If you’re reading this, it’s likely you’ve created, or had created a stunningly beautiful website and are now wondering, “Where do I host it?” Hosting merely is where on the web you place the files you’ve created. After all, the real objective is to get people to look at your creation, and for that to happen, you need hosting. So here are a few things to look for in a web host.
How Much Storage Do They Give You?
Most small to medium websites won’t need over a few gigabytes of storage, probably not even that much. Still, you’ll want to take a good look at how much room is offered, just in case you eventually need it. Don’t get overly excited if you see the term “unlimited storage,” at least not until you thoroughly read the Terms of Service. In many cases, you have unlimited storage, unless your needs go over “normal site usage.” This likely won’t be an issue for most, but it’s something to be aware of when shopping around.
What About Bandwidth?
Pay close attention to bandwidth; some would say this is even more important than storage. Why? Simple when you think about it, each file, no matter its size counts toward your bandwidth when a user accesses it. Simple enough until you realize that each page of your site may have multiple elements, including graphics (sometimes video) and it can quickly add up. Once you reach your quota, one of two things will happen.
1. Your host may not allow further visitors, not a good idea, especially if you’re running advertising.
2. They’ll charge you for bandwidth over their limit.
In most instances, unless you run a popular website (in which case, good for you), bandwidth won’t likely be an issue but do keep an eye on it, and be sure you know how much bandwidth your plan allows.
Domains and Sub-Domains
Depending on your needs and goals, once you have one website up and running, hopefully generating income, you may start to think, why not do it again? That’s great thinking, but does that mean you need to sign up for and manage a second hosting account, then later maybe a third? No, not if your initial hosting plan allows additional domains and sub-domains. Make sure you research or ask the host you’re considering if they allow other domains and sub-domains.
Email Accounts and Features
Most, but not all, web hosts will offer email accounts for your domain. This is one more item on your checklist. You’ll want to find out how many email accounts you are allowed to set up, plus the various options for checking your email. For instance, is there a webmail interface? Are there multiple email clients to choose from? Very important, does it integrate easily with Google Apps (for the Gmail interface)? Are you limited to POP access only or is IMAP available?
NOTE: POP3 and IMAP are different ways (termed protocols) to access your email. While POP was the standard, in today’s environment, IMAP is considered the better option, particularly when accessing and syncing multiple devices.
A database, who needs a database? Well, many websites, even small ones use database integration, so it’s something to consider. For instance, if you plan on using WordPress (a popular content management system), it is database driven, though mostly unseen to the casual user. In most instances (like WordPress) this type of database uses MySQL, however, if you’re a power user, you may require PostgreSQL, Oracle, SQL Server, or another type. Be sure to check and remember, if the host you’re considering doesn’t advertise having a particular database, they probably don’t have it.
Program Support and Easy-Install
WordPress is famous for being easy to install, and indeed it is. The only thing easier is having One-Click install integrated on your host. With one click install, many of the more popular programs, i.e., WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Concrete5, and others. It’s not mandatory your host offer this, but it sure makes your web life that much easier. Be sure to ask and be sure it’s included in the package price; some hosts charge extra for this.
Mobile App or Website
This indeed isn’t critical (at least not yet), however having an app that lets you access your control panel and make adjustments to your hosting needs is a definite plus. Most hosts (as this is written) won’t have an app in place as yet, but it will become more and more popular in the future.
Unless you’re a brilliant programmer and have a strong background in server management, you’re going to need tech support at some point. And when you do need that help, you want a host that responds to your needs quickly and gives you a variety of ways to reach them. When considering a web host, look for…
- Phone Support
- Live Chat
- Knowledge Base
- Support Email
- Ticket System
The better your support, the better your overall hosting experience; don’t think only about price, consider the whole experience.
Shell access isn’t for everyone, but it’s nice to know it’s there if needed. If you use shell access that likely means you’re advanced and know what to look for. If you’re new to this, you’ll want to move slowly and working from the command line can save you a lot of time, but it can also cause a world of problems if you don’t know what you’re doing.
A .htaccess file is the configuration file that tells Apache what to do. This data can be used to redirect URLs, protect directories and a host of other things. Not every host, particularly with shared hosting, will allow the user to modify this file, so be sure to check
FACTOID: Apache is an “open source” web server that runs on most of UNIX based systems.
Cron is simply a time-based way to automate a task or schedule a job on your server. Some of the commands to implement cron can seem quite complicated (0 0 12 * * ?), but there is an easy mode when using Cpanel, which most hosts offer.
Here we’re not speaking of English, Spanish, Russian or any dominant world language, but computer languages. There are programs that depend on using a certain programming language (i.e., Ruby on Rails), make sure your host supports the language. PHP is a mainstay but don’t lock yourself into PHP if there are better options. This information should be easy to find on the host website you’re considering. If not, get in touch before signing up and ask.
Whether or not you choose to use Google Adwords can be a lengthy discussion, and beyond the scope of this article. However, if you think you might, some hosts offer free credits (usually $50) that can be used to fund your account. And free is always a good thing.
Catastrophic data loss can cripple a company, doubly so if they don’t have a current backup of their files. Most hosts (but not all) offer daily backups, which can genuinely save you should things, go wrong. While cloud hosting and cloud computing has helped prevent catastrophic data loss, not every host has implemented this functionality as yet. Be sure and check, this is a crucial decision.
Choice of OS
In a nutshell, if you’re running WordPress, you’ll want a Linus/Unix system. If you’re developing in ASP.NET, then Windows hosting is best. That’s an oversimplification, as there are (or should be)a workaround, but be sure to check which operating system you’re getting.
If you’re running a traditional website, WordPress (or a similar CMS) may be all you need, but itis good to have extras in case you need them. If you’re considering running a forum, doing e-commerce, utilizing a mailing list or bulletin board, having one-click installs for these programs is a real time saver.
Have you ever clicked a link, only to find the website was offline? A nuisance, unless it’s our website, then it could spell a disaster, particularly if we’re in the middle of an advertising campaign. Always read the reviews, check the stats and find out as much as you can concerning the up-time of your host. It’s somewhat standard to see claims of 99.9% uptime, but is it true? Do a Google search and read the reviews, that’s the right test.
There’s a lot to consider when choosing a web host, but it’s time well spent. A bit of due diligence on the front end can save you a ton of headaches down the line.