Choosing a Web Site Hosting Company
When choosing a web site hosting company there are many hosting services that rank web hosting providers and explain the services offered by the web host companies. Key areas to evaluate a good web host and determine your needs for your website:
• Good Customer Service
• Disk Space – Bandwidth
• Uptime – Reliability
• Programming Services – HTML, CSS, PHP, ASP, among others
• Domain Names and other web site services
Trying to tell the difference between web hosting companies can be a challenge. Some have very high profiles but get dismal reviews from users. Others get rave reviews, but you've never heard of them. Comparing pros and cons and pricing can be almost impossible.
The key to finding one that's right for you is deciding what you need before you start looking.
Understanding the many different kinds of web hosting companies and how they differ is a one part of the process. Some companies may work better for hosting business web sites, for example. It is also important to start by making sure you understand what a web host actually is and what it's supposed to do for you.
A web host is a company that makes your web site visible to others on the World Wide Web. The company "hosts" your site on a server that it either owns or leases. There are many different kinds of web hosts. Some offer shared servers, where you share server space with as many as a hundred other sites. Others offer VPS (Virtual Private Server) hosting, where you have your own dedicated piece of a server. Still others offer a variety of other arrangements including your own server, called dedicated hosting. [MORE: Best Web Site Hosting Companies Reviewed and Rated ]
Costs and services
The cost of web hosting can vary greatly depending on the level of service, the amount of bandwidth your web site will be allowed and whether you are sharing a server or not. There are some services that offer free hosting (although usually there's some sort of catch) and a variety of others that charge a monthly fee. Fees can range from $3.50 a month to $20 a month for hosts that offer shared hosting or those that specialize in certain applications (wedding sites, fundraising, etc.). Sites that offer dedicated servers exclusively for you can cost hundreds of dollars a month. In addition to just hosting your site, most web hosting companies offer a variety of other services. These can include:
- Domain Name Registration
- Web Site Templates
- Custom Web Site Design
- SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) for E-Commerce
- Compatibility with a variety of open source and paid programs that will allow your site to function as you would like.
If you are hiring a web site designer or developer, you will likely want to consult with them about what hosting company they prefer. Your developer should be able to guide you on what will be most valuable to you. If you want to design your own web site, it might be logical to choose a host that offers web site templates. Finding templates that are easy to customize and still allow you to have a professional on-line presence is important.
Customer service and security
Regardless of whether you are creating a site just for entertainment or for your business, be sure yoiur host offers good customer service — having customer service reps available 24 hours a day, seven days a week is a good idea.
"Good customer service is very, very important," said Jacob Morgan, Principal at Chess Media Group, a consulting firm in San Francisco. "It's easy to pick the cheapest service, but it may well end up costing you more in the end."
Morgan said that being able to call any time and get a problem resolved is important to almost anyone with a web site—business or personal. However, it is especially important if your site's problems are costing you money.
Morgan also suggests that you make security a top concern. Again, whether personal or business, protecting your site from security breaches—i.e. hackers and viruses—is important. Morgan suggests you review a web hosting company's policy regarding the level of responsibility they are willing to take for security problems. One reason to splurge on a VPS or a dedicated server is that your site will be less vulnerable to attacks initially aimed at other sites sharing your server.
The other key issue to consider when choosing a web host is whether the amount of bandwidth available to your site is flexible.
"Let's say you're a small business and you don't need a lot of bandwidth," said Rick Whittington, President of Rick Whittington Consulting in Richmond, Va. "Then, suddenly, you get featured on Oprah. You want to make sure that sudden increases in traffic don't keep people from being able to access your site."
Whittington also suggests that you make sure your web host offers nightly backups. This means that if you accidently lose or delete something from your site, your host has a backup copy available to you.
Whittington added that the hosting market is very competitive and that many services appear to be offering very similar products. Making sure that you look past the basics and read the fine print is essential.
- How to Create and Design Your Own Web Site
- How to Choose the Right Web Host for You
- Choosing a Business Site's Web Host
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