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How to Choose a Web
anybody can afford to order a feature-packed web hosting plan
for next to nothing; however, affordable price is not the only
criterion which should be considered when purchasing web hosting
services. In this article, I'll explain the basics of what you
should look for in choosing a web hosting company, not just
concentrating on the best price and features, but also on
reliability and honesty. You're investing your money and effort
into finding paying customers and you wouldn't like to lose them
in order to save a few dollars per month on a web hosting
When looking for a web hosting company, it doesn’t matter if this is just
for the inception of a web or the move of an established site;
you need to consider a large selection of criteria to determine
which company to go with:
Website hosting service isn’t just storage or bandwidth. Based on personal
experience and that of others, even a top-notch service is
worthless without customer support. If you own a business
website, your hosting provider needs to be there for you 24/7
and give you instant access to the technicians you need to solve
your problem; otherwise, you may end up losing customers and
Downtime guarantee and service monitoring
Having a personal website go down is a minor inconvenience; having a
business website go down is a serious matter. What amount of
profit would you lose if your site had been down for a week?
Long downtime may be very harmful to today's companies which
spend large amounts of money on advertising their websites.
Essentially, there are two rules regarding reliability that one
should look at:
1. You should check if there is an uptime guarantee offered. A truly
service-oriented provider will also give a money-back guarantee,
offering a discount or free service as compensation for
downtime. Any company which avoids taking responsibility won't
put much effort into the service.
2. I definitely wouldn't go with a company claiming 100% uptime, as there is
no such thing as a server with 100% uptime. If anyone ever
claims their server has a 100% uptime they are either lying or
they don't perform the necessary upgrades that prevent a machine
from being compromised.
Reputable web hosts will post statistics on their site: What is the
frequency of interruption? How about the average percentage of
downtime? If these aren’t posted, ask; if the answer isn’t
forthcoming, that should be a warning sign. If you still go with
a host which doesn't monitor servers, you'll have to do the
monitoring yourself. I recommend http://www.siteuptime.com, as
it's one of the best monitoring services available for free in
the market today.
There is no host which is safe against different types of technical and
programical failures, so make sure that the company runs
scheduled backups. The other advice would be always having a
backup of your website yourself, as you never know what might
happen. cPanel, which is the most popular web hosting management
software at this time, has a very comfortable backup-making
tool. It allows you to backup files and databases quickly and
easily, so backups are no longer a problem.
Acceptable use policy
Web hosts may have 200-300 or more clients per server; there is no exact
number, as companies have different hardware and each hosted
website has different resource usage. There always is a
possibility that a few of those customers host illegal content.
There are web hosts who have had their servers unplugged,
resulting in their clients’ websites going down. I'm sure you
don't want to put your business at risk and have your website
hosted on the same server together with illegal pornography and
software sites, so check host's acceptable use policy to find
out, if the host takes care of what's hosted on their servers.
Hosting your site on an uncared-for server will also result in a low speed.
If somebody on the same server sends spam, the server's IP
address will be blacklisted and you'll have serious problems as
recipients stop receiving your emails. Use the "Spam database
lookup" feature on www.DNSstuff.com to check if a web hosting
company is blacklisted. Spam is being sent almost everywhere, so
having one or two red records isn't that bad; but, if there are
more, it may become a problem later on.
Unlimited bandwidth and web space
In web hosting industry, the adage "you get what you pay for" is almost
universally applicable. Do not fall for hosts offering unlimited
allowances, as there is no unlimited bandwidth, nor unlimited
web space. Host's pay for each GB of bandwidth themselves. Hard
drives also aren't free, so how can they say it's unlimited?
They simply are performing false advertising in order to attract
customers. The average website doesn't use more than 1GB of
bandwidth per month; the customer is happy as he bought
something "unlimited" and the host gets a new customer, which
won't cost them any more than $1-2 USD per month. But imagine
what would happen if I had a website, burning much more
bandwidth than an average site does, and I signed up with a
hosting company offering unlimited traffic? The host would
simply suspend my account and tell me, that it was using too
much bandwidth. There even are companies which offer unlimited
bandwidth and have a statement on their terms of service,
explaining that unlimited bandwidth means 40GB, for example.
Will you really own your domain name?
When you buy a domain name together with a website hosting package, make
sure the host will register the domain name under your name. It
usually should be written in their FAQ, but, if there is no such
information, simply contact them. This will also give you an
opportunity to check how fast their customer support team
replies to inquiries. If the hosting company registers domains
under someone else's name, you may have problems switching
hosting providers later. If you were in such situation, you
would have to file for a Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy
(UDRP), which costs much more than both domain name and web
hosting service together.
For ease of maintenance, a feature called a Control Panel is a necessity;
this tool will normally allow for regular maintenance, be it
email mailbox additions/deletions, password resets, web
additions, web count reports, statistics and so on. If the site
is for any sort of business, this is an absolute must. The most
popular web hosting management software currently available is
cPanel. It's a next-generation web hosting control panel system
that allows you to manage your domain through a web interface.
The idea is to transfer as much of the control of managing your
web site to you; you have the ability to manage all aspects of
e-mail, files, backup, FTP, CGI scripts, and web site
Hosting companies offer different value-added services in order to set
themselves apart from the competition. Of course, these are an
advantage, but a common mistake customers make is choosing a
host just because it offers many value-added services which
won't be used anyway. Some of the really useful features are:
1. Auto-installer script – Auto-installers will save you time if you are
going to install a forum, image gallery, content management
system, etc. Installation procedures on an auto-installer script
take seconds and can be performed by novices without the need of
doing difficult tasks usually associated with installations.
2. Online website builder - It lets you design a website in a few minutes
without having any creation software and knowledge. One very
powerful website builder on the market is Site Studio; this
editor allows for ease of use, full control of color schemes and
themes, one-click publishing, and an array of templates to use.
The last tip
In this article, I've mentioned only a few warning signs which are worth
considering. You should know yourself that price and allocations
aren't as important as the quality of service; if the budget is
absolutely limited, then the price can be a valid criterion, but
otherwise it shouldn’t receive much credence.
By going through this article and asking questions, you can narrow down the
list of web hosts to the point where a good, sound decision can
be easily made.
About the author:
Karolis Petreikis is the CEO of
http://www.uphosted.com- a company that provides reliable
hosting services for both individuals and businesses.