By Daniel Foster, Co-Founder and Technical Director, 34SP.com

Smart businesses will make sure they have a good presence online these days. This means having a professional and fully functioning website, which is easy to navigate. However, many business owners forget that what goes on behind the scenes of your website is just as important as the outside. Whether you have a content-driven website or an eCommerce site – the provider you choose to host your site will be one of the most important business decisions you make.

Knowing what you need
Before choosing your web hosting company, you need to answer basic questions about what you really need. Whether your online platform functions as a blog, is promotional or you use it for selling, this will dictate its form. It’s important to keep in mind how much traffic you expect to receive, and then choose a host that best caters for this.

Look after your data
This may sound obvious, but your data is vital to your business, so any good hosting provider should offer full website backup. Ideally, this should be undertaken at least once a week for small businesses to guarantee data storage. Look into how often your web host does this before committing-regular website backup should be provided as an automated service. Also, find out where your data is being stored, as this should always be on a separate server backup system in case any technical disasters strike.

Think carefully about security
Hackers are a huge threat to any website because they are constantly developing new ways to obtain information via uploading malware, which can compromise your online activities. All IT systems, applications and software have vulnerabilities and the best way to predict and prevent these is constant surveillance. Only this year we saw three software bugs which compromised thousands of servers. The use of antivirus software, firewalls and thorough system maintenance via software patches will help safeguard your server.

Draw up a list of your top security worries and research the web host providers that can respond to your requirements.

Reputation: Uphold it
Any web host worth their salt will offer SSL certificates as standard. These are the bedrock of secure data transfer and are proof of an authentic site. For secure transmission of important and sensitive data such as credit card details or passwords, it’s crucial to encrypt these before sending them through other web browsers. For online retailers, these certificates are vital; they let your customers know their data is protected. Your credibility as a business rests on your ability to not only protect your own data, but your customers’ too.

One-click installers
A web host that offers one-click installers can benefit everyone, including those who require fast WordPress installation on blogs, forum users and others selling products online. One Click installation means that, without any technical expertise, you can set up a professional website easily. Moreover, as many security breaches exploit out-of-date plugins and themes, Whereas this approach brings with it another important benefit. By choosing one-click software, your installations are automatically updated with the latest versions of the plugins, fixing any security issues.

Do your research
Check your potential web hosts out on both Facebook and Twitter, and see what their customer feedback is like. People are typically more forthcoming about their experiences on social media sites than in other settings and so you’re more likely to get an honest review about their performance.

Bandwidth: Room to grow
With most websites the aim is to boost its profile over time. With this growth comes demand, and this means more traffic and data. So last but not least, ensure your web host allows you to upgrade your bandwidth easily, enabling your business o develop and grow through its website.