How To Choose A Good Web Host
Faced with a variety of local and international web host companies, you’re probably wondering: how do I choose a good web host?
To understand how to choose a good web host, it is also important for you to know why you need one. A web host provides you with web hosting services, which means it offers you server space so you can upload your website files and lets others access your website easily and quickly.
All files associated with your website will be hosted or placed at a particular web hosting provider’s server. Once you type a web address (for example, www.redboxhosting.com) into a browser, the web host displays your web pages. Most web hosts offer web hosting services to both businesses and individuals for a yearly fee. When you pay a web host to host your website, you are actually paying for the server space that is allocated to you.
With a web host, you don’t have to bother with the issue of maintaining your hosting infrastructure. The biggest benefit you get is that your web files are safe and secure.
When you’re shopping for a web host, look at these factors:
Quality is generally measured in “uptime.” It means your website should be accessible to visitors all the time. Theoretically, there should be no “downtime” – “downtime” means visitors cannot access your website. That said, most quality web hosts usually promise 99.9% uptime. However, don’t take the web host’s promise at face value. A good way to check would be asking its customers who have hosted their websites with the web host. How do you do this? Sometimes, the web host would publish customer testimonials (complete with the customer’s web address). Surf to these customers’ websites and contact them to find out about the web host’s quality of service.
Most web hosts compete with each other based on price. Again, the cheapest is not necessary the best. If the price is too cheap, there could be problems as the server may be overloaded with too many websites and data transfer could be slowed down. Aim for a reasonable price, one which is not too high nor too low. To do this, shop around and compare prices and features.
Some web hosts might offer you a low price and give you really bad service. Service is another aspect to consider when choosing a web host. How good is their service? One way to find out is to test them – see how fast they get back to you. The bottom line – you need a web host that offers quick turnaround times, is responsive to your needs and is easily contactable. This is crucial in the event you have a problem with your website or if you want to ask a question, you should be able to phone or email your hosting service provider. Most web hosts promise 24/7 tech or phone support which means you can phone or email them any time and they should get back to you as promised.
Besides the three criteria to look into, the following features are also another important determiner when you are shopping for a web host.
a. Disk space
Many customers would jump at the web host package with the most disk space for the least amount of money. Most web hosts give you anywhere from 20 MB to 100 MB of disk space. But disk space is relative to your needs. How much of disk space you need really depends on the size of your website and what you intend to do with it.
If you have a regular website of about 10 web pages, 20 MB of disk space is more than enough. If you have plans to run an e-commerce website (where people can shop at your website), you’ll need about 50 MB to 60 MB of disk space. A good web host would be able to advise you according to your needs. Again, the key is: ask around.
This refers to the amount of data (or normally called data transfer) that can be sent from the web host’s server to other computers through a particular connection in a certain amount of time. The greater the bandwidth, the more information it can carry and the faster visitors to your website are able to access information.
To estimate how much bandwidth you will need, do an approximation of the number of visitors per month to your website, the average number of web pages viewed per visitor and the average web page size (including text and graphics).
Let’s say your website will attract 10,000 visitors per month and an average webpage is about 10 KB, with each visitor visiting 3 web pages of your website, then you will be transferring (10,000 x 10 KB x 3 pages) an average of 300,000 KB or 0.3 Gigabyte (GB) per month. So if the data transfer or bandwidth allocated to you is 2 Gigabyte (GB), it should be sufficient. Web hosts usually give you a pre-set amount of bandwidth. If you exceed the bandwidth allocated to you by your web host, it is normally chargeable.
The minimum of bandwidth you need is about 1 GB. But you will always come across some web hosts who promise unlimited bandwidth. Remember, there is no such thing as unlimited bandwidth.
c. Email account feature
Most web hosts provide you email accounts with POP3 access. POP3 email accounts are useful because they allow you to access your email remotely using email managing software like Outlook. Also, ask the web host if they provide email forwarding. This is another helpful and common feature that allows you to create an email address without actually creating an account. Just say you have firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. Emails from both accounts will be re-directed to one main account. Do not pay for these common, basic features.
Other common features which you can ask about:
Does the web host provide autoresponders? (An autoresponder is an email account that can be configured to automatically send your pre-written message to people who email you). This is a great time-saver.
Does the web host support e-commerce initiatives when it is needed? If you believe you would like to sell online in the future, does the web host provide SSL (Secure Socket Layer) encryption for you? If you plan on selling anything directly from your web site, you’ll need secure server capabilities.
Does the web host offer unrestricted CGI-Bin? A CGI-Bin is a folder where all your interactive scripts are kept.
Plug-in PHP scripts such as forums, shopping cart, weblogs etc. are another handy resource to look for when shopping for a web host. When your web host offers these PHP scripts free, you won’t have to search and upload them to your website since these PHP scripts are readily available at your web host server. All you have to do is to select the script that you want and in a couple of clicks, it would be installed at your website.
Does your web host offer you a way to check your website statistics such as number of visitors, most popular pages, unique visitors and more information?
Does your web host allow free, unlimited FTP (File Transfer Protocol) access? You will need FTP to move a web file from your computer to the web server. Some web hosts do not offer this service so do ask your web host first.
What platform will you be using? PHP scripts and MySQL database run on UNIX-hosting while Active Server Pages run best on Windows-based hosting.
Does your web host provide an easy-to-use Control Panel? A Control Panel lets you log in to the web server and add your own items to your website. It’s really important as this gives you full control over your own website.
Is your web host flexible? Your web host should provide you lots of options, upgrades and scripts to ensure it can grow with your website. A good web host will ensure you get all these resources, either free or with the most minimal payment. Besides these resources, your web host should also offer an exclusive members’ area where you can get all the eBooks, articles and information to assist you online for free.
Some last words of advice: how to pick a good web host really comes down to what you need. It means asking yourself what type of website you want and what you want to do with it. A personal website has different needs from a full-fledged e-commerce website.
Copyright 2004. RedboxHosting.com
About the author: Nic Sim is the owner and founder of www.RedboxHosting.com – a Web company dedicated to helping YOU build a successful business online with its easy to use, no- fuss DIY Website Package. Visit www.redboxhosting.com/diy for more details.