Domain, Web and Email Hosting for Startups

A domain name gives your startup business a professional look. It is also a prerequisite for having a company website or subscribing to a cloud-based platform like Office 365. This article will discuss domain, web and email hosting and what startups need to consider in making their choices.

Domain Registration

Once you register your business, opt for a local (e.g. co.ke) or global (e.g. .com) top-level domain and use the name of your business as the second-level domain. As an illustration, my startup Spatiality uses spatiality.co.ke as its domain name. Your first choice might not be available, so think of alternatives before you start the registration process.

Domain registration is a simple process that creates a DNS listing for your domain name that points to the IP address of the registrar’s server. The process can be performed through any ICANN accredited registrar. To register a .ke domain you need to use one of the 45 registrars currently licensed by KENIC. Domain registrations are transferable at a small fee, so register your preferred domain name before it is taken by someone else.

Web Hosting

Before deciding where to host your website, you must think about what kind of website you need. Here are some of the key factors to consider:

  • Ease-of Use – You can choose between a traditional Content Management System (CMS) that requires technical skills or a website builder that uses simple drag and drop. If you opt for a CMS, you must have or learn the requisite skills and/or hire a competent website developer. When opting for a website builder, you must ensure that it offers the required flexibility and functionality at an affordable rate. It should also allow you to use your chosen domain name.
  • Functionality – You have decided that you need a website, but have you thought about the website’s purpose and feature functions? If you want to engage visitors, your website will benefit form a blog or live newsfeed. If you are selling products and services online, inbuilt eCommerce features will come in handy. If you plan to use the website for marketing, event management and personalization become desirable features.
  • Technical Constraints – You could limit yourself to the use of an open source CMS or a proprietary website builder (e.g. Weebly, Wix). You could also decide that you want to use WordPress, the open source CMS with the largest market share, or Joomla and Drupal as possible alternatives.

Website builders include web hosting in an all-in-one solution, but when you are using a CMS you need to find a host for your website. Google ‘web hosting’ or visit weare.co.ke/buy.html, and you will find numerous web hosting service providers. Consider using a local service provider, since you can call or visit them when something goes wrong. Here are key considerations to help you wade through the maze of service providers:

  • Hosting Environment – Find out whether they offer Windows or Linux based hosting environments, and enquire about the capacity and location of their servers. Also, consider guaranteed uptime and customer service and technical support hours. You can start with shared server hosting, but find out if they offer virtual private server, cloud hosting and dedicated server hosting in case your business grows.
  • Valued-added Services – Web hosting service providers typically offer scalable hosting packages, but study and compare their unique services. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tools or a website builder than works with your chosen CMS can make a real difference to your business.

Email Hosting

Most web hosting packages include free email, but you could be restricted to web access and a mail client that you aren’t familiar with. Instead, you can get access to the trusted features of Outlook or Gmail for business-class email, by subscribing to a cloud-based platform like Microsoft’s Office 365 or Google’s G Suite. Both host your emails in their public cloud, which offers greater security and reliability compared to shared server hosting. On top of that you will have access to a wide range of productivity tools, cloud-based file management and integrated communications at a reasonable rate per named user.

Conclusions

The most critical decisions you need to make are the choice of a domain name, and the use of an all-in-one website builder or a traditional CMS. You need to be aware that the choice for a .ke domain could tie you into to the use of a CMS. In such a scenario, you could identify a suitable theme and relevant plug-ins that will make the development of your website a lot easier.

While it’s easy enough to switch web hosting service provider, you should study the hosting environment and value-added services before you pick one. Last, but not least, consider signing up for business-class email and a range of other business applications through a cloud-based platform like Office 365 or G Suite.

About Author:

Willy Simons came to Kenya from The Netherlands in 1994. He is a serial entrepreneur and co-founder of Oakar Services, Esri Eastern Africa and Spatiality. He blogs about business, geospatial technology and cloud computing.