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Derek Chambers has some great advice on how to choose the right web host to meet your needs in his latest article:

Choosing A Web Host Company
by Derek Chambers of 1stChoiceWebHost

For the inexperienced, choosing the correct web host can seem a very daunting task and many important factors can easily be overlooked. Most people judge a web host by the amount of disk space offered, with the impression generally being that more space is always better. However, this is not an ideal way to choose a web host. It's important to remember that your website is an investment. You will therefore not want your site to be 'offline' more than it is 'online', due to unreliable hosting.

Before setting up my own hosting company, I had been faced with similar problems. I tried various reseller options but experienced seriously worrying unsatisfactory service from several hosting companies. This service failure affected my own business website and the sites of many clients. Eventually I made a considerable financial investment that gives me guaranteed control and reliability for running my own efficient servers.

Below is a check list that you should consider when choosing a website hosting company:

Verifiable Address

Does the hosting company you are considering using have a physical address that is listed on their website and is included in the WHOIS directory. Or are they hiding behind a PO Box number?

When interested in any business on the Web, always have a clear idea of the company you will be dealing with. This is particularly important with web hosting, as you can buy cheap and cheerful reseller packages. This makes it possible for virtually anyone to start a hosting business - with no knowledge, no equipment, etc. The hosting company can easily vanish overnight. This happened to me when I fist started out, after signing up with a company that used a PO Box number.

Make sure you have several points of contact for the company.

 

Hosting Platform & Compatibility

Make sure the web hosting company can provide the platform and software you need to host your web site. For example, if your site is programmed in ASP, choosing a Linux-only hosting company is NOT a good idea, given the cost of re-writing your code to make it compatible.

 

Uptime and Servers

This is probably one of the most important factors to look for in a good web host. Do they guarantee 99% or more uptime? Are their servers based in a secure Data Centre with 24/7 monitoring, or is it home-based using dynamic DNS? This consideration is crucially important as most home-based servers cannot maintain a high percentage uptime. They simply do not have the time, staff, or technical knowledge to achieve this.

Choose a web host that does not overload servers and provides adequate bandwidth.

 

Bandwidth

This key factor is usually overlooked until the bandwidth limit is reached and your site is suddenly not available. If you are planning to do a large amount of ftp or publish a site with several images or downloads, then your bandwidth will be a lot higher than a mainly text site, especially if content is seldom changed. Another important factor to consider when looking at bandwidth is the potential number of visitors to your website.

If your site sells a popular product (such as mobile telephones) and you advertise the site both online, maybe using Google ad words or other marketing campaigns, and offline displaying 'for our latest offers visit our website at www.anyname', you will find that your bandiwth is tight. The amount of bandwidth you should be looking at for maintaining a successful website is 1gb minimum.

Also check the web host's policy on your monthly bandwidth usage. If you use up the agreed bandwidth, will your site simply vanish? Or will you be offered the option to purchase extra bandwidth for that month at a reasonable fee? (Generally around £2 - £3 per gb.)

 

Website Hosting Features

When choosing a hosting package, be sure to check that it supports the features you will require to run your site properly. Features such as:

CGI (now standard with good hosting companies)
PHP (many new scripts and programs require PHP support and some hosts charge £10 - £15 extra for this per annum)
MySQL - some scripts require MySql database to run, especially shopping carts which also require PHP
FTP Access - strange as it may seem, some hosts do restrict FTP access, so check that the web host you are considering does not have any restrictions

 

Customer Service

Regardless of whether or not you are technically-minded, sooner or later you will probably need to contact your web host. Before signing up, it's worth sending them a test email to see how quickly they reply. (If at all)

Check their site to see if they have any testimonials available, as this will give some indication of their reputation - a good hosting company won't mind sharing testimonials.

 

Domain Name

Some hosting companies will charge extra to transfer domain names to and from their servers so this is always worth checking before you sign up. Although many hosting companies will register a domain on your behalf you should compare prices and ideally learn how to register a domain yourself, which is very easy to do and enables you to stay in complete control. In this way, if your hosting company ever goes out of business, you can change the nameservers to another host quickly and efficiently. You will be back on line in no time with very little damage. (This happened to me when starting out. I had no control over my domain, which was down for 10 days while Nominet sorted it out.)

 

Pricing - The last consideration

Some deals look good at first sight but if one feature that is important to your needs is missing, then that deal is no longer so good. Do your research and compare different companies. Pricing should be the last consideration as hosting prices can range from being very inexpensive to almost no upper limit.

In the web hosting world, the terms "no such thing as a free lunch" or "you pay for what you get" is highly applicable. Many free hosts will put banners or advertisements on your site, and sometimes the free service is very limited. The inexpensive hosting companies often put too many customers on each server resulting in lots of problems - slow performance to the point of site unavailability, security issues, slow transfer rates, etc. Network and system resources cost the hosting company money, which in some way has to be recovered. This is why free or very cheap hosting packages are renowned for providing slow servers and poor customer service.

Using the guidelines on this page will help you to find an affordable, efficient and dependable hosting company for your business or personal website.

Derek Chambers
http://www.1stchoicewebhost.co.uk


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