to warrant a dedicated server.
Shared hosting is ideal for new businesses. Most of the big companies such as HostGator, DreamHost, JustHost, etc. offer plans starting as low as $4.95/month. Ideally, you should get a plan that allows you to host unlimited domains. This way, you can expand whenever you want to without any restrictions. Most such plans start at $8-10 per month - a very low price for something that will reap many benefits.
The most important thing to consider with a host is its customer service. Most of the big hosting companies offer roughly the same services at the same price, so you could pick any one that you like. The only differentiating factor is the customer service. Companies such as JustHost, DreamHost, HostGator are renowned for their service and are a great bet for anyone starting out with his website.