Finding The Hosting Company For You
One of the most important decisions that you need to make when you first set up your online business is who you will get to host it. You will also encounter this decision again as your business grows. It may seem a simple decision but there are literally thousands of hosting companies to choose from. Hopefully you will find this article will help make your decision a little easier.
The first step is to work out exactly what you need. The main issues are obviously the amount of disk space, the data transfer allowances, the number of e-mail addresses and price. Let me go through these one by one.
This is a bit of an unknown variable. The basics of it are that you need enough space to cover all of your web pages, graphics and scripts. Generally, each page will be about 15K in size so if you plan on having 1000 pages you would need 15MB of space. Add to this your graphics and scripts and you should have an idea.
The issue gets clouded somewhat if you are going to use databases such as MySQL because these will take up more space – often a lot more space. In addition, your sites log files are included in your disk space allowance. Your log files contain all of the information about each visitor to your site – things like ip address, browser, referrer, which pages they visited and so on. Log files is an area that catches a lot of people out because they can grow quite quickly if you start getting a lot of traffic to your site. Most hosting companies will trim your log files for you but it is something to keep in mind. My advice is to get as much disk space as you can afford.
Data is transferred from your site when people visit it. This is not a huge issue until a site becomes very popular because most hosting companies offer a 5GB data transfer figure each month which will be more than enough small to medium sized sites. If you are setting up a content based site (maybe to earn advertising revenue) then this becomes more of a concern as you site will hopefully get lots of visitors. It is quite easy to find a low priced host that offers over 20GB per month so this would be a good option.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind with this. Generally, hosting companies are referring to full POP3 accounts when they talk about E-mail accounts. This means that these are individual accounts that you and your employees can log into to collect e-mail. For a small business, you really don’t need to many because most hosting companies will give you unlimited re-directs. This means that you can set up one account and then have lots of other e-mail addresses that just re-direct to your main account. You will also be able to have a catch all account which will collect any e-mail sent to your domain and put it in your account. You can therefore run a business with one POP3 account and use as many other addresses as you like – they’ll all come to you. Keep in mind also that e-mail forwarding accounts can be set up to send e-mail to another address – maybe the e-mail address you have through your dial-up ISP. Overall, the number of e-mail accounts is not a huge issue – there are always ways around it.
Ever heard the expression “you get what you pay for”? Whilst not always true with web hosting companies, this can be used as a basic guide. Another thing that I believe to be very important is that if you are planning to make a living online, paying $50 per month should not be an issue. You don’t need to pay this much but you need to look at your motivation for setting up your site – this will tell you how much you want to spend. To start off, you should be able to get a good host for $20 per month or less – an excellent host may cost a few dollars more.
There are lots of other things that can come into play when it comes to making this decision. Do you want a Unix or Windows server? If you don’t know, go with Unix – it’s cheaper due to Windows 2000 being commercial software. Do you need MySQL, do you need e-mail autoresponders (most hosts offer these). Keep in mind that it is usually quite a simple process to upgrade your hosting package so you may be fine with just the basics. Also keep in mind that it is a lot harder to switch hosting companies later on so make sure the company you choose gives you the option to expand.
Now that you (hopefully) have an idea of what you require, you now need to find someone to host your site. This is the hard bit!
The web hosting industry is extremely competitive and is also very mindful of marketing. Therefore, almost all hosting companies run an affiliate program. This seriously clouds peoples judgement when it comes to recommending a host – they are doing it for the money. One of the biggest hosts in the world is recommended on thousands of sites across the web because of their affiliate program – most people seem to ignore the fact that they have become a bit of a joke in terms of customer service. In fact many sites run by people I respect still recommend this host – a host I have recently left due to almost non-existent customer service and their fondness for charging what appear to be made up amounts to my credit card (which they are still doing despite my requests to cancel the account). I can’t name this host here but if you are worried that you might sign up with them, send me an e-mail at mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org with a host name and I’ll tell you if it’s them or not.
So, you can’t take recommendations from sites on the web. Additionally, many hosting directories are notorious for the amount of influence that paying advertisers have on their recommendations (I have also been burnt by this in the past).
Here is what I believe you should do.
1. Contact owners of sites that you visit often and see if they will tell you who the host with – beware of a reply with an affiliate link. You can also do a Whois (http://www.netsol.com/cgi-bin/whois/whois) search for their domain name – the results will show the domain name servers for their site – see if these servers correspond to who they told you about. Please note, this is not a perfect system as some hosting companies use different names on their name servers but it’s a start.
2. Send an e-mail to the support staff at the hosting company you are thinking about. Ask a couple of questions about their service or about something to do with a requirement of your site. See how long it takes them to get back to you – in other words, test their support.
3. Go to a messageboard frequented by webmasters and ask about a particular host – SitePoint (http://www.sitepoint.com) have some good messageboards.
4. Look around the host’s site to see if they have a messageboard for their customers – you’ll get an idea of how their customers feel from this.
5. Ask me – e-mail me at mailto:email@example.com with a hosting company name and I’ll tell you if I’ve heard anything good or bad about them.
I hope this helps you out with choosing a host. By the way, we host with Hostony (http://www.hostony.com) – they are a relatively new company but we have had very few problems with them. I can’t recommend them too highly just yet because we haven’t been with them long enough but we are happy so far.
One last thing, make sure your host offers a money back guarantee – this is in no way a guide to whether they are a good or bad host (most companies offer this), it just means that you can get your money back if it proves to be a disaster.
Sean Burns is the author of the WebmastersReference.com Newsletter – http://www.webmastersreference.com/newsletter. More than five years of experience in site design, marketing, income generation, search engine optimisation and more is passed on to subscribers – hype free. Sign up today to get real information of real value to webmasters.