Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Before You Select a Web Host - Features of a Good Host

Narrowing your search for a good hosting provider doesn’t have to be hard. You just need to find one that meets your needs in several areas. Below I’ll describe some of the key areas for evaluating a good web host and how you can determine what you need for your services.

Customer Service

Nearly every web designer has been seduced by the lure of free or extremely cheap web hosting. But the first time something goes wrong, they discover why choosing a web hosting provider solely on price is not a good idea.
What to Look For:
  • Lots of support options (chat, phone, email, etc.)
  • Online documentation
  • Customer forums - with responses from hosting staff
  • Customer Service

Disk Space

The disk space is the amount of space that you are allocated for your website. Some hosting providers offer unlimited space, while others allocate space at a cost. Either way, you should make sure you have a plan that offers you at least 20% more space than you’re currently using or plan to use. That gives you some room for growth.
What to Look For:
  • Don’t assume that unlimited is better than a limited amount of space. There are always tradeoffs.
  • Determine the costs for extra space so that you can expand when you need to.

Bandwidth

Bandwidth is the amount of data that your website can pass to customers over a period of time. Some hosting providers offer unlimited bandwidth, while others charge different prices for the amount you use. Make sure that you know what will happen if your site goes over the allocated bandwidth, and that you’ve got enough to support the people viewing your site.
What to Look For:
  • Don’t assume that unlimited is better than a limited amount of space. There are always tradeoffs.
  • Videos and graphics take more bandwidth than plain HTML.
  • Be aware of the prices for extra bandwidth.
  • And also find out what happens to your site if you go over your allocation.
  • Bandwidth: Definition

Uptime

Uptime is the percentage of time that the hosting server has been up. Most hosting services will announce huge percentages like 99.9% to 99.999% uptime. While you do want a server that is up and running more often than it’s not, the reality is that all hosts go down, and even 99.999% uptime is more than 8 hours in a year.
What to Look For:
  • The more "nines" the host offers (99.9% versus 99.999%) the more it will cost.
  • Determine what you get if they do go down, some hosts offer more remuneration than others.
  • What is Uptime?

Programming Services

While you can create web pages with just HTML and CSS, most designers and developers will eventually want some type of programming and database ability. This includes languages like PHP and ASP as well as databases.
What to Look For:
  • PHP and mySQL are the most common language and database.
  • SSI is very useful.
  • Web Programming Languages

Domain Names and Other Services

Many hosting providers distinguish themselves by offering services beyond hosting. These include domain names, content management, fancy web analytics tools, and more.
What to Look For:
  • Don’t get suckered into buying services you don’t need. While having a domain name is important, you’re not guaranteed to get the best deal from your hosting provider.
  • Consider the extra services as a bonus rather than the determining reason for choosing your hosting provider.
  • Tips for Good Domain Names

Price

While I don’t recommend using price as your only evaluation, it shouldn’t be your most important one either. In most cases, you can find a provider with all of your requirements for a price that is worthwhile.
Free web hosting may seem like the best way to go, but most free hosts pay for the services with advertising that is placed on your website. There also may be extreme rules about what can be posted on your site.
What to Look For:
  • Don’t overpay for hosting. You can get good standard hosting for less than $10 per month.
  • Don’t underpay for hosting either. Free hosting is better for testing and personal pages than for business websites.
  • Cheap Web Hosting

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