With an incredible increase in internet usage in South Africa and a website now being essential for any home, small or medium business (not just the big boys anymore), it can be incredibly difficult to find a good website host if you don’t know what you are looking for. If you choose wisely, you could get an amazing deal and have your site on line for anything from R24 per month, with zero setup fee and anything from R75 upwards for a genuine .co.za domain. All you need to do is to design your own site and upload it, and voila, you are on the internet! Website design is a science on its own, but many people like to design their own sites. There are many free resources out there, but of course ultimately a proper web design package provides more features. Many hosts provide the option of an online site design program that can be used at a small additional fee. Have a look here.
So, who do you host with? It is very difficult to answer this question, but don’t be tempted to jump for the first few results in Google. In South Africa a lot of people are trying their hand at hosting for additional income, but they have to be able to back up their hosting with support. When I started getting involved in web hosting, it looked easy and like easy money. It is not. I very quickly realized that the public do not in general have enough web knowledge and site design knowledge so that one can merely send them a control panel login and password and leave them to it. In order to back up our hosting and provide support, we quickly invested in web savvy support people and we made sure that our servers were managed by reputable companies. The other thing of course is that there are very few companies with their own servers, the rest can probably all be classified as resellers, some with dedicated servers managed by the big companies.
The benefit of making use of a smaller company with dedicated servers, is that you get all the big company server reliability, but at lower prices due to lower overheads and, if you choose wisely, you get very personal and often free support. If I had to count the hours that we have spent helping people set up their e-mail accounts, upload their websites, sorting out all their issues etc. and work out the cost of that, I would have to say that web hosting is not profitable at all. However, the satisfaction one gets from helping complete newbies get their own websites outweigh the endless hours spent supporting someone who pays only R24 per month for hosting.
Beware of free hosting packages, it usually comes with baggage you normally don’t want such as advertising links, or very limited space and bandwidth, a ploy to get you on board and upsell a paid package to you as soon as you realize you need more.
Domains are another issue. You can’t get free domain name registration in South Africa for .co.za or coza domains. The registrar, Uniforum, charges a flat fee for domains. Hosting companies will resell you these domains at a small or big profit. We have offered free coza domains for years as a means of offering something unique to attract clients. It is something which we are now offering only with larger packages from R79 per month upwards, as the cost of the domain and the fact that many people used us as a free domain registration service, resulted in more losses than gains. Expect to pay a minimum of R75 and up to R200 for a coza domain depending on who you use, unless you go for the free domain included packages.