Easy guide to domain + web hosting for start ups

Purchasing domain names and web hosting can be a tricky.

But it doesn’t have to be hard…

It’s the first step in getting up and online and looking professional as a start up – but how do you choose who to go with?
Think of it like buying a car, right now as a start up you mightn’t be able to afford much but you want to make sure it’s not a lemon.
Here is your quick guide to finding the best option for you – and avoiding the dodgy salesmen!


1. Do your research

If you were anything like me when starting out, you’ve already spent a lot of time trawling the internet and forums, you’ve got a million tabs open on your computer and feel none the wiser. But that’s good. You need to learn who is out there to compare what they provide. Google away!

Once you have narrowed it down to a few contenders, apply the review search: Google the provider + add words like ‘web hosting’ or ‘domain name’+ ‘reviews’ or ‘forums’ to the end up with real people’s opinions and experiences, not the testimonials they have written up on their website. i.e. Search “(provider name) web hosting reviews” or “(provider name) forum reviews”.


2. Find the right fit for your business

First things first – what do you need? Which Content Management System (CMS) are you going to be using to set up your website? Are you going through a web developer/designer – do they have a preference? Can you get a discounted rate if you go through someone they are affiliated with? Are you going to be setting it up yourself – if so, will you need support via online or the phone?

Figure out your situation so you are clear on what you need to know. Then, ask yourself whether your going to have a simple site, mostly text with a few images telling people how to find you – or a more complex site; with a client portal, lots of video content, e-commerce/online store etc? This will determine how big your hosting plan will need to be – check how much disk space you will get and how much bandwidth they supply.

Another thing to consider is how much traffic (people visiting your site) you expect to get on a daily basis – if it’s a lot you’ll need to find someone who is capable of supporting the load. If you have strong values about the way you purchase goods, such as buying Australian made or Fair Trade, being environmentally friendly etc these can influence your choice of provider. It can also narrow down the field – a lot.

I personally choose to support Australian businesses where I can, I know I can get things for not a lot going through companies based in Asia for example, but I like to know that the money I spend contributes to the society I live in and feel more sure that the people doing the work are getting paid fairly through our fair minimum wage standards and work conditions. It’s all a personal preference however, but there are options out there for you.

3. Price isn’t everything

$1 a domain name – what a bargain, right? Well often you get what you pay for and if you choose wrong, it can get messy cleaning up the aftermath or expensive having someone else do it. Understanding the limitations and capabilities that a provider has can help you determine what is really ‘a good deal’. Some CMS’s like WordPress etc offer web hosting for free but this comes with your site having limited capabilities or you may an inflated price for the ease of purchasing a domain through them. You may pay only $5 a month for hosting but your site slows down during peak internet times for your customers or crashes if more than 4 people look at it simultaneously.

Key questions to answer:

  • How much are their renewals?
  • Do they give a discount when you purchase longer periods of time upfront?
  • Any discount for multiple domains?
  • Does the cheap deal expire and get more expensive when you renew?
  • Can you scale your plan up or down depending on your changing business needs – if so, how often can you do this?
  • What is included?
  • What other products could they offer you as you grow?
  • How much can you afford?

Remember, these will be ongoing costs for the lifetime of your business and its website.

4. Check out their support

Not being able to contact a company to find out why your site is down or routinely having a slow site, not being able to fix problems with the click of a mouse or email will not only get tiresome and frustrating but it won’t help your business. Consumers do not wait for pages to load, they are not going to refresh your page again and again – they are going to move on to the 20 other businesses listed on Google next to yours. So when there’s a problem you need to know how to fix it – quickly.

Find out where their support team is based. If you need to speak to someone, will you be able to? Will they be asleep on the other side of the world during your business hours? How secure are their servers? How established are they as a company? Where are they based? How trusted are they amongst other users? How easy is it to navigate their interface? Is it in plain language or do you need a computer science degree to drive the thing? How tech savvy are you? Do you have someone who can help you if something happens?

5. Securing your domain name

When deciding which to use, understand that .com is synonymous with being global but may not be available – the internet has been around for a long time now and sometimes people just buy up options (see below) so you may have to get creative.

For Australian start ups know that .com.au addresses are only given out to businesses with ABN’s so they tend to give your site credibility as well with consumers, so don’t think that you are left with just the dregs. URLs (website addresses) can easily be redirected to one another, so no matter what your customers type in, they can end up at your site.

When you’ve found ‘the one’, buy up. It’s important to protect your brand so don’t just buy the .com version leaving .com.au open for someone else to start using if you live in Australia – get that too. If you are an organisation, get .org but also the commercial versions like .com or .net as well. Get variations of your name – add an ‘s’ or get a short version i.e. get goodpizza.com + goodpizza.com.au + pizza.com

We use Panthur

Brave New World and its clients prefer to use Panthur. After much research I chose them because they are based in Melbourne, Australia. They have great support: call them and within two rings they pick up in an office in Australia which is rare these days, or email them and you will get an answer generally within 20 minutes in my experience. They have suitable plans for every budget, without compromising quality or limiting services which doesn’t always happen, so you can get what you need and you have the option to scale up when you grow. Their interface is pretty simple and if you get stuck their help section is clear. They come highly recommended from me but know this is in no way a paid advertisement from them – just my personal experience of my own business and also being in the position of setting up online services for other small businesses; I believe in sharing knowledge and when you are onto a good thing. I use them and so do my clients and recommend them because I’d love to see a good homegrown company do well. Years ago I used Crazy Domains for my domain names which suited the purpose but once I got professional and needed good, consistent, quality service I switched to these guys. I have helped a number of clients switch over to Panthur to get out of lesser quality providers. You can find out more about them here if you are interested. 


Though it’s necessary to save as many pennies as possible when starting out, when it comes to the online component of your business you need to realise you’re actually purchasing the foundations of your website. 
If you do your research, consider your business and then compare what’s out there you will end up with a provider that is cost effective for your online needs. By following the guide above, you should be able to spot a dodgy salesman a mile away but also be able to identify a good deal for your start up.

If you have any other tips, please share them below! Or if you use a good company and have had a great experience.

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