Let’s say you’re shopping around for a lot to build your dream house on. Your real estate agent takes you to what she calls “a prime piece of property.” Five acres of beautiful wooded land with a small pond, just off a main highway. It’s a half-hour drive to the nearest town–far enough to have peace and quiet, but not too far to be inconvenient for weekly grocery shopping. And then the agent floors you with the asking price–“It’s only $12,000.”
Twelve thousand? you think. For this beautiful piece of land? What a deal! You’re about to say “I’ll take it” when she adds one more thing…
“However, there aren’t any utilities here. You’ll have to arrange for all of that yourself.”
Not such a great deal now, is it?
This is the kind of trouble you may run into if you choose your website hosting company based on price. It may seem like a good deal, but if the company doesn’t provide everything your website needs, you’re choosing the wrong company. Here are a few things to consider when choosing a new hosting company or evaluating your current one.
In case you didn’t know…
What exactly is a hosting company or hosting provider?
A hosting company owns and maintains one or more servers–specialized computers that store your website’s files and make them available to other people through the Internet. It is possible to set up your own server, but buying this service from a company will give you access to various scripting language support and traffic statistics at a much lower price than you could manage on your own. Unless you are expecting to have vast amounts of traffic on your website, or will transmit a large amount of data (such as having video and audio that are downloaded a great deal), it is more time- and cost-efficient to have another company host your website.
How much disk space do you need?
One of the criteria that usually separates one hosting plan from another is the amount of space you get on the server for your website files. This is similar to space on your computer’s hard drive, and is calculated the same way–in gigabytes, megabytes, and kilobytes. You can calculate the amount of space you need by adding up the size of all the website files. Don’t forget to include all the graphics and images.
How much bandwidth do you need?
Bandwidth is calculated by the size of each file a visitor to you website sees multiplied by how many times a visitor sees it. For example, if your home page file is 11K (kilobytes) and it has two 7K images on it, that will add up to 25K of material transferred every time someone looks at your home page. So if you have 700 visitors in a month who look at your home page, that will be 17,500K transferred, or about 17M (megabytes). This will be calculated for every page a visitor looks at, as well as any video, audio, or other files they download onto their computer.
Most hosting companies set a limit on the bandwidth you can use per month, but make sure that is the case when comparing plans. Remember, one gigabyte equals 1024 megabytes, and one megabyte equals 1024 kilobytes.
What email options do you get?
Some things to look for are the number of email addresses you can have, mailbox storage size, POP3/SMTP service (you can send and receive email from your account), if you can have email aliases or forwarding (an address that sends all messages to another address’s mailbox), online email access, and spam filtering. Consider your company’s current and future needs when evaluating this.
Can you make changes to your website yourself?
Depending on the level of website expertise in your company, you may want to handle updating your website in-house, or you may want someone else to do it. There are many website hosting companies that offer website maintenance as part of their package, and you may find this an attractive option. But be aware of two things–one, how quickly will the company make your changes? And two, will they allow you or a third party (that you hire) to make changes, or do all changes have to go through them? The term to look for is “FTP access,” which means that you have access to the username and password which will allow you or someone that you authorize to add new pages or change files on your website without going through a middleman.
What special scripts or functions will your website use?
Depending on the purpose and functions of your website, and who designs it, you may need your hosting company to support any of the following: databases (such as Microsoft Access, SQL, or MySQL), Flash/Shockwave, multimedia, e-commerce, and various scripting languages (such as ASP, PHP, and ColdFusion, all of which come in various versions, cgi, and perl).
If you are considering moving your current website to a new hosting company, talk to the website designer/developer to see which of these, if any, apply to your website. And if you are planning to have a website created, choose your designer/developer first and then have him or her assist you in determining which scripts or functions the website will be using.
Can you easily track and analyze your visitor traffic?
Some hosting companies include a traffic statistics program will all of their hosting plans. Some offer it as an add-on service. And some don’t bother with it at all. If you want to have any clue about whether your website is making a positive difference for your company, you’ll need to have access to good traffic statistics. Personally, I favor the program Urchin, which is offered by several hosting companies. It is easy to use and allows you to look at a variety of data in various time ranges. You can also export data to Microsoft Excel or Word or a text file.
What customer support options are available?
Most hosting companies will offer free support by email, but you may also want to be able to talk to them by phone. See if they charge for that. Some also offer “live chat” over the Internet at certain times, which may or may not be helpful, depending on how many customers are trying to use it at once.
What do other people say about them?
Check out third party reviews at sites like http://www.web-hosting-reviews.org or http://www.findmyhosting.com. Focus on the customer’s experience with using the hosting service, if there is good customer support, and what their experience is with “downtime”–times when the hosting company’s server is not working, and no one is able to visit your website. This should be close to non-existent.
Things to avoid
Free website hosting is usually not a good deal. They are likely to display ads on your website that you have no control over, to have little to no customer support, and they may close up shop without warning. Quality website hosting is available now for a very low price from many companies, so being miserly in this area will only hurt you.
You will also want to carefully read a hosting company’s terms of service before signing up with them. Some have restrictions on what material you can put on your site or what kind of email you can send (such as ads that might be regarded as spam). If there are restrictions, make sure you can live with them, or find a different hosting company.
Does price mean anything?
I started this article with the idea that you shouldn’t choose a company based on price. But should the price have any affect on your decision? Sure it can. If two hosting plans are equal in all ways except the cost, go with the cheaper one. But your main criteria should be the rest of the items discussed in this article.
Don’t freak out!
One last point–if you choose the wrong hosting provider, it’s usually not hard to switch to a new one! So don’t get bogged down with trying to find the perfect hosting company. There are many good ones out there. The important thing is to get your website on the Internet!
If you take away internet, today’s world would become a lame one. Millions of websites thronging the internet, from the most personal ones to the fully business related ones. In such a scenario, “web site hosting” has become a common word. Now what exactly is website hosting?
Web site hosting is all about “publishing” a website on the internet. In other words, website hosting is a service in which a web hosting provider renders space to their clients on a server they own, which allows the client, individual or organization, to make their own websites accessible via the World Wide Web. But web site hosting does not come to an end with this. The need for technical support forces the web hosting providers to work round the clock making the websites accessible anytime, anywhere.
The last three-four years of the web hosting industry have been attributed with so much competition that website hosting companies are forced, in a way, to curb their prices into an all time low. Whatever be the consequences, the best thing that came out as an aftermath of all this is that of an easy access to the world of internet, placing yourself and your company in the world’s biggest encyclopedia, the internet.
The upside of the competition is the easy accessibility, but the downside is the ever-increasing number web site hosting providers in the market, which lead to a hundred questions regarding how to choose, whom to choose, and lots more. Proper research could be the only help in this respect.
You may also feel that with so many free website hosting companies available, why pay for it? It may be advisable to start with a free web site hosting company, but it is never the best option, all the more for business purposes. They can’t let you do your business out of charity! They too have to earn their part. And that they do by the numerous advertisements that they put up in your site. One more characteristic of the free website hosting companies would include their limited services. Most of them restrict the selling of certain products and contents, and also are unable to provide proper support when need arises. Whatever be the disadvantages, these free website hosting companies could prove to be helpful for those venturing into this arena for the first time.
If you are somehow able to zero down between the free and the paid web site hosting providers, the next jigsaw is to choose between the astronomical numbers of paid hosts.
You can make a long checklist before opting for the perfect web-hosting provider . The checklist would include bandwidth and disk space at the first place which are to be decided as per the type of website that you are to launch. In addition, it would also include server speed and uptime for proper functioning of your website. Other than the checklist, it is insistent to perform a thorough research before you finalize your website hosting company so that their reliability and support proves undisputable.
But that is not the end of web site hosting! The next stage would include picking the right hosting type/plan . You are to choose the most suitable type of hosting – a shared hosting, a dedicated server, virtual private web server or collocation. Shared website hosting is the best option for first timers. It is also suitable for those website owners who need to focus on their web businesses with digging into the kernel of the host servers. Dedicated servers are best suitable for dedicated hosting resellers, enterprise-level sites, web designers and developers, mission critical sites with their needs of custom server management and software implementation, corporate intranets, complicated sites with rich traffic and protected information, content restricted sites. If you are not ready to bear the expenses of dedicated server, and the disadvantages of shared web hosting are worrying you, then virtual private server is the solution. Collocation is the best option for websites that require custom software and hardware configurations, load-balancing and clustering and other advanced functions, i.e. for sites that thrive for power and resource.
The next step is that of choosing the web hosting plans. The type of website would determine the type of web site hosting plan. Personal website hosting plans, business plans, ecommerce hosting plans, and a lot more types are available as per the demand of every type of website. Personal web hosting plans are for the personal websites, individuals and starters. The data transfer rate is low in personal websites and that is why personal plans come with comparatively lower bandwidth and disk space. Business houses require a greater bandwidth and disk space for high trafficking. The ecommerce sites with huge number products require the maximum bandwidth and disk space. The type of website hosting plan is directly related to the type of website.
One more aspect of web site hosting would include the domains. Domains are names by which your website will be known in the internet. These names act as a website’s Universal Resource Locator (URL) in the World Wide Web, which is a home to thousands of websites round the globe. You need a domain to host a website. Owning your own domain name always proves fruitful, specially for the business houses. But you can also host your website with somebody else’s domain, for example [http://www.a-free-web-host.com/youronlinecart].
This is just a general overview. You will have to dig the interiors of web site hosting before you chose your host, hosting type and your hosting plan. And if you are well equipped with the intricacies, website hosting could be fun and profitable.