Web Hosting – what to look out

No two web hosting company is alike, though many are similar. When deciding on which web hosting company to make your web site, you may want to consider what you want out of the web hosting to provide. Price alone should not be the only factor in decided on a web hosting company. Reliability and good technical support should also be considered though this is difficult to judge until you start using the web hosting company. One way to find out their reliability is to look for web hosting reviews and comments left by other users. Reviews provide some insights to the reliability and features; as for comments left by users, usually I see mostly negative comments even for those web hosting companies that I was using and felt quite alright with it. Strange, hmmm…

When I was scouting around for a web hosting company, I had a few things in mind before deciding on the web hosting company, although price was a consideration, going too cheap would mean losing out on some of the features that I was looking at.

You may also want to consider the geographic location of the web hosting company. You could choose one that is located in your home country for easier communication when you need to call support. On the other hand, you may opt for web servers located further afield in other countries because they provide useful features not available elsewhere.

As there are so many features to consider, let’s have a brief run through of what to watch out for most of the time when choosing a web hosting company.


The web server

There are two main types of web server, the Windows version or the Linux/Apache version. Windows version tends to be more expensive, while Linux/Apache server is more affordable. Which one to choose? Unless you plan to set up web site that requires programming using Windows database coding like ASP, going for the Linux/Apache version would be the better choice not just because it is cheaper, but rather you could also use many good open source software that won’t cost you a dime to use. Linux/Apache servers are also more stable in comparison, though as far as maintenance of servers in question, we leave it to the hosting company to deal with it. We just concentrate on how to make your own web site.


Capacity

Price of hardware is coming down all the time. Many web hosting company could offer unlimited storage space and unlimited site transfer. It is very enticing. I still remember the first web hosting company that my company was using only offered something like 30 MB or so of storage space with very limited bandwidth site transfers. As the cost of hardware came down, the web hosting company offered more and more storage space and bandwidth transfer. Even if they offered 30 GB of storage and 300 GB bandwidth site transfer I still couldn’t finished using them up. In most case nowadays you don’t have to worry about not enough storage space and bandwidth transfer. I believe the web hosting companies knows that you can’t use that much anyway so why not just offer unlimited? However that still does not save you from web site traffic spikes. Web servers cannot cope with extremely high traffic volume and would result in crashed servers.


Multi-domain hosting / subdomains

Hosting several domains in one account is a good feature. It helps to save cost especially if you decided to set up more than one web site. Perhaps set up one for your family members, or set one up for a personal site and one for your business.

Subdomains are useful for separating sections of a web site or create shortcuts to areas of your web site. Most web hosting companies provide unlimited subdomains while some limit you to just a handful of subdomains.


Emails

Yes, emails are important especially for businesses. Look out for POP3/IMAP and webmail feature. Forwarders are useful too if you don’t plan to store messages in your hosting company. For example I forward any emails to Gmail for long term email storage. Who knows? You may switch hosting company and you might lose some important historical message that you may want to refer in future.


FTP access

All web hosting companies usually have this. It is the fastest way of uploading/downloading files to the web server.


Web file manager

This can be useful. Instead of using FTP program to upload files, you may want to use the web based file manager to upload/maintain files. One good feature to have is the compression/extraction build into their file manager. Not all web hosting file manager has this feature. Useful for uploading a large amount of files or installing open source software.


Script support

Very useful feature is the automatic installation of software scripts like WordPress for bloggin, Joomla for content management, phpBB for forum, etc. The automatic installation feature is usually called Fantastico or Simple Script. Very convenient for automatic installations/updating of your open source software.


MySQL database

Required if you plan to install software scripts like WordPress. The more the merrier, though most web hosting would provide about 5 – 10 SQL database per account.


Server side scripting

This is very useful for web site increased functionality. PHP, SSI, ASP are some of the current coding methods to use this feature. It is usually invisible to the visitors, however for webmaster, it is very useful to create a dynamic web site.


E-commerce features

Important if you plan to run an e-business web site. Look out for SSL and shopping cart features, though you still need to install the software on your own.


Backups

Yes, very important. Though you can’t rely 100% on the web hosting company for backing up your web site. You still need to do some other form of back up.

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