Hosting Services for Graphic Designers

Finding talent in artistic design online is hard. There are a lot of people that have some Photoshop, Flash, or Corel Suite skills but few that can truly draw and put together things from scratch. That is why if you are a true programmer looking to build a site or game and want a good visual touch, a good graphic designer is an invaluable asset to have.

One of the reasons why graphic designers are so hard to find online is the fact that many do not have online portfolios. A reason for this is because many graphic designers are not technical people and because of this, they are not familiar with web hosting. Many will choose a bad host and will drop out of the online business altogether once they have a bad experience. If you are a designer and are searching for hosting, things you should you look for are types of scripts you are able to run on the host, uptime, technical support, space/bandwidth, an on-site support system, e-commerce options, and perks for signing up.

The most important thing for any kind of business online that is looking for hosting is the uptime that the service can give you. For any paid service, this uptime should be 99.5% or above. Please understand this is not network uptime , but actual uptime of your site. The uptime that hosts usually advertise is total network uptime which is basically always up unless a major bandwidth carrier goes down or their fiber-optic cables break(not very likely). The actual uptime of your site may be far less than this as many things such as database errors, system overloads, and bad connections will prevent your site from staying up 24/7. To accurately get a feel for the uptime of a host, you can go to webhosting forumsand ask other users to get an average number, go to hosting review sites that track the uptime of various servers, or buy and run software yourself to monitor a hosts uptime. You should read historic trends from hosting review sites on how the uptime has been in the last month, half-year, and year to get a good idea of how the host is doing currently. Do not neglect to check uptime before you buy as every hour of downtime can cost you potential clients and hundreds of dollars worth of revenue.

Technical support is the second most important thing for graphical designers to consider when purchasing a host. The reason is two-fold. One is that when your site does experience problems and goes down, you will want prompt technical support to help you get it back up. You should be looking for a host with either an online chat support system, a support hotline you can call 24/7 or a priority ticketing system for emergencies. For emergencies such as this the host should be able to respond within the hour to get your site up and running again. The other reason is because many graphical designers run image scripts or other scripts that may cause trouble or not run right if certain server or PHP settings or changed. Sometimes these changes occur suddenly overnight and your script or service will no longer be working. In these cases, you will need technical support with above-average technical knowledge to get your script working again. This mainly applies to scripts that generate buttons or images on-the-fly for visitors. You may also need to request that certain PHP extensions be installed for your use and technical support staff is necessary for these operations. To find out just how good the support staff is at a particular host, you need to ask around in large web hosting communities and talk to past or current users of the service before making a decision. These people are the best source of information for how reliable technical support is.

Past users are often the ones who had problems that technical support could not resolve or would not respond to. If the host you are looking at has had a lot of customer turnover lately, you should not go with this host. You can also read technical support reviews at hosting review sites to get an idea of how the overall customer service is.

I,myself, would not trust these sites as many of these sites are either owned or sponsored by the large hosting companies and they use it as a self-promotion tool. Some will write positive fake reviews about themselves, some will delete negative reviews about themselves, and many will always put their own service in the top 2 or 3 rated hosts even though that rating is not a true rating. If you go to these sites, be aware of this fact and check to see which host owns the site before you use the information at these sites to make a decision about which hosting service you go for.

The availability of support ticket software that a host offers is also important to any business firm that plans to have a lot of clients. Support ticket software is often expensive to purchase and if a host has one ready for you to use, then it is definitely a factor you will want to consider. You will want one because it provides a way for customers to submit questions and get quotes from you. It also provides a good way for you to respond to customer requests in an orderly fashion based on the urgency of the requests. Being able to advertise that you have a ticketing system also scores points with many potential clients as they will think you are more professional and are dedicated to helping clients. Check the script library of a host before you sign up to see of there is any free help-desk script in the initial setup or ask if your host can set one up for you to use.

The next thing you’ll want to look at is the availability of e-commerce options on the hosting service. Since you are most likely going to be accepting orders from clients, you will need a payment processor. While Paypal will be okay with some clients, others will prefer credit-card transactions, especially on large orders. You must buy from a host that offers individual SSL certificates or shared SSL on their server. This feature provides a safe way to do financial transactions and many people will not buy from any site that does not have 128-bit encrypted SSL security. Check to make sure or ask if your host has scripts for e-commerce such as Oscommerce or Miva Merchat with the payment extensions out to Paypal or 2checkout. Having these features makes accepting client orders much easier and will make your business flow much smoother.

Another hosting spec you’ll want to pay attention to is if image manipulation libraries are installed for PHP. Usually this means the GD2 library or imagemagik for PHP(I don’t know what the ASP equivalent is). You also want to make sure PHP is not running in safe mode or many of the most used functions of GD will be largely disabled.

Space and Bandwidth are two other factors that should be in the back of your mind when you are looking for hosting for your graphic design company. These are not huge concerns for a graphic designer but they are things that you should check every so often. If your designs involve large flash files or other types of multimedia that are of significant file size, then you may want to purchase a plan that has 50GB of bandwidth or more if you want to display your portfolio for the world to see. Since most hosting plans have at least 2 GB space and 50 or more GB’s of bandwidth, this is not a high concern. Space and bandwidth can also be purchased on the cheap for pennies per gigabyte so you can always purchase extra or upgrade if you need to. Generally if you have that many clients calling on you , you should not have a problem spending a few bucks per month purchasing extra space and bandwidth for your business.

The last thing you will want to look for are promotion perks such as search engine credit. While not necessary to have, they are nice to get. Look for credit for Google Adwords, MSN Adcenter, and Yahoo credit with the hosting plan. Having this credit means instant exposure for your business and may jump-start your business by grabbing a few extra clients. Just remember that these Perks are not as important as the actual hosting features and should be considered a side benefit.

When purchasing hosting for a graphic design site, several factors come into play. In this article we have looked at several of the major needs and discussed how to find a host that has these things that are necessary for a graphic design business. Remember that uptime and technical support are the most important and everything else must come after that. If you follow these guidelines, you are sure to find a host that you will like.

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