Free vs. Paid: When Should Your Small Business Shell Out for a Hosted Service?
From cloud storage to conference calls, many small business services can be had for free, but sometimes a paid plan makes more sense.
Tue, September 10, 2013
PC World — Where would small businesses be without hosted services? They let you do everything from store files to hold meetings, without adding costly infrastructure. In most cases you can take advantage of these services without spending a cent thanks to generous free entry-level plans.
But while these unpaid options are understandably attractive, there are times it makes sense to pony up for a more premium offering. We took a look at several hosted services small businesses commonly use to determine which are worth paying for and when.
If there's one thing you must drop some cash on, it's a custom domain name for your website, complete with an attached email address. This doesn't have to cost a lot--a domain name from GoDaddy can be purchased for around $10 per year, which is hardly a budget-breaking expense.
"A well-chosen, custom domain makes you look more established and larger than if you use a gmail.com email address, since anyone can get one of those in 30 seconds for free," says Joshua Steimle, CEO of Utah-based SEO company MWI. "It's one thing that says, 'I'm established, I'm trustworthy, and you can do business with me without worrying that I'll disappear tomorrow.'" In other words, having a custom domain name will make you look like a legitimate company--even if you just created the company two days ago. Needless to say, the more established your company is, the more crucial it is to have a custom domain name and corresponding email address for each of your employees.
Conrad O'Connell, a digital analyst at Interactivity Marketing, says the only exception to this rule might be if you're a sole proprietor, and it's clear you plan to stay that way. "If it's clear [to others] that [they're] dealing with a one-person consultant, you might be able to have a free Gmail address without losing legitimacy," O'Connell says. "But when you're presenting yourself as a company, there's a different expectation of 'branding.'"
GoDaddy is fine for locking down custom domain names, but don't be tempted by its cheaply bundled Web hosting packages. "The smart business owner should go with a high-quality Web hosting service, rather than trying to save money with GoDaddy," says Andrew Schrage, founder and CEO of Money Crashers. "Paid Web hosting services offer a higher quality product and better customer support." This is especially important when it comes to the host's uptime, since paid services typically offer a refund if their server--and, subsequently, your business website--goes down.