What web hosting service should I choose for my small business?

What web hosting service should I choose for my small business?

If you are an entrepreneur or small business owner, a website is a necessity for marketing your goods and services.

Creating a strong online presence for your business will allow it to grow by giving potential customers access to all the information they might need. Your website is an extension of your business card, with personal contact details, information about your business, and details about the services you offer. You might even conduct business with visitors to your website through e-commerce sales.

With that said, it is very important that you choose a reliable web hosting service that will protect your site content, so that it is functional and accessible to customers at all times.

Since there are hundreds of web hosting services and many factors to consider when choosing a web host, we’ve done some research to help narrow it down for you.

Avoid the EIG Trap

Over the last several years, more than 70 independent web hosting services were bought by Endurance International Group (EIG), including BlueHost, HostGator, and HostMonster, among so many others. Customers who were once satisfied with some of these hosts experienced major outages and lack of support once the host was acquired by EIG. In August of 2013, EIG hosts experienced server downtime that lasted almost a full day, affecting millions of customers. This occurred again on New Years’ Eve 2013, and twice in 2014.

When EIG acquires a web host, several changes take place which negatively affect the large consumer base. EIG makes changes to the web hosting service, sometimes implementing a new control panel. Migration to a different datacenter or server takes place, and the previous support staff is either reduced or completely replaced by EIG’s own under-staffed support team, responsible for trouble-shooting several different EIG-owned hosts. In addition to slow response times, some customers reported that some of their data was completely wiped from the server.

These days, it’s even difficult to find honest web host reviews, because EIG sites seem to dominate every web search. Luckily, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll steer you away from the EIG-owned hosts, to some independently-operated companies with a “host” of benefits for you and your company.

best web hosting service

SiteGround

SiteGround is a hosting service that has so far avoided being bought out by EIG or another large group. It offers three affordable shared hosting plans, starting with the $3.95/month StartUp Plan–perfect for a small business owner’s new or already existing site. The StartUp plan can accommodate up to 10,000 unique monthly visits. However, if you find that your website traffic is increasing, you can bump your plan up to the GrowBig option, for up to 25,000 monthly visits, or even the GoGeek option, accommodating up to 100,000 monthly visits. With these growth options, you can be sure that SiteGround web hosting service can provide you with the bandwidth, CPU usage, disk space, and other features you will need as your site expands.

While SiteGround doesn’t offer as many advanced features as some other hosting services, it offers every feature that a small business owner like you might need–and more!  Whichever plan you choose, you will have your choice of datacenter on three continents, with locations in Chicago, London, Amsterdam, and Singapore. SiteGround guarantees 99.9% uptime, provides a free domain, and 24/7 access to their highly responsive support team, via chat or phone. Small businesses are especially vulnerable to website attacks, so SiteGround’s high security features, including daily back-ups, also make it an attractive option.

When a website experiences high traffic, caching is necessary to avoid sluggish speed. Setting this up is often difficult for someone who is new to web hosting. However, SiteGround offers a free CloudFlare CDN feature that will speed up your site for you, with easy setup. And, not only will the SiteGround team provide free migration for your existing site, but they will also make any tweaks that are necessary to get your site running smoothly on your new server. SiteGround is compatible with both WordPress and Joomla, and provides tutorials for each, as well as the many other hosting features it offers. If you’re not sure about a plan, SiteGround offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, or you can try a one-month trial after paying a one-time setup fee. Click here to explore SiteGround web hosting plans.

InMotion

InMotion is another excellent alternative to EIG-owned hosts. Starting at just $3.49 a month, it offers a number of services at incredible value. With the purchase of a shared hosting plan, InMotion provides you with a free domain name on its 100% SSD-powered servers–a faster alternative to traditional, hard-drive powered servers. InMotion offers 100% compatibility with most, if not all, WordPress features and plug-ins, and saves you time by offering native WP-CLI support. InMotion will also allow you to set up e-commerce on your site, with a shopping cart or even 1-Click shopping. With two data-centers, in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles, you can choose the location that is closest to you for maximum speed.

InMotion also provides free site migrations and daily backups. It is well-maintained for maximum security and improved performance, and offers 24/7 live chat or phone support from real humans–no automated responses involved. Unlike some EIG-owned hosts, InMotion does not oversell its web hosting server space. It boasts a 99.9% server uptime guarantee, so you can feel confident that your website and online services are accessible to your clientele.

InMotion is a user-friendly hosting service, catered to both beginner and experienced users. There are several plans to choose from, based on the particular needs of your business, and the number of add-on domains you require. In other words, InMotion can grow with you, by offering more expansive web hosting plans as needed. InMotion is a trustworthy web host option for your small business. It has been a top-rated CNET service provider for 13 years, and also earned an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau, a consumer protection agency that evaluates business integrity and performance. Still, if you’re not satisfied with your purchase, InMotion offers a 90-day money-back guarantee. Click here to explore InMotion web hosting plans

Secure your Online Presence

Your website is a crucial component to your business. Whether your site is a personal blog or an online market, it is very important that you pick a reliable web host so that nothing can come between you and your customers. Independently-operated hosts like SiteGround and InMotion offer many attractive features at very low prices, and won’t lead you into the pitfalls that customers of EIG-owned hosts experience.

Don’t risk server downtime or lack of support by choosing the host that shows up at the top of your Google search. Explore the many hosting features that SiteGround and Inmotion can offer your business today, and the many ways they can accommodate your business’ future growth.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small compensation from the companies I recommend. If I post an affiliate link, it is to a product or service that I use in my own business or that I personally recommend to all of my own clients. I do not write sponsored posts in exchange for affiliate income. I only write reviews based on my experience and recommend services if I think that the company is the best in the industry.

The Essential “Before You Hire a Virtual Assistant” Checklist

The Essential “Before You Hire a Virtual Assistant” Checklist

You can't see the cute graphic I made for this post :( Refresh the page to see it!First: Congratulations on the growth of your business! The sheer fact that you are reading this means that you don’t have enough hours in a day to attend to all the needs of your business. And that is a sign of growth! So awesome. Let’s get started.

Before you get ready to have a consultation with a virtual assistant, you need to identify the areas of your business that you need the most help and the expertise your virtual assistant will need to have so you can find the perfect fit. A little preparation can go a long way. I know you are overwhelmed and just want the perfect virtual assistant to fall out of the sky and be the magical answer to all your problems. This is possible if you take a few minutes to get clear about what you need. You may find tons of great virtual assistants, but which one is the perfect fit for your business? Go through this short checklist and you will be armed with the information you need to find the perfect virtual assistant.

 

Finding the Perfect Virtual Assistant

STEP 1: Write down the programs you use so you can make sure your VA is comfortable working in them.

Write down a quick list of programs you use currently so that you can effectively describe how you work and what your goals are. This will give your virtual assistant an aerial view of your business and a great idea of what stage your business is at currently.

  • Email Management
  • Website
  • Project Management
  • Calendar Scheduling
  • File Storage
  • Social Media Sites
  • Webinar Program
  • CRM Program
  • Ecommerce
  • And any other programs specific to your industry that you use on a monthly basis

This list of programs will help to give you an idea of the basic needs of your business on a monthly basis and will help to build a framework for finding the perfect virtual assistant. And the virtual assistant doesn’t need to have expertise in all of them. As virtual assistants, we work in a multitude of different programs. The interface may vary from program to program, but the general workings of the program are the same all around.

 

STEP 2: If you could choose any element of your business that you want to disappear forever, name it.

When it comes to delegation, delegate the tasks that you can’t stand. Or delegate the tasks that eat up most of your time. Why spend time on those when you can actively pursue revenue-generating projects! And don’t be scared to delegate the tasks that you actually like doing or the tasks that you are scared of delegating because you don’t want them to be messed up. Our job as a virtual assistant is to represent your business and your brand. We specialize in making YOU look good. Just think of all the time you will have to focus on the growth of your business if some of your daily tasks are carried out by someone else. In the beginning, there will be a small learning curve as the virtual assistant begins to learn your tone, preferences and brand identity. But after a few short weeks, they will be able to take care of things and usually, we can add elements that improve your business after we get started!

 

STEP 3: Identify your strengths and weaknesses.

As a business owner, you are carrying your entire business to success. But your weaknesses will continue to hold back your success unless you address them. Finding the perfect VA means finding someone who can fill those holes missing from your business. A virtual assistant is a strategic partner and a perfect complement to your business if you can be clear about what your needs are. If you are a really gifted writer, and find it easy to knock out text for emails, newsletters, and social media posts, but you aren’t as great at finding images to accompany them, focus on hiring someone who loves to create images and has a creative eye. If you are a big visionary but are terrible at paying attention to all the tiny details, focus on finding a VA who is extremely detail-oriented. Are you awesome at making money but dread tax season because you can’t figure out where it came from? Hire someone who can help you with your bookkeeping! If you are highly-organized and just need help with the more time-consuming tasks of your business, focus on finding a VA who is more experienced than you are in the programs you use and they will make your systems and processes better, more streamlined, and your business will flourish!

If you have never taken the Meyers-Briggs Personality Test to identify your strengths and weaknesses, I strongly suggest doing it! It is really so much fun to read how clearly you fall into one category over another. (You can take the free test here.)

Another great resource for learning more about your strengths is to take the “Discover Your Business Sweet Spot” quiz from Racheal Cook. After you complete it, you can receive an in-depth guide that you can review to get more ideas about the perfect virtual assistant to partner with. You can find it here.

 

STEP 4: What are the regular challenges you face?

List one or two challenges, no matter how big or small. These are like small leaks in your tires on the road to success! If you leave these challenges unattended, it will seriously decrease your work productivity and continue to drive you crazy! Mention these when you have your consultation with a VA and ask how the VA will respond to these challenges. We have a lot of tricks up our sleeves and you would be surprised at how easily we can come up with a solution that fits your business and you perfectly!

 

STEP 5: What are your short-term (3-month) goals for your business?

If you begin to work with a virtual assistant, what is their role in helping you achieve these goals? A virtual assistant isn’t just an auto-bot ready to churn out daily tasks. One of the main goals of being a VA is improving the efficiency of your business, whether it is marketing and advertising, communications, or streamlining operations. We can help you achieve your goals using our expertise, knowledge of the industry, and the tricks we have learned throughout the years. Naturally, we will help you achieve your long-term goals. But what is on the immediate horizon and needs to be accomplished in the next few months for you to get your business moving in the right direction? We will help you with that!

 

Finding the perfect virtual assistant checklist! - Click here to printIf you would like a quick and easy 2 page checklist to print and run through to prepare yourself for your VA consultation, I have made one up just for you! You can print it and quickly run through the essentials before you begin your search for the ideal virtual assistant. Get clear about where you are going and it will be infinitely easier to find the perfect strategic partner for your business!

If you have any questions, please reach out to me. I would love to help you achieve entrepreneurial freedom and grow your business even further!

Calendar Scheduling Made Easy

I’ve found it! The easiest, most intuitive and versatile calendar management and scheduling software EVER!

I don’t say this lightly. I make it a point as a virtual assistant and operations manager to make sure that I research and know many different online platforms so I can recommend appropriate programs.

Many clients do well with one program but not with another. I keep a long list of recommendations available and a couple different options for each purpose.

But there is only one calendar scheduling software I recommend that always fits the client’s needs.

calendar scheduling virtual assistant

Acuity Scheduling is hands-down the most customizable online scheduler that will help you do anything from sell products/services to schedule group classes or one-on-one appointments with clients. Here are just a few of the features:

  • Client self scheduling
  • Appointment or group events
  • Coupons, deposits, vouchers, gift cards
  • Branded email reminders and follow-ups
  • Text message notifications
  • Automatic time zone conversion
  • Embed scheduler on your website
  • Direct links to individual classes/appointments/products
  • iCal, Outlook integration
  • 2-way integration with Google
  • Mail list integration
  • Accept payments

But my favorite feature is their gold star customer support. When you email them with a question or suggestion, you always receive a fast and informative response from a member of their team. They make learning their system so easy.

One of the reasons Acuity Scheduling is so competitive is that they took a calendar scheduling software, made it easy to use and priced it at an extremely affordable rate.

acuity scheduling online calendar management software

Need to set a very specific availability depending on the type of appointment? No problem.

Need to add terms and conditions and require that your client agree to them? No problem.

Need to set a specific string of emails following a particular appointment? No problem.

Need to require deposits for a specific appointment type? No problem.

Need to embed a specific appointment type on your website (not your entire calendar)? No problem!

They really do have the most options for the best price.

 

Do you want to try Acuity Scheduling for 2 weeks for free? Here is my affiliate link: https://acuityscheduling.com/ (As an affiliate, I receive a small compensation when you sign up.)

(Pro tip: They have a slow times relief plan available for those of you just starting out. Contact their support team to learn more!)

 

Calendar Scheduling Made Easy for every Small Business Owner and Entrepreneur >> CLICK TO TWEET

 

Have a question about the software before you sign up for your trial or want to have someone set it all up for you? Let me know! I would be happy to take care of that for you.

Your Virtual Assistant Next Door – Tracey Osborne, Business Solutions Made Simple

Your Virtual Assistant Next Door – Tracey Osborne, Business Solutions Made Simple

I am a virtual assistant and have been doing this “officially” for a year now! I absolutely love what I do. But the question i get most often is,

“What DO you do?”

In this interview series, I hope to answer that question for you!

I want to remove the shroud of secrecy that our industry sits under and show you a little more about this tool that so many business owners are investing in and loving! I want you to grab a seat and a cup of coffee and sit with us as I introduce you to some of the best virtual assistants in our industry. And we want to welcome you to learn more about us: Who we are and how we help you achieve success in your business!

Our final interview features Tracey Osborne, The Busy Entrepreneur’s Secret Weapon, owner of Business Solutions Made Simple since 2007 (www.businesssolutionsmadesimple.com). Tracey lives in Dallas, Georgia, a central location in the Atlanta Metro area with a small town feel to it!

Your Virtual Assistant Next Door – Interview 6

Virtual Assistant Agency


Tracey Osborne, Business Solutions Made Simple

Tracey Osborne is a leader and expert in online business management and project management with over 8 years’ experience in the virtual assistance industry.  She is also CEO of Business Solutions Made Simple (BSMS), a multi-VA firm made up of the best and brightest VA’s who specialize in assisting high achieving entrepreneurs.

 

Frequently known as The Busy Entrepreneur’s Secret Weapon, Tracey is a knock out and knock down business strategist who can guide clients from the beginning steps, step in seamlessly and help with a transition, or Tracey can turn a nightmare of a mess into a shining success!


What is your niche industry? What other industries do you specialize in?

I specialize in project management, virtual assistance, online business management, telesummit creation and radio show management. But because I have a multi-VA team, we have a wide variety of skills ranging from basic admin to web design and more.

.

 

Why did you expand your business to be a multi-VA agency?

I love to help people. Having a team allows me to not have a ceiling on the amount of people I can support. It also allows me the freedom to focus on what I do best and my team utilizes their strengths and skills.

 

What is the one request almost every client asks you to take care of for them?

Sending out their weekly newsletter.

 

What are your top 3 tools that you utilize in your business?

  • Infusionsoft
  • Teamwork PM
  • Skype

 

What added benefit does a client receive for working with a VA agency?

If the agency is set up correctly, the client gets more bang for their buck. By using my teams’ strengths, we have a faster turnaround time with less errors. And I have a backup system. When one VA is sick or cannot make a deadline, I have another to step in and get the work done.

 

Your expert tip:

Hire slow, fire fast. Do your due diligence and thoroughly vet your potential VA. Remember they are becoming a partner in your business. Not just a task-taker. Also remember that VAs are business owners like you. Don’t ask for a resume, or for employee based questions like, “Why do you want to work for this company?”

Also remember you get what you pay for. You can’t expect a $20 an hour VA to do the same quality work, as fast as a $55 an hour VA can do. We get faster and more experienced over time. In the long run, the more expensive VA will save you more money and headache.

Hire for the skillset, not the dollar value.

 

What is your opinion on virtual assistant companies like Elance, Fiverr, FancyHands and why?

Again you get what you pay for. You might find some great finds on those places, but they are also full of new VAs trying to grow their business and also overseas VAs. Not that I’m knocking the overseas VA, if you can find a good one, hold on to them. But in my experience and that of the industry, the language and culture barriers end up costing more money in the long run.

If you want a quick graphic created, or something fast done, these sites are ok for that. But to find a quality, valuable, partner, these are not the places to do that.

 

How do you enjoy and spend your free time?

I work out, spend time with my family and I love to read. I don’t work weekend and evenings and use that time to relax and regroup so I don’t get burned out.

BONUS OFFER:

Tracey is offering all readers a free report, 5 Ways to Grow Your Business with a Virtual Assistant. Please visit this link to get your copy!

If you are looking for a highly skilled team of virtual assistants, visit Business Solutions Made Simple!


Thank you for joining me as we roll out the Virtual Assistant Next Door series. Click here to view more interviews.
Your Virtual Assistant Next Door – Cheryl Callighan, Author VA

Your Virtual Assistant Next Door – Cheryl Callighan, Author VA

I am a virtual assistant and have been doing this “officially” for a year now! I absolutely love what I do. But the question i get most often is,

“What DO you do?”

In this interview series, I hope to answer that question for you!

I want to remove the shroud of secrecy that our industry sits under and show you a little more about this tool that so many business owners are investing in and loving! I want you to grab a seat and a cup of coffee and sit with us as I introduce you to some of the best virtual assistants in our industry. And we want to welcome you to learn more about us: Who we are and how we help you achieve success in your business!

Our next interview features Cheryl Callighan, owner of The Author’s Assistants/eOffice-Virtual Assistants LLC (www.TheAuthorsAssistants.com). Cheryl recently moved to Elizabeth, CO, a rural subdivision southeast of Denver. Here biggest traffic obstacles are deer and wild turky on the main road 🙂

Your Virtual Assistant Next Door – Interview 5

Virtual Assistant Author - Cheryl


Cheryl Callighan, The Author’s Assistants/eOffice-Virtual Assistants LLC 

“On August 15th, 2015 I celebrated 26 years as a successful Virtual Assistant. My VA skills and experience dovetail perfectly with serving authors. I love helping self-published authors polish, publish and promote their books! (I love to read too – that has a lot to do with my passion to help authors.)”

How and why did you become a VA?

I became a VA for two reasons. One was my 4 years old son. I wanted to stay at home and give him a great start to his life. The second reason was for quality of life. As a full-time employee, mother of 3 and wife, I was running constantly. I just needed to stop the insanity and give my kids a more stable life both emotionally and financially.

 

What is your niche industry? What other industries do you specialize in?

I am considered at “general VA”. I learned about author assistants in 2008 and thought it would be a great service to offer my entrepreneurial clients as well the opportunity to break into a newly emerging industry.

 

What is the one request almost every client asks you to take care of for them?

For my virtual assistant clients it’s usually email, scheduling and marketing (social media included). For the authors, it’s marketing and especially setting up and monitoring their social media campaigns.

 

What are your top 3 tools that you utilize in your business?

Facebook, Outlook (for my to-do list) OneNote and just about anything Microsoft Office. I use a lot of tools and many different applications for my clients.  Hootsuite is my fav for scheduling social media.

 

What was the best compliment you ever received from a client?

From an author, “In the year that my book has been out I’ve sold over 50,000 copies and I know I couldn’t have done it without Cheryl.”

 

Your expert tip:

Read. Read everything you can about the virtual assistant or author assistant industry and services. Be open minded and learn new skills and research better ways to help your clients. My fav saying is “If your clients are successful you will be too.”

 

What is your opinion on virtual assistant companies like Elance, Fiverr, FancyHands and why?

This is a soapbox topic for me. A long time ago I predicted that the VA industry playing field would be “leveled”. I knew that sites like Guru, Elance, Fiverr, etc., would eventually challenge the VA industry on skill/experience, services and especially monetarily.
As a full-time, dare I say it – senior VA – I’m of the mindset that you partner with your clients to support them and their businesses. I do long-term relationships with my clients, not short-term, one-off projects. I get to know them personally and professionally so that I can tailor my services to their business, work and communication styles.

 

How do you enjoy and spend your free time?

My “free time” (is there such a thing?) is spent with my family. I have eight grandkids who live nearby and I try to keep up with them and their lives. I also have two very spoiled dogs, Sammy, a Shih Tzu who is four years old (and the world’s greatest dog I might add) and Snickers, a five-month old Maltese puppy who is part big dog, goat-dog and cat-dog.

If you are looking for a highly skilled virtual assistant specializing in the assisting authors, contact Cheryl directly or visit her website at http://www.theauthorsassistants.com/!


Thank you for joining me as we roll out the Virtual Assistant Next Door series. Click here to view more interviews.