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Vital Pointers In Regards To Hosting Services And Websites For Accountants

Author : Kenny Marshall


Websites have become comparatively old-hat and pretty much anyone can easily set one up. Once the website is up, though, it's time to get a host. Site hosting is an element of of the web that most folks, even most website owners, don't really understand. There are a number of important components you need to look at when choosing a service to host your site. Once you grasp what you're searching for you'll realize that hosting isn't actually all that mysterious. You need to look at storage, support, and cost. You need to be sure that your host will give you enough online storage for all your files, and will allow enough traffic to and from your site. Who will be available to help when you have questions? How much will you have to pay, and what's included in your fee?

Let's take a closer look at these topics one at a time...

Support

What kind of technical support will your new web host offer, and are there different levels of support you can get? Support is critical, especially if you're not familiar with tools, run into technical issues, or just have questions about what you can do with your new host.

Before committing to a host check out their support by looking an their online support and checking out their support FAQ and contact method. Some support systems are by email/ticket only, while others provide full phone support. If they do take calls, are the calling centers local or will there be a language barrier? Make sure you get a firm written commitment from there in regards to their support hours and costs. Pay attention to time zones. Make sure that whatever your support requirements might be your new host is prepared to meet them.

Storage Quota

If all you have is a website with a few pages this isn't much of an issue, but for the best websites for accountants you'll need space to store files. Running out of storage space in the middle of tax season can become an inconvenience, but more importantly it will aggravate your clients. Do you intend to use your storage for transfers only or do you want to make documents available to some or all of your clients by using your website for permanent document storage? You'll also need more space if you want to display videos or offer high quality downloadable PDF files on your site. Make sure your host is offering enough file storage for your needs.

Most websites for accountants use the bulk of their file storage on client files. Here are some guidelines: You'll store most normal documents like tax returns and forms as black and white PDF files. 35 pages of normal business documents ususally use up about 500kb of storage. PDF files get much larger if they have color or are saved at high resolutions. While they're usually smaller than this (and occasionally larger) I recommend allowing about 20Mb for QuickBooks files.

Find out if your web host will allow you to upgrade your storage if the need arises. This is the best possible solution because it allows you to start small and expand your capacity as your business grows. Too much space is better than too little. Most new users overestimate their online storage needs and this can drive up your costs slightly. Frankly, disk space is pretty cheap. When tax time rolls around not having enough online storage will disrupt your practice and it's worth a sawbuck or two to avoid this.

Bandwidth Quotas

Bandwidth is one of those vital features that is often overlooked by CPA and Accounting firms. In essence, the higher the bandwidth allotment, the more visitors that can visit your site during that day or month. And that's not all. Accounting firms tend to have much higher bandwidth demands than other businesses. Most websites only need enough bandwidth to allow visitors to view the actual website. The more visitors they anticipate, the more bandwidth they need. This is still true of accounting websites, but even smaller firms are going to need a lot more bandwidth than a bowling alley or restaurant might need. Accountants send and recieve files over the internet all the time, and this causes their bandwidth needs to skyrocket. Most accountants need at least a Gigabyte of bandwith in the months around tax season. 1.5Gb would be better, and this assumes a smaller firm and average use. Last year my most active client used more than 3Gb in the month of march.

Website Editor

What kind of tools are available for you to create your website? Some sites will only let you upload finished sites that you've built from scratch, others force you to use inflexible templates that cannot be modified at all, and many offer varying degrees of compromise between these extremes. Find out what, if any, editing tools and capabilities your host offers. Your website host may provide you with options to choose the type of package you'd like.

Programming Language / Database Availability

Depending on what you're planning to do with your website, you may need additional database or programming language availability. Your website host will likely have at least a few options available. If your host is using a Windows server they most likely offer support for .NET and Microsoft SQL databases. On the other hand if it's a Linux server they'll most likely support PHP and and MySQL. Both of these options will likely help you achieve what you want in different ways.

Other Support Tools

As an accounting firm you'll find that secure file transfer capability is an absolute MUST for your website, but there are some other advanced features to consider. Do they provide web stats so you can see who is visiting your site? Do you have FTP access for ease of moving files onto and off of your website? What other tools are provided for other advanced features? You may or may not need this kind of thing right now, but down the road they may come in handy.

Security Features

If you actually want to USE your secure file transfer this becomes extremely important. In order to keep your client's tax returns and QuickBooks files protected you'll need to make sure adequate online security precautions can be put into place. Make sure the host supports SSL, the basic online security protocol. This will ensure a secure transaction and also verify your company's identity.

Extra Features (Domain Name, E-mail)

Some web hosts also provide additional convenience features, such as providing domain name registration and e-mail hosting. Consider all of a hosts terms and expenses when choosing a host. You can save money this way, but you may just as easily wind up paying for stuff you don't need. Make sure any domain names you register through your host are registered in a retail account in YOUR name. Some hosts will register your domain in a wholesale account in their name, and they'll often use their ownership of your domain to browbeat you into staying with them.

Google has an excellent freeware solution for small businesses so if you don't need more than 10 accounts it really doesn't offer any value. Larger firms may benefit from email service, but be aware that some hosting services offer email service that's pretty out-of-date. Using your web host as an Email provider can also sometimes create problems if you ever decide you want to change hosts. Make sure you've downloaded ALL your emails into an email client before changing email hosts.

There are many considerations when choosing a web host. As service professionals dealing with priveleged financial information CPA and accounting firms have a much slimmer margin allowed error allowed to good websites for accountants than just about all other types of companies so it's sincerely best to explore your choices and determine what other customers of those services feel when deciding on hosting services. You will most likely determine that your ideal host will let you upgrade your site with new features as time goes by and your needs change or, if not, they could be willing to provide you a simple method to change hosting services when the time comes.


Author's Resource Box

Kenny Marshall is a consultant and former Vice President of CPA Site Solutions, one of North Americas leading website companies dedicated exclusively to providing high quality websites for accountants.

Article Source:
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Tags:   websites for accountants, hosting services, CPA Websites, Websites for CPAs

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Submitted : 2011-07-14    Word Count : 1390    Times Viewed: 402