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The EBiz Developer - March 2002 - Article Four

There are hundreds of firms queueing up to offer to host your website Ė but which is the right one? Web expert Derek Chambers takes a look.

Where to Spin the Right Web
by Derek Chambers of www.1stChoicepromotions.com

If you are planning to set up your own website, then one of the first things you will need to sort out is web hosting.

This is the company that will keep your site Ďliveí on its computers, connected to the World Wide Web 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in return for an annual fee.

Donít even think about trying to do it yourself Ė itís far too complex and expensive. For £100 a year or less, a host will keep it running while you do more important things.

That said, however, where you host your site is one of the most crucial decisions you will make, and can affect how your website is promoted and developed, as well as the experience your visitors enjoy. It goes without saying that cheapest is seldom the best.

Free hosting
You may well have heard of free web hosts such as www.geocities.com or Appleís iDisk Ė but while free web space is fine for a personal or family site, or Ďfor funí webmastering, it is not suitable for business.

A real business will not only require much more storage space, but ownership of a domain name such as www.mybusiness.co.uk.

Other disadvantages with free web hosts is that they are normally incredibly slow, search engines do not always list them and your visitors often get annoying pop-up windows when they land on your site.

Domain forwarding
This is where you own your own domain name, but traffic is forwarded to the free web space that came with your Internet Service Provider (ISP). On the surface this may look like a good option Ė but there are two main drawbacks. First of all, your ISP may not allow you to use your free space for business Ė many do not; and secondly, search engines do NOT see web-forwarding URLs, as they arenít physical.

Most web-forwarding URLS either use a refresh tag to take you to the page, which can get you banned by search engines, or use frames which search engines canít follow.

In some instances, the first frame also contains a banner for the hosting company.

Other problems that can occur are:

  • You donít usually have much control over the page title;

  • You donít have any control over the metatags (key words which help search engines find your site);

  • There is an intermediary link which slows down the loading of your site.

Budget hosting

This is where you pay around £5 per month for 100Mb of webspace, unlimited email aliases, full FTP (file transfer) access, and full technical support.

This can also look like an attractive choice, but you will often find that the hosts offering these budget prices simply cannot deliver on their promise. Low prices often mean overloaded servers and minimal modem access, leading to traffic bottlenecks. That means your site will take forever to load Ė and we all know that surfers donít linger at slow sites.

Budget sites also usually have poor staffing levels, so technical support will be either very hit and miss or charged at 50p per minute through a premium rate number.

The full service
This will cost you around £100 a year, for which you not only get the personal touch and the latest technology, but all the functionality you need to set up, service and grow your own website. Points to look for include:

  • The ability to host your domain name directly in your own webspace, to help get that important listing with search engines, among other benefits;

  • Full control over emails. You will probably want to set up email addresses such as info@, sales@, admin@ and have these forwarded to individual accounts each with their own mailbox (called POP3 accounts) for more security. Some budget hosts offer unlimited email accounts, but they all use the same mail box.

  • The option to set up autoresponders so that you can send automatic replies to customer inquiries;

  • If you are offering online shopping, you will want secure server facilities which offer adequate encrypting;

  • You will also probably want PHP so that you have a searchable database;

  • Reliable technical support; . Adequate webspace. This needs to be the sum of the total size of your files plus at least 10% for expansion. Donít forget to take into account image files;

  • The ability to run CGI scripts so that you can set up message boards, feedback forms and anything else that is interactive.

At the end of the day, you get what you pay for. If you are serious about getting a web presence (and you should be), itís not worth skimping .

Derek Chambers, 1st Choice Promotions
Telephone: 0870 740 2099


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