The current count of web hosts yields just over a gazillion companies claiming
to be number 1, offering the very best in what hosting can offer with prices
that simply cannot be beat. Needless to say, it can take a trained eye this
day and age to see through their gimmicks and get right down to whether this
company has what you want. If you're confused about what to choose, read on.
Before even beginning your search, analyze what your needs are. What features
would you like your site to have? What Internet programming languages do you
anticipate using? Be sure to take under consideration any feedback form features,
database connectivity or any other site virtue that is simply too advanced for
pure HTML. Would you like e-mail addresses? Do you have a domain name? How much
traffic do you expect to receive? All these questions and more help in the final
decision for that one glorious hosting company.
In the midst of your search, you'll probably run across hosting services that
offer 'unlimited bandwidth'. This is simply not true. The term 'bandwidth' refers
to the amount of information that is past between the hosting servers and the
end user. Most hosting companies are connected to high-speed Internet backbones
(UUNET, Sprint, AT&T, etc) which charge the hosting company based on their
monthly bandwidth from customers. Needless to say, if you rack up upwards of
25Gigs of bandwidth a month, that lacks financial prosperity for your hosting
company. Be sure to read the terms of service very carefully with each hosting
company that you are considering, especially if they advertise 'free' or 'unlimited'
A hosting company's support services often goes untested, especially with beginners
in the site design and hosting world. A skilled and prompt support staff should
be one of the most important decision breakers in your mind. If you run into
trouble getting a perl script to work, or perhaps your database permissions
are not setup correctly on the hosting company's side. You want those problems
corrected, and fast. One way to test a service's support staff is to simply
send them an e-mail and see how long it takes for a response to be sent. Try
to send an inquiry to support and sales and any other department you deem necessary.
Ask support if they offer a web language that you like, or ask the sales department
if they charge your credit card or hire another company to do it for them. If
you receive a response the same day, you can probably rest assured you will
receive timely help with any inquiries you have. They should not take more than
one complete day to get back to you.
Perform research away from the company's web site. Ask questions through e-mail
lists and other mediums to try and get some feedback. If the company lists a
testimonials section, look into contacting the authors of the testimonials and
start asking questions. The more comments you have, the better understanding
you'll have on how that hosting service treats its customers.
Pay attention to how long they have been online. A well-established hosting
company of many years will most likely yield the greatest chances of customer
successes. Click on the about page if they have one and read it all; after all,
you may very well be giving this company your credit card number.
Now, let's get down to the nitty gritty: Does the service offer what you want?
Although you may expect your site to remain fairly small, allow yourself some
room to grow, represented in megabytes (Mbs). If you're using 5Mbs, look for
10. If you're using 20Mbs, look for 30 or 40. If you are a photographer and
want to use your site as a portfolio, you better opt for a more powerful account
with more space and bandwidth, as images take more of both. Depending on how
many images you have and how popular your site is, look for at least 50Mbs of
space and 5Gigs of bandwidth. However, a regular, average size site with mostly
html pages should be fine with 15 or 20Mbs and 1 or 2gigs of bandwidth and paying
no more than $15 a month, depending on other features.
If you have purchased your own domain name, be sure the hosting company supports
them (most do), and be sure they give you at least 1 e-mail address (firstname.lastname@example.org).
A lot of companies offer 10 or more custom pop e-mail accounts with unlimited
forwarding address at little or no additional cost, which is a nice feature.
Let's look at a few features and offerings you might find with a Windows and
Linux based hosting services.
- Cheaper than Windows in general
- Should offer PHP and MySQL (at least and PHP)
- May offer telnet accounts at little or no additional cost
Since the Linux operating system and all Linux based languages and databases
are free to install and offer for the hosting company, prices are usually lower
than Windows. Perl should be supported with sendmail support for any formmail
scripts. SSI is nice, along with .htaccess. Linux is the choice of most budget
web designers and is also much more secure than Windows. In general, more configuration
options and advanced customizations are available with Linux based hosting services.
- Usually more expensive than Linux
- Should support ASP
- Could support Cold Fusion, Access, SQL Server at an additional cost
Windows based servers are flat out expensive for the hosting company to purchase,
so prices are usually a bit higher. Cold Fusion is fairly expensive and is purchased
through Allaire, now merged with Macromedia. SQL Server is also purchased for
a high price through Microsoft, while Access is almost free. Any important database
work should be done through SQL Server. If you want the extra features through
a Windows host, be prepared to pay extra. In case you are wondering, Stevesdomain.net
rests on Linux based web servers.
The decision rests in your hands. If you are completely new to the design world
and know next to nothing about hosting options and features, you may find a
Linux based hosting service more to your liking, and for a lower price. If you
are using Microsoft Access databases for the web, a Windows based hosting service
with Access support would be required for you. Take your time when looking for
a hosting company. Test their support services, gather comments from others
and weigh your requirements to the company's features and offerings. Remember
to leave yourself some room to grow and expand.