Having a professional website is crucial for any small business looking to establish an online presence in today’s digital world. However, choosing the right web hosting provider for your business can be a daunting task, especially in the Kenyan market where there are countless options to pick from.
This article will provide an expert review of key factors you need to consider when selecting a web hosting provider for your small business website in Kenya. We’ll look at elements like server location, uptime guarantee, scalability needs, security, support options, and pricing models. Follow along for tips and recommendations to help you make the best decision for your unique business goals and budget.
A web hosting provider is a company that offers servers, networks, and other infrastructure to host websites and web applications. When you build a website, it needs to be hosted on a web server that’s connected to the internet 24/7 so that visitors can access your site at any time.
Without web hosting, no one would be able to find or view your online content.
Some key types of web hosting include:
- Shared hosting – Your site shares server resources with other sites. More budget-friendly but less controlled.
- VPS hosting – Resources from a physical server are allocated to create a virtual private server (VPS). This offers you more flexibility but at a higher cost.
- Dedicated hosting – Here, your site has an entire physical server to itself. This is the most expensive option but offers maximum control.
- Cloud hosting – Resources are distributed across multiple servers on the cloud. This option is flexible and scalable.
For a small business just starting out, shared hosting is typically the most affordable option, while a customized VPS or dedicated server is better for larger, more complex sites with higher traffic volumes.
Here are some of the top factors to evaluate when comparing different web hosting providers for your business:
1. Server Location
- Where are the web host’s servers physically located? This impacts page load speeds. Typically, the best server performance is determined by the location of your clients. Therefore, if your clients are in a particular country, you should opt for servers within that country.
- For the fastest speeds, choose a host with servers in Kenya or nearby regions like South Africa.
- Avoid hosts with only US/Europe servers, as distances increase latency.
- Use Cloudflare or any other CDN if your clients are worldwide.
2. Uptime & Reliability
- Uptime is the % of time servers are operational and your site is accessible to visitors.
- Look for guaranteed 99.9%+ uptime, with financial credits if uptime drops below.
- Check reviews to confirm uptime track record over the past year.
3. Scalability Options
- Can you easily scale server resources up or down to accommodate traffic fluctuations?
- Look for flexibility to upgrade to VPS or dedicated servers when needed.
4. Security Protections
- What security features are implemented to protect your site and data?
- Look for regular software updates, DDoS protection, SSL certificates, firewalls, etc.
5. Technical Support
- Is 24/7 technical support available in case of issues arise?
- Note that some companies offer support for specific times of the day this may be counterproductive if you have an emergency bug in your support.
- Live chat, phone, and email support options are ideal.
6. Backup & Recovery
- Are automatic daily backups performed in case your site goes down?
- Can you easily restore your site from a recent backup if needed?
Popular CMS platforms like WordPress offer plugins that can back up your data at the press of a button. Nevertheless, your hosting company should perform regular site backups to cushion your site from potential data loss.
7. Domain Registration
- Does the host provide domain registration and setup services?
- Or do you need to purchase your .ke domain separately?
8. Payment Models
- Monthly vs yearly billing options. Quite often, yearly plans are more affordable than monthly payments.
- Ability to pay via mobile money like M-Pesa or direct bank transactions.
Evaluating the Top Hosting Providers in Kenya
Now that we’ve covered the key criteria to evaluate, let’s take a look at some of the most well-known and recommended web hosting providers available to small business owners in Kenya:
Sasa Space Web Hosting
- Locally based, uses Amazon infrastructure and data centres.
- Servers in Nairobi provide fast speeds within Kenya.
- Offers shared cPanel hosting plans starting around KES 125/month.
- Pros: Exceptional servers, competitive pricing, M-Pesa payment option.
- Cons: Less flexible scaling options, mixed reliability reviews.
- Kenya-based hosting focused on SMBs and startups.
- High uptime reputation, responsive support.
- Shared hosting from KES 1,500/year.
- Easy scaling from shared to VPS and dedicated servers.
- Pros: Reliable uptime, good support, flexible scaling.
- Cons: Servers outside Kenya can mean slower speeds.
- International provider with local operations in Kenya.
- Used by many SMEs and agencies in Kenya.
- Shared hosting plans from KES 1,800/year.
- VPS and dedicated options are available.
- Free SSL certificate with annual plans, for the first year.
- Pros: Reputable, flexible plans, good uptimes.
- Cons: Support may be a problem at times.
- Leading South Africa-based host expanding in Kenya.
- Shared hosting from KES 1,000/month.
- Free domain and SSL certificates.
- cPanel control panel for easy site management.
- Pros: Affordable pricing, free extras.
- Cons: Support can be hit or miss, and latency from SA servers.
- Focus on the Kenyan marketplace.
- Shared plans from KES 2,999/year.
- Managed WordPress hosting available.
- FREE Site Building Tools.
- Pros: Local infrastructure, affordable pricing.
- Cons: Support responsiveness can vary.
There are certainly other options beyond this initial list of top providers commonly used by Kenyan small business owners for establishing their websites. The ones covered represent a good starting point for evaluation.
Key Questions to Ask When Comparing Providers
In addition to the criteria we’ve outlined already, here are some key questions you should ask when contacting prospective web hosts:
- Where are your servers located?
- What is your uptime record over the past year?
- How quickly can you scale my hosting plan if my site traffic increases?
- What security features do you have in place?
- Do you offer 24/7 support and what are the contact methods?
- How often are backups performed and what is the restoration process?
- Do you provide domain registration and setup?
- What are the monthly and yearly payment options?
Don’t be afraid to ask hosts for examples and specifics to back up any claims they make around uptime, support response times, security, and overall reputation.
You want as much transparency as possible to make sure a provider can realistically deliver what they advertise to customers.
Avoiding Lock-In With Long Contracts
A potential downside to watch out for when comparing hosts is getting locked into excessively long contract periods. Some hosts will offer big discounts for signing up for 2+ years upfront.
While the cost savings may be tempting initially, you lose flexibility down the road if you want to switch providers. Your business and website needs are likely to evolve rapidly, so you don’t want to be stuck with a single provider for too long.
Ideally, look for monthly or annual contracts when first starting out with a new host. This gives you the flexibility to switch if you are unhappy with features, uptime, or support. Only consider longer multi-year deals once you are confident a host reliably meets your needs.
Balancing Cost With Reliability
One final note when evaluating hosts is that the cheapest is not necessarily the best. Yes, you want to control your costs, especially when first launching a small business website. However, you also want a provider that is stable and reliable.
The consequences of frequent downtime, security breaches, or data loss can be severe for any business. So weigh costs against factors like uptime track record, security protections, and quality of support when making a budget-minded decision.
Often spending a little more upfront with an established, reputable provider can save major headaches down the road. Just make sure to confirm their reliability rather than assuming higher prices automatically equate to better service.
Comparing Shared Hosting vs VPS vs Dedicated Servers
In the first part of this article, we covered the key factors to consider when evaluating web hosting providers for your small business website in Kenya. Now let’s do a deeper comparison of the main hosting plan types you’ll encounter.
The three primary options are shared hosting, VPS (Virtual Private Server) hosting, and dedicated server hosting. Each has its own pros, cons, and typical use cases.
Understanding the differences will help you select the right starting point plan and allow room to scale up smoothly as your business grows.
Shared Hosting Overview
Shared hosting is the most common and budget-friendly option for small websites. Your site shares server resources like CPU, memory, and storage with other sites hosted on the same server.
Typical features include:
- Disk space – 10-50GB
- Bandwidth – 50GB to unlimited
- Email accounts – 10-100
- Databases – 1-10
- cPanel control panel
- Daily backups
- SSL certificate
With shared hosting, you don’t control the server environment. The configurations are handled on the backend by your hosting provider.
This offers simplicity for beginners, but less flexibility for advanced users. It also carries some security risks as vulnerabilities on other sites may impact yours if on the same server.
Cost: ~KES 1,000-3,000/year
Ideal for: Blog sites, small business websites, early-stage web apps. Sites with <10,000 visitors/month.
VPS Hosting Overview
With a VPS (Virtual Private Server), users are allocated dedicated resources from a physical server. So your site has its own portion of server capacity that is isolated at the software level.
Typical VPS specs:
- Disk space – 30-200GB
- RAM – 2-8GB
- CPUs – 2-6 cores
- Bandwidth – 500GB-2TB
VPS plans let you install custom software, control security settings, and scale server capacity as needed. This added flexibility comes at a higher cost compared to shared hosting.
Managed VPS options provide assistance with administration, security, and backups for additional fees. Unmanaged VPS puts you fully in control.
Cost: ~KES 3,000-10,000/year
Ideal for: Medium traffic sites, web apps, and e-commerce stores. Sites with 10,000 to 500,000 visitors/month.
Dedicated Server Hosting
At the high-end, dedicated server hosting provides an entire physical server for your exclusive use. Resources like processors, memory, and storage are not shared with other accounts.
You have full control for maximum performance optimization and customization. Dedicated servers are best suited for mission-critical sites that need 100% uptime guarantees and high security.
Typical dedicated server specs:
- Disk space – 500GB+
- RAM – 16-64GB
- CPUs – 4-16 cores
- Bandwidth – 5-20TB
Fully managed options have the highest costs but include administration, maintenance, and backup services. Unmanaged puts server setup and security totally in your hands.
Cost: ~KES 15,000-50,000/year or some may be this expensive, per month.
Ideal for: Enterprise websites, web apps, and e-commerce stores with high traffic and revenue. 500,000+ visitors per month.
Recommendations for Small Business Websites
For most small business websites just getting started, shared hosting is the way to go. The low costs and ease of use make it ideal for launching quickly.
Start by reviewing the top shared hosting plans from reputable providers like Safaricom, CloudCone, and others covered earlier.
Pay close attention to server locations, uptime history, support responsiveness, and scalability options.
Focus on finding a reliable and affordable provider that also offers clear paths to upgrade to VPS or dedicated hosting in the future. This avoids having to migrate providers as your site traffic and needs to evolve over time.
Only consider a higher-tier VPS or dedicated server if you already anticipate high traffic volumes right off the bat. For most cost-conscious small businesses, shared plans offer the best value initially.
Monitoring Growth and Identifying Limitations
No matter which hosting plan you begin with, it’s important to monitor your site performance and growth continuously.
As your business succeeds and traffic volumes expand, you may eventually hit limitations that require upgrading to VPS or dedicated hosting. Signs may include:
- Slow page load times
- Frequent downtime or 500 errors
- Resource exhaustion notifications
- Difficulty handling traffic spikes
Most quality shared hosting providers offer clear instructions on how to upgrade plans as needed. This might involve migrating your site to a VPS or dedicated server in the same data centre.
Having access to scaling options with the same provider reduces the risks of downtime during a migration. Check that your initial host offers these upgrade paths before signing up.
Be ready to invest in more robust hosting as your business and website grow. The extra costs bring benefits like faster performance, higher uptime, improved security, and greater ability to customize the server environment to your needs.
Regardless of your current business size and website traffic levels, take time to research the pros, cons, and costs of different hosting plan types.
Understand how shared, VPS, and dedicated hosting compare – it will pay dividends as your online presence develops.
Most Kenyan small business owners should start out with a quality shared hosting provider that offers clear scaling options. As your success grows, be ready to upgrade plans to match your evolving needs.
Choosing the right web hosting sets your business up for the flexibility and performance it needs to thrive in the long term.