Saturday, December 24, 2016

Website Hosting and Domain Name Registration in South Africa

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 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.
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 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.
Then there is the question of hosting location. Local bandwidth in South Africa is still incredibly expensive, so unless you have very particular reasons for wanting to be hosted locally, don't be put off by seeing that servers are not located in South Africa. We have scaled down on our local server usage and only use it when customers really insist on it. None of our customers have ever been unhappy with their sites being hosted in the US or Germany, because the benefit of additional bandwidth and server space allowed far outweighs the negligible difference in site loading speeds. Of course, if your audience is international, you want to be hosted internationally anyway.
So, in summary, you can get your site on the web for the cost of a domain (average R100) and R24 per month for hosting, provided you can design your own site. If you have small or medium business, you can have your site hosted for R79 per month and get your domain for free as well.
The bottom line is, to get your own website in South Africa is absolutely essential, but choose your host wisely and make sure that you get all the backup and support you need and it doesn't need to be a bank breaking experience.

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