Small businesses have long been the lifeblood of the U.S. economy, creating more than half of the nation’s jobs, spawning new ideas, generating 54% of U.S. sales and fortifying communities across the country. This momentum shows no signs of slowing down, with some predicting 40% of Americans will be self-employed by the year 2020.
Websites, stores and applications will be the cornerstones of these new businesses and entrepreneurial ventures. Small businesses have shifted from dabbling on the web with cookie-cutter sites to being completely dependent on the web. At Liquid Web, we refer to these businesses as being web dependent to demonstrate the incredible importance of the web for these online SMBs that derive up to 100% of their revenue from their online presence.
These businesses include:
- Content sites that monetize content via subscriptions, advertising and referrals
- Online stores
- Niche application providers that have tapped into the explosive demand for web and mobile applications
It’s easier than ever for an entrepreneur to launch a web-dependent business. The first step is to choose and purchase a domain name aligned to the brand. Then, secure a merchant account and payment gateway to start collecting payments. E-commerce sites will also need an SSL (secure sockets layer) certificate to encrypt sensitive data like customer identification and credit card information.
Industry Disruption Takes Hold
Many of the industries these businesses belong to are facing disruption. What was once housed neatly in a brick-and-mortar location, open 10-6 and competing only with neighborhood offerings is now online 24/7 and facing steep competition from online juggernauts such as Amazon.
Uber, Netflix and a dizzying array of other brands have proved that disruption is no longer part of a passing trend but part of the new normal. This means more and more businesses are falling into the category of being web dependent, which is good news for a growing small business segment that has historically been overlooked for being too small. Many of these businesses may have five or fewer employees, but with a robust online presence, they’re able to perform the work of much larger organizations.
When the overall success of your business is dependent on a strong web presence, it brings about an entirely new set of considerations — a hosting partner perhaps being the most important. A recent survey we conducted revealed that 86% of respondents believe that selecting the right hosting provider will affect a company’s competitiveness.
One of our customers, a software-based marketing company, experienced this firsthand. When launching promotions for new products, it was critical to have a reliable server. Continued issues with server capacity mean downtime for customers. These problems could result in lost sales, and when the hosting company was unresponsive and unable to bring the server back up, it directly impacted the amount of money the company was able to make.
When your business is web dependent, security is also of heightened concern. Another one of our customers was at one point faced with client websites under frequent attack by hackers using malware and carrying out DDoS attacks. The consequences for this type of attack can be grave, particularly for banking and insurance companies. If left unchecked, a business can find all of its email servers blacklisted so that its email is not accepted by other web servers.
Choosing The Right Partner
The dramatic rise in website creation and SMBs has fueled a symbiotic growth in technology to make life easier for these businesses to create and scale their online presence. Previously, these solutions were largely only available for mid-market and large enterprises. Still, tech dependent doesn’t necessarily mean tech savvy, especially if you don’t have a full-time IT team on staff. This leads some SMBs to go the route of least resistance when it comes to hosting.
Instead, web-dependent businesses should seek out the right web hosting provider to ensure long-term business success. Here are a few tips:
- Seek a provider with a broad array of products to meet your business needs. Your business is unique, and a one-size-fits-all solution may not be right for you. Don’t choose a provider that will match you with the products it provides instead of the ones you need.
- Access to human beings is important. Ensure you choose a provider that is accessible from the initial selection process to going live, whether that’s migration or setup, to ongoing support. If you encounter a problem with your website, your business can’t afford to be sent to a chatbot or wait days for a call to be returned.
- Select a provider that makes meaningful promises. Don’t be lured by hosting partners that promise the world but fall short when it comes time to deliver. Take the time to ask about guarantees and do your research on their customer satisfaction results. A good partner will have both.
Not so long ago, business legitimacy was defined by simply having a viable website. Legitimacy is now called into question by slow load times or server downtime. So choosing your hosting provider should be a strategic move — not an afterthought. When your business is web dependent, choosing the right hosting partner and the right hosting solution might just be the most important business decision you make.