The cost of free web hosting

You probably know that you have a choice of either paying to have your web site hosted, or of choosing a free web hosting service.

Whilst free web hosting looks an attractive proposition to begin with, it is not generally something I could recommend, if you are looking to establish a serious business presence on the web. Having said that, I do run a couple of sites with free Web hosts!

The first thing to do, is to establish what you are giving the web host in return for them offering you a free site (even on the Internet, despite what some people claim, there is no such thing as a free lunch!).

The two sites I get hosted for free are in the UK with Service Providers who make a charge for the phone calls whenever I am connected to the net via them – and I can only upload to the sites through their connection. So that is what they are getting in return – the income from the cost of the phone call.

In their cases, there are no annoying pop-up windows, and no obtrusive advertising, so visitors to the sites do not know that they are hosted for free. The downside from my point of view, is that there are none of the features that I have available from my main site – e.g. email redirect, autoresponders, visitor information etc.

Most free web hosts rely on attracting advertising revenue and therefore they will either place a banner at the top of your page, use a small frame for their advertising on your site or your visitors will encounter an irritating pop-up widow every time they access your site. Also, you may find yourself with a long, unwieldy url – is this how you want your business to be seen?

What I would say, is ask yourself if you would deal with someone offering a similar service/ product as you are promoting, who was obviously using a free site. If you would, then fine, but if not, don’t expect anyone else to deal with you!

The other important question to ask yourself is how successful are these companies going to be in attracting advertising revenue – at the moment even Yahoo and Alta Vista are reporting large falls in their advertising revenues. If your free hosts are not making any money, they will soon be out of business, as many people hosting with HotYellow have recently discovered.

If a company is taking its revenue from people who are hosting their sites with them, they are going to make every effort to provide a top class service at competitive, but profitable, prices.

Free web hosting tips

Can you really get FREE web hosting?
Yes, there are hundreds of free hosts, as far as not having to pay any money. Generally they either cost you in time, hosting restrictions, or modifying your web pages by adding popups or other adverts. When looking for free web hosting (especially on search engines), you should beware that there are also a large number of commercial web hosts that claim to offer free hosting, but those have a catch, such as paying an excessive amount for a domain name or other service, and therefore aren’t really free.

How do the free web hosts make money?
The free hosts often make money in other ways, such as putting banners, popups, or popunders on your site. Some free hosting companies do not put ads on your site, but require you as the webmaster to click on banners in their control panel or signup process, or just display banners in the file manager in hopes you will click them. Some lure visitors with free hosting in hopes you will upgrade and pay for advanced features. A few send you occasional emails with ads, or may even sell your email address.

Are free web hosts reliable?
Generally no, although there may be a few exceptions. If the host is making money from banner ads or other revenue sources directly from the free hosting, then they likely will stay in business, provided someone doesn’t abuse their hosting with spam, hacking, etc., as often happens to new free web hosting companies with liberal signup policies. If the host accepts just anyone, especially with an automated instant activation and it offers features such as PHP or CGI, then some users invariably try to find ways to abuse it which can cause the host to have a lot of downtime or the server to be slow. It is best if you choose a very selective free host which only accepts quality sites (assuming you have one).

What do you need in a web host?

So, you have decided that you need to get online. People want to get a website for many reasons these days, be it to start a business, move a existing business online or simply just put up a personal web page. But, all these reasons have two things in common, you have to know what you need and find a company that will provide it for you. With this broad overview, we will shed some light about discovering what your needs are, then how to locate a web hosting provider that will not only meet those needs, but in the long run grow with you.Your needs are essential in determining the kind of hosting provider you will choose. Web Hosting comes in many varied sizes, prices, options and flavors. The way to make the best choice is to shop for the features and services that you require, this way you only are paying for what you need.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

What kind of features will you have on your website?

Start by thinking about what kinds of functionality you will need. Will you have a database of any kind running? (Some of the applications that require a database are: guest books, shopping carts, forms and forums). If so, who will be programming and installing it? Most web hosting providers have pre-installed scripts and applications that they will let you use as well, but they may be too simple and not meet your needs.

Any application you use is written in a scripting language and often connects to a database. If you are using PHP and a mySQL or PostgreSQL database, then you should look for a UNIX host. Unix type hosts include Unix, FreeBSD, Linux and some others. If you are using ASP and a MSSQL database then you know you will need to locate a Windows hosting provider.

What will you traffic needs be in six to twelve months?

The type of site you have and features impact the answer to this question. Every image, page and access to a database utilize bandwidth. Web hosting providers these days provide anywhere from one Gigabyte of traffic up to thousands of gigs of bandwidth. Bandwidth costs money. If you exceed your bandwidth you will either have to pay for more or face being shut off.If you are running a personal web page this is not going to be a huge impact on your decision. But, if you are doing business on the web it most definitely will. One way to discover this is by looking at how popular the subject of your site is. Take a look at http://www.wordtracker.com and see how many searches are made on key terms in your industry or look at the Alexa rank of sites that are similar to what you will be building.With bandwidth more is always better. A hosting company that owns their data center usually has more control over their bandwidth available, but if you do not need it, why pay for it?

OK, so now I know some of what I need, now what?

Even with all the consolidation of hosting companies, there are still thousands of companies to choose from. Each one has different features to choose from and provides different levels of services, some you may have never even of heard of. After you have discovered WHY you need web hosting you will be able to sort through these companies just a little bit easier. So, here is some of the HOW.

Search Engines

Try looking through http://www.google.com , http://www.yahoo.com and http://www.overture.com . These search engines will provide you with search results based upon the feature you are looking for. Say you know you need a UNIX host that provides a Miva shopping cart. Visit the search engines and type in “UNIX Hosting Miva” and make a record sheet of your results. Search engines also have advertisements to the right and top of the results pages, look for consistency in the ads and this will tell you at least who some of the larger web hosting providers are. (even though larger is not always better)

Web Hosting Directories

Web Hosting directories are sites that focus almost exclusively on information about web hosting companies. You will be able to find reviews, articles, forums and usually a database to search on hosting company plans or look at web hosting showcases. Some of these directories are in it 100% for the money, and some are there to really help you make a decision about hosts. Either way there is a excellent source of data for researching what company will fit your needs. Search the plans, read the forums and visit the showcases. You will start to see a pattern emerge again on who the major players are in the industry. But, in the directories you will also find quite a few who are not huge, but provide exactly what you need with even better customer service. Finding a hosting directory is easy too. Again, visit the search engines and type in “Web Hosting Directory” of “Hosting Directory” and you will get many results. Visit the top 10 or so and you will find a few that really appeal to you. Not only will they help you finding a host but most directories link to other hosting directories as well.

So what questions should I ask a hosting provider I am considering?

Hopefully at this time you have made a spreadsheet of companies you are considering or some kind of record. Call or email each of these companies and ask them the same questions. Be sure to mention where you found them and record their answers along with how long it takes them to respond to you. Here are some questions to get you started:

Do you own your data center?
How many years in business?

Do you have some references?

Do I have a dedicated sales person?

How easy is it to upgrade or downgrade my service?

Do you have a money back guarantee?
Is there an uptime guarantee? Am I compensated for excessive downtime?
How frequently do you backup web sites and do you backup databases?
Do you offer redundant backbone connections? Or allow multiple DNS server entries?
What are the hours of technical support? Do your outsource support or have your own staff?
What happens if I exceed my bandwidth?
What pre-installed scripts do you provide for UNIX and Windows?
What will my costs be for more bandwidth?
Do you offer Unlimited Bandwidth and what does that exactly mean?
Can I move my website easily to a new host?

Getting your small business online

As people become comfortable being on the Internet, businesses are expected to be online or have some sort of web presence be it simple email or a complete web store. If you’ve decided to take your business online, you need to know how. We’ll show you how over the next installments of this three part series. Expect to be educated about:

Part 1 – Planning Stage
– Domain Names
Part 2 – Developing Your Website
– Managing and Maintaining Your Website
Part 3 – Promoting Your Website

Let’s get started!

Part 1
Planning Stage
As starting any business endeavor, you need to plan. One of the most important issues to review is your reason.

Why are you getting online?
The public may want you to be online, but what precisely do they expect? “Getting online” is a very loose term. Do they want the option to contact you via email, do they want to be able to research your product at their convenience before purchasing, do they want to settle their accounts online, or do they want to buy online? Also ask yourself what you want to achieve. Each results in different types of online presence.

There are many types of websites. Most websites fall into these categories:

Web storeBrochure ware
Customer service
Let’s look at each in detail.

Web Store
This is probably the most well known form of online presence. For example, Handango.com a web store selling mostly software for personal digital assistants or PDA’s such as Palm and Pocket PC was from day one a business run entirely online in the form of a web store. All its operations, from product catalog to purchasing are conducted through their website. Web stores are very exciting. You get to reach customers your store can’t, you get to give your customers flexibility of ordering at their convenience, you can also get a piece of the growing e-commerce pie and more.

This is sounds like a very attractive proposition for any business but keep in mind, if you have a physical store, your web store should be considered as a separate profit center. Maintaining, promoting and running a web store requires many man-hours and certain amount of specialty knowledge. Very likely a small percentage of your existing customers will shop online. They know you and are comfortable with your physical setting. The web store would be an added convenience rather than main shopping venue for them especially if you allow in store pickup.

On the other hand, you’re likely to attract a new set of customers such as those out of town or state. They might also have different income or education levels compared to existing customers who’ll respond to different marketing techniques.

Once you decide on a web store, you’ll need to figure out the operations.

Merchant Account — Does your existing account allow for online payment processing?Order processing — A suitable shopping cart although this can be further discussed when developing the websiteOrder fulfillment — Where do you route the order? Who packs and ships it assuming you have a physical product. How do you track order status?Delivery — If a physical product, which shipping company should you choose? Should you enter into a contract or pay as you go? Should you have more than one company? Determine your shipping costs but don’t forget packaging costs too. If electronically delivered product, do you email or provide a download link? How would you minimize piracy? Should you have a unique key per customer?
Customer Support — Most online buyers expect to have some way to track their orders. How would you handle pre and post sale questions? Live chat, toll free number, email or help desk? Regardless of which you choose, effort must be made to respond quickly. Purchasing online by itself is a very impersonal process. Imagine how neglected a customer might feel if they’re made to hold or use automated response when they call. This is of utmost importance if your sole sales channel is done online.
Brochure Ware
Ford.com (http://ford.com/en/default.htm) is a type of brochure ware website. They don’t sell directly on online but fill it with information to educate buyers and help find a suitable dealer. The website also serves investors, job seekers, press or anyone interested in the company. This is very typical of companies who sell their products through franchisees, agents or dealers.

On first impression, brochure ware sites do not seem to be a powerful reason to be online. That was true of many early websites. However businesses are realizing the Internet is a fairly inexpensive way to educate customers. Buyers also like the feeling of first hand contact with the manufacturer especially if the product is of significant value like a car.

More websites are also beginning to utilize their website as an outlet to gain feedback, announce jobs, post press releases, give investors up to date information and even as a marketing channel. Consider M&M’s (http://www.mms.com/us/bw/). While they do have a web store, their main website has a lot of marketing/advertising related activity such as games, e-cards, wall papers, screensavers all around their latest commercial, a clever way to increase an advertising campaign’s effectiveness.

Customer Service
These are websites that exist as a contact point for your customer. Typically utility companies and software developers have such a website. These websites offer the customer a convenient way to review their account, pay their bills, and ask for help or request a quote.

In most cases, a website will have a combination of these elements. Usually, the main reason for a company to be online determines the website’s theme.

After considering your reasons and responsibilities, you are ready to assemble the parts and start getting your website off the ground.

Domain name

Your domain name is like your online address. Domain names need to be registered through an ICANN accredited registrar such as GoDaddy.com (http://godaddy.com). Domain names cost anything from $8.95 and up, depending who you register with.

How should you choose your domain name? Typically, businesses use their company name; example Microsoft.com that+ instantly identifies the business. Sometimes, your product or brand name is more prominent than your business name so you’ll want to use the brand name. Or you could register it all. It could pay to register more than one domain name and routing them all to a single website. Doing this will ensure that you get maximum exposure and coverage, making it easy for your market to locate you online with a name that they best remember about your business.

Some experts advise to register a keyword rich domain name. This means a domain name that is composed of likely words someone might use when searching for a product similar to yours. For example if you sell work boots, steel-toe-boots.com is a keyword rich domain. The idea is, search engines are more likely to pick up and position your website fairly high in a search. However, search engine technology is focusing more on website content. We’ll cover more about search engine positioning later.

Domain names are universal, meaning anyone in the world can register a name and it is first come, first serve. Many common English words and terms have long been registered. Often, you’ll find the domain of choice is already taken. If so, you’ll have to modify or rethink your name. You could try to approach the existing owner of the domain to see if they’ll sell it to you. This is however unlikely if the domain is a highly desired one or is home to an active website.

Another alternative is to look for expired domain names. These are names that have previously been registered but been ‘released’ either due to closing of the website or failure to renew on time. Some believe if you find a popular existing domain name, you would jumpstart the hits to your website. Sometimes you’ll find gems among expired names but you’ll have to exercise caution particularly if the domain is a misspelling or very close to a copyrighted name. A good place to search for expired names is DeletedDomains.com (http://www.deleteddomains.com).

Web Hosting
Just like your business needs a premise to operate from, your website needs to reside on a web server. There are numerous companies who rent out computer space to businesses and individuals to serve web pages therefore known as web hosts. They provide and maintain the hardware and software to run and present your website online. You can also host your website from your own computers however there is extensive cost involved and rarely do small businesses benefit from doing so, especially if the website is new.

Many designers offer web hosting as a package. Remember, if you decide to change designers or bring it in house, you’ll have to rely on the designer’s good faith to access your website files while you move your website. Though not always a problem, moving web hosts can be stressful. Be sure to read our exclusive on changing web hosts (http://www.hostvoice.net/?art-move) and our article, “Don’t Make These Hosting Mistakes!” (http://www.hostvoice.net/?art-mistakes).

Finally, when ready to purchase web-hosting plans, you can quickly obtain quotes from several web hosts using HostVoice (http://hostvoice.net) free, interactive service. It works simply by submitting a quick one-page questionnaire about your hosting needs and budget. This information will be channeled to the appropriate web hosts who will then contact you with a quote. You get to decide which company is best for you.

10 helpful tips to follow when switching web hosts

You’ve made your decision to move from your website from your current web host to a new web host. The following tips will help you make the transition easier and make you aware of some potential pitfalls to avoid.

1) Make sure the new web hosting plan you’ve chosen offers you the storage capabilities to handle all of your current website storage requirements. If your website is 50MB, you need to make sure your new hosting plan offers that much space, or more. If you’re not sure how much space your website is using, ask your current host. You can also usually find this information on your web hosting control panel.

2) How does your current web host determine what your storage amount is used for? Find out what your current and new host includes in your plan’s storage amount. Are your emails and log files counted towards your total storage, or just your web files?

3) What operating system does your current hosting plan use? Windows or Unix? Sometimes this can make no difference, in other cases it can make the difference between a working website and a broken website. If your site is currently on a Windows server and your website uses ASP scripting, you’ll find it difficult to make things work well on a Unix server, as ASP is a Windows based programming language. Find out ahead of time whether your current hosting plan is on a Unix or Windows server.

4) Does your site currently use FrontPage? Find out if your new host supports FrontPage. And make sure your new host supports the same version of FrontPage you currently use.

5) Find out if your new hosting plan offers you the same amount of bandwidth that your current host offers. You don’t want to be surprised by unexpected overage charges at the end of the month.

6) Does your new web hosting plan give you the same amount of email accounts, autoresponders and mail forwards that you currently use?

7) Does your site use a shopping cart that your current hosting plan provides? Can you move the cart to your new host? If not, does your new host have a suitable shopping cart replacement?

8) If you are using any scripts on your website, make sure that your new hosting plan supports all of your scripts. Find out in advance if you’ll need to make any modifications to your scripts to get them working on the new server.

9) Make sure to set up your existing email accounts on your new server before transferring your domain name to the new server. At MateMedia (www.matemediainc.com) we see this overlooked quite often.

10) Do you know how to upload your website files to the new server? If you don’t, you’ll need to find out if your new web host will upload your files for you. Some hosts will do this at no charge, some will do it for a fee, yet other hosts won’t do it all because of liability issues.

Once all your files are uploaded to the new server, you’ll want to double check that the site looks and functions properly on the new server. Most hosts can provide a preview link for you to see how your site looks before the domain name is transferred over. If your host does not provide a method for you to preview your site, you can modify your hosts file to preview your site. The host file tells your computer where to go to look for sites that are listed in that file. This works with any version of Windows. The file name is the same, the location can change. Here’s how to modify your hosts file:

The file HOSTS should be in the c:windowssystem32driversetc You might only find a file named HOSTS.SAM (as in SAMPLE). That is OK; we can modify the HOSTS.SAM file as well and do a SAVE AS HOSTS.

In either case, double click on the HOSTS file to open it. You will be prompted by Windows to select an Application (Program) to use to VIEW the file.

Scroll the list and select Notepad. Click the OK button. The NOTEPAD program will now open, displaying the file HOSTS. You will see examples listed (The # symbol is used to comment out line or remarks.), the format is this. IP address (xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx SPACE name)
So, to tell your computer that www.yourwebsite.com is at the address (replace with your real IP) 12.345.678.90 add the following entry to the bottom of the hosts file:
12.345.678.90 www.yourdomain.com (As in the example).

Click on FILE, slide down and click on SAVE AS.

In the Save As Type field, select ALL FILES. (Ensure that no .SAM is shown after the filename HOSTS. Click SAVE. You may be warned that the file already exists; this is fine, click YES.

Close Notepad, by clicking on FILE, slide down to EXIT, and click.
Now when you open your web browser, or try to ping the site, your system will go to the IP address you typed in the HOSTS file.

Remember to undo this when finished testing or your machine will always want to go to that IP address whenever you want to go to that site.

After you’re satisfied that your site looks ok and functions ok, you can go to your registrar (the company where your domain name is registered) and modify the nameservers associated with your domain name to your new web host’s nameservers. If you don’t know your new host’s nameservers, ask them. Most hosts have that information listed somewhere on their website or in the email you first get after signing up for an account.

Once the dns modification is completed it’ll be 24-48 hours before you’ll see your site on the new server.

How to reduce web hosting bandwidth

You just received a higher than normal monthly bill on your credit card for web hosting. Your hosting company explains that you exceeded your monthly minimum for “bandwidth usage” and suggests reducing the size of your web site files.

What is bandwidth usage?
What does bandwidth mean?
How much bandwidth do you need?
How can you reduce bandwidth usage?

Let’s discuss each of these topics in more depth.

What is “bandwidth usage?”

This refers to the total amount of information that has been served to your web site visitors each month. Every file on your Web Site has a specific size (e.g. 22K). Every time a visitor downloads that file, your bandwidth usage goes up by that amount.

The larger the file, the higher the bandwidth usage when it is downloaded. The more traffic to your site, the more bandwidth you will use.

What does “bandwidth” mean?
Bandwidth refers to the amount of data that can be transmitted in a fixed amount of time. The “data transfer rate” is the speed with which data can be transmitted from one device to another. Data rates are often measured in megabits (million bits) or megabytes (million bytes) per second. These are usually abbreviated as Mbps and Mbps, respectively.

Bits and Bytes
8 bits = 1 byte.
1,024 bytes = 1 kilobyte (Kb).
1,024 kilobytes (Kb) = 1 megabyte (mb or meg)
1,024 megabytes = 1 gigabyte (gb or gig)

How much bandwidth do I need?
To determine how much bandwidth you need, estimate the file size of each web page, and then multiply it by the number of pages on your web site.
Multiply this figure by the number of the number of page views you expect per month from your site.

For example, if your web page consists of two 15Kb images and 3Kb of html, you would have 33Kb of data for that page. Now multiply this by the number of page views you expect to have per month (e.g. 100,000 per month). This would mean 3.3Gb of data needs to be transferred per month for that page.

Now recalculate this number for each page, and you’ll know approximately how much bandwidth your entire site requires.

How can you reduce bandwidth usage?
The easy way is to reduce the size of the files on your site, particularly images and other graphics. For example, you have a large image (i.e. 200KB) on your web page that is downloaded by each visitor every time the page is requested. If you reduce this image to 20KB or remove it altogether, it will dramatically cut your bandwidth usage. It will also speed up your site’s performance.

How to host several websites under one account

If you operate several websites, each with its own domain name, signing up of separate hosting accounts can be an expensive proposition. Even if your hosting company offers the add-on domain feature (which will allow you to add different domains to the same hosting account) you will be charged a monthly fee for each domain you add, sometimes costing almost the same as your full hosting fee.

The solution is to open a reseller account. Reseller accounts were created to allow web designers to offer hosting services to their customers, to create a one-stop-shop for all their web design and hosting needs. However, you don’t need to be a reseller to buy a reseller hosting plan.

Reseller accounts are usually slightly more expensive than regular hosting accounts, but they will allow you to host different domain names without incurring in the add-on domain fees, making more efficient use of your space and bandwidth.

You want to choose a reseller account that offers:

-no limit to the number of domains you can add.

-the possibility of hosting your main website free, without using any of the space and bandwidth in your hosting plan. If you are a reseller, your main website will be your business website, and the space and bandwidth will be reserved for your customers. If you are not a reseller and just want to manage different websites, you can designate one of your domains as your main website (usually the largest and/or most popular, since you won’t accrue any space or bandwidth for it).

-the possibility of upgrading to another plan without any penalties or fees.

To find out how much space and bandwidth you will need, first determine how many sites you are likely to host, how many pages each site may have, and how many visits will those sites most likely have. If you plan to host 10 sites with 20 pages each, at an average of 50KB per page and 100 page views per site per day, you will need 10MB of space (10 x 20 x 50KB) and 1.5GB of bandwidth per month (10 x 100 x 50KB x 30).

As far as pricing is concerned, there are reseller accounts costing as little as $10 / month up to several hundreds (or even thousands). It all depends on your requirements and the hosting company you choose, so shop around to get the best possible deal in terms of cost and reliability.

9 questions you should ask your web hosting company

1. How often do you back up the files?

The answer you should be looking for is that they backup every night. You should also keep a up to date copy of your site on your computer to be on the safe side.

2. What sort of equipment and software are in place to ensure that my site is up?

Most Internet Hosting Companies use some combination of equipment and software to ensure that the servers are up and working. You want to make sure that the server is hooked up to an UPS (uninterrupted Power Supply). The UPS is just a big battery that will provide the server with power for 30 minutes to several hours. Also most Hosting Companies have software and equipment that monitors the servers and restarts them if they quit serving pages. You will also want to know if this fails, does the company have a way to restart the server manually.

3. How many domains can I host per account?

If you have 2 domain names, say joestools.com and cooltools.com, and wanted them to both go to the same site, would they charge you extra for the domain names or since it all goes to one site will you be charged just for one. If you plan on hosing several sites to see which ones will be successful, you might want to ask for a volume discount or ask if they have a reseller package.

4. What are their billing policies?

You need to find out who to contact if you have a problem with billing and what is the process for resolving problems.

5. What is the procedure for uploading files to your account?

You want to know if you will have 24 hour FTP access. Some hosting companies restrict how you can upload files to the servers.

6. Do they provide log files or Stats?

Hosting companies usually do one or the other, either provide you with the raw logs for you account or provide you with some sort of online statistics. You will want to make sure that the logs contain information from search engines on the words and phrases used, how long the visitor stayed at the site, entry page, number of page visits, broken links and errors, and exit page.

7. Do they provide Form to email processing?

Nearly every hosting company will provide atleast a basic form of this. You will want to know if there are any limitations on the size of the form. Also you might want to ask if there is a way to encrypt the form. If so you could use this for an ecommerce solution until you are ready for a shopping cart.

8. What exactly is included in the monthly charge?

You want to know what the features of the account are, but you also want to know if you need them to do something extra whether there will be a charge for it.

9. How quickly they respond when you have questions?

Before choosing a hosting company call them up or email them with a question and see how quickly they have an answer for you.

Choosing the right hosting service for your website

Explosive growth in use of information systems and the Internet for all manner of business applications has made provision of proper web hosting services. Whether novice or expert, you can find some useful information in this article to learn about some of the considerations to look at when you choose a web hosting service.

The cost of hosting services that you can find on the net varies a lot. Options like disk space, bandwidth allowance, control panel and operating system in a hosting account determines the price that you have to pay. First, to start finding a host for your site, you need to determine your requirements for your site. For the sake of the beginners, I will consider shared and dedicated hosting only.

1) Size, scalability and disk space.

Will your website and content grow from time to time or you just need to publish a set of content that will expire after some time?

> A corporate site with less than 20 web pages, a disk space of less than 40MB should be enough.
> If you want to start a site about a certain topic or industry, consider getting a hosting account with at least 60MB disk space for a start.
> If you intend to publish a site with a lot of pictures or mp3 for users to download or purchase, consider a 100MB disk space hosting account.
> For personal sites, consider a 30MB MB disk space hosting account.
> If you are in charge of an enterprise that needs to publish a lot of information and offer intranet system and public services, consider a dedicated server instead.

These days, many hosting providers offer hosting services that exceed the disk space requirement standard for any given websites. Although more is better, it is not always necessary. Disk space can be purchased from time to time if it is not sufficient. So choose a hosting account appropriately depending on how much space you will need.

Secondly, consider hosting providers that can support the growth of your website and business, so that you can scale your website affordably. Ask about the companies’ application, network, disk space cost, facilities and the solution they can offer as your site grows.

The features of a hosting account has a lot to do with what you can do for your site. It is of utmost importance to find a host that matches your skills and interest. Let’s go step by step!

2) Platform and hardware requirements.

The most popular web server nowadays runs on Windows 2000, Apache, Cobalt or Linux®. The design goals of both Unix®/Linux® and Windows are very similar in nature. These operating system are portability, extensibility, and an ability to run on various different computers, whether they are desktop PCs or departmental servers. Your choice of operating system will classify the service and type of software that you can deploy and the kind of applications that your site can run on.

Windows NT® or Windows 2000 servers are configured to be compatible with Microsoft® applications, such as FrontPage, Access and MS SQL. NT/Windows 2000 servers also offer programming environments such as Active Server Pages (ASP), Visual Basic Scripts, MS Index Server and Cold Fusion. So if you are familiar with Microsoft®’s Internet Technologies, consider Windows NT® or Windows 2000 hosting services. Also, consider the speed of the processor and the amount of RAM (memory) that is installed on the server. Compare and choose the hosting provider that can offer you high processor speed and bigger amount of RAM (memory) at a reasonable price.

The Unix® platform offers tried and tested stability and the speed for enterprise level e-business. Linux® should also be mentioned when talking about Unix®. Many people do not realize that Linux® falls under the realm of Unix®. This is because Linux® is actually a Unix® derivative. Unix® or Linux® hosting often comes with telnet access, mySQL database, Perl, PHP and CGI support. If you are familiar with Unix® file naming, PERL or PHP applications, consider a Unix® or Linux® hosting account.

If you are not familiar with any of these operating systems, and if you prefer an easy to use platform, consider a Windows 2000 hosting account. If you are looking forward to learning the Perl programming language or if reliability or stability is a concern, consider an Unix® or Linux® hosting account.

Whichever platform that you choose, determine your goals for your site and find out the requirements to run your site. Based on your needs, determine the compatibility of the application or programming language that you need to use. Once you have all these in mind, you can safely and easily decide which platform is most suitable for your need.

3) Email Accounts.

Look for email accounts with web based access as well as POP3. The best ones are those with administrator control. Generally, you should have at least 5 email accounts for 3 users. Depending on the number users that have in your organization, you should have least 2 to 5 standby email accounts. Some hosting providers offer unlimited email accounts as well. Features like auto responders, email aliases and email forwarding is very common nowadays.

4) Software and services.

Web hosting in the open Internet market today is very competitive. A good hosting provider will offer speedy internet connection, proper security measures, featured rich hosting, and reliable server uptime. There are over a 100 types of features that a host can offer. Look for only what you need. Some of the most widely offered features include.

a) Database

Determine your requirements and decide if database is required. If you need to store a lot of records or transactions, a database can be very helpful. MS Access, mySQL and MS SQL Server are some of the most widely used database on the internet. If you are decide a Unix® or Linux® hosting is your preferred choice, mySQL suits perfectly for your site. Alternatively, if a Windows 2000 server hosting is your option, you have the choice of either a MS Access or a MS SQL server.

b) Scripting language

If you think Microsoft® Active Server Pages can’t be used in Linux® or Unix®, you are wrong. With more and more new and advanced technologies coming up to support cross platform, virtually all popular scripting languages can be used on either Windows 2000 and Unix®. Nevertheless, it is advisable that you still stick to the platform and scripting language that you know best. If Perl, Cgi, Php and mySQL are your favorite scripting languages and tools, stick to Linux® or Unix®. Find the host that supports the latest version. Insist that they inform you so that you maximize the latest web technologies for the fee that you pay.

c) Microsoft® FrontPage Support

This configuration allows you to use Microsoft® FrontPage to design, create and manage your website.

d) FTP Accounts

This is by default the standard method of uploading and downloading files from your computer to your site.

e) Raw Log Access

Often you don’t need raw log. Each log size is very big and it is very hard to interpret it into useful information. Instead insist the host provider offer web statistics software for your site so that you can harness the detailed analytics buried deep within gigabytes of raw log and provide you the insights you need to market your site successfully.

f) Control Panel

Control Panel is a service provided by the host to help manage your web hosting account efficiently. This a is very useful tool that you need when you want things to be done quickly and dynamically. Check out this feature when you are looking for a host to sign up with

g) Ecommerce Options

If you want to sell a service or product online, you need to find a hosting provider that offers a selection of ecommerce features and payment processing services. Shopping cart, SSL security certificate and credit card merchant providers are some of the options you need to consider. Currently, the easiest and most widely used ecommerce system is Miva® Merchant. Look for a host that supports this. Other shopping cart systems are also available and some hosting providers offer this feature for free as part of the hosting plan.

h) Components

Many scripting languages require third party extensions or additional extension to develop cutting-edge web technologies. Some of these components are available at an additional cost. View carefully and ask if required whether the hosting company provides the components that you need.

For example, if want to develop a site using Microsoft® Active Server Pages, you may want to know if the host provides additional third party components like SAFileup, ASPMail, and BrowserHawk.

5) Speed

Web users do not tolerate slow websites, and to a certain extent, you can avoid the problem by choosing a hosting provider that is committed to supply high speed connection and redundant lines to ensure your site remains responsive and that your data moves quickly even if your primary Internet connections are temporarily unavailable.

Although the speed of a site can be caused by various and complicated problem areas, ranging from routing, web server set up, and local area networks, the main and major concern of how fast your site is depends very much on the types of network connections. The general types of network connections that a hosting provider often provides are given below.

Many hosting providers still connect to the Internet through T1, or T3 connections, although there has been an increase of hosting services using OC (Optical Carrier) lines.

A T1 line will offer data transfer rate of 1.5 Mbps (megabits per second), while a T3 line can supply data transfer rates of 43Mbps. Ultra-High Speed OC3 and OC12 lines offers 155Mbps and 622Mbps respectively. Some hosting providers have connections to major internet backbones at the speed of OC48 (2488Mbps).

Thus, consider finding a host that provides reasonable internet connections. You can do a speed test to determine the average response time from a hosting provider’s site to your computer. Ping displays a report that includes the time it takes to receive a control packet from the remote host. High values of packet loss and response time indicate low connection performances, while low response time often means more reliable and faster connection. Please take note that the user’s experience of response time is not limited to server’s connection, but the throughput of the web server, the Internet itself, and user’s connection.

6) Bandwidth.

Bandwidth is the amount of files and data that you can transfer per month. The standard allowance you get is 1 gigabyte of bandwidth per month. Every time a visitor views your site they are downloading files from your site, this uses your bandwidth. If you have a page that is 30kb in size including images and 10 people view that page you would have used 300kilobytes of bandwidth.(1 gigabyte = approximately 1,000,000 kilobytes)

When choosing a hosting provider, the amount of bandwidth you have can be crucial to the success of your site. Generally speaking, the more bandwidth you have, the more traffic your site will be able to handle at one time. Consider finding a host that provides at least 2.5GB of monthly bandwidth allowance. If your site acts as a portal for web users to find information, consider 6GB of monthly bandwidth allowance for a start. Some hosting providers offer unlimited bandwidth. We suggest that you read its Terms of Use before signing up.

7) Reliability and Scalability.

Choose a provider offering a guarantee that your Website will be open for business at least 99% of the time. Excellent Web hosting providers can offer this guarantee because they have invested in the best automatic monitoring equipment, hired experienced engineers who can anticipate problems and emergencies, and installed redundant back-up systems to take over the moment anything goes wrong.

8) Support.

Maintaining and running a web hosting company is not easy. In fact, finding highly experienced web technicians to respond and support inquiries 24 hours and 7 days a week is even harder. Because successful implementation of a web hosting company often depends on how the management team executes its plan, policies, and goals, you can easily test if the web hosting company will respond to you quickly by asking them questions through email a few times.

There are a few things you can do to find a host with good technical support.

Find out if the company provides online knowledgebase and FAQ support. Check if the system is frequently updated and used. Online knowledgebase and FAQ are very handy tools when you have trouble with your website at anytime.

Find out if a control panel is available for your site. Control Panel allows you to change and manage your hosting account remotely at anytime without any support intervention.

Find out the company’s current status and how many years the company has been operating. Hosting providers that do not determine the needs of their customers have ceased or will eventually cease operations in this industry, leaving only the best-of-breed hosting providers to progress and move ahead.

Find out if the company has any technical certification in supporting and providing the service you purchase

9) Cost.

Check the cost of the hosting plans carefully. Some hosting features are optional. You can also save some cost if you prepay a yearly payment. The cost of shared hosting plans and dedicated hosting plans varies a lot.

What operating system is best for your website?

One of the first things you will need to do in setting up your business on the Internet is to find a web host. The Web expands every day, and so do our choices. Just how do you find a web host to meet your business needs? There are literally tens of thousands, each one with a different focus and services designed for a specific segment of the market.

The operating system used by your hosting company may limit your flexibility as your company begins to grow. As you study your options, you might consider the following tips:

An operating system or “platform,” such as Microsoft’s Windows NT or DOS is the basic set of commands that tell your computer how to open applications and store files. In the early days of Internet activity, most servers operated on a UNIX platform, an extremely powerful and flexible system that requires considerable technical expertise to administrate. UNIX is still as popular as ever, but today you have a choice: Windows NT and UNIX variations such as Sun Microsystems Solaris, and Berkeley’s BSD.

Experts offer significantly different opinions as to which platform works best for web sites, we will however give a brief description and analysis of the different systems. In the end, the choice depends largely on your budget and what you want to do with your site.

Linux
Linux, a version of UNIX, is a very versatile platform that serves a number of functions well. It is particularly suitable for meeting your Internet requirements, such as mailing, streaming, Web serving, and fileserving. Linux is a very cost-effective choice it uses hardware efficiently, and allows for more web sites per server, thereby lowering the cost of hosting per account. Linux servers are compatible with certain Microsoft extensions and applications, for example, MS SQL (a database program) or Microsoft Front Page (a web authoring tool). Many engineers prefer the flexibility, security, and control of Linux servers. Linux is Open Source (free) software and a host of free programs are available to users of Linux.

Microsoft Windows NT/2000
Window’s 2000 graphical user interface makes it user-friendly and provides a familiar interface for most IT teams to work with. It integrates well with other Microsoft applications and there are a wealth of commercial applications available for this platform. Particularly attractive is the integration with Microsoft Application Server (ASP) which allows the creation of dynamic web pages linked to SQL databases, and other Legacy back office systems.

Sun Solaris
Sun Solaris servers offer the highest level of resources and power – these are the most robust servers! Sun has a proven track record and is deployed in many large Fortune 500 corporations. It is a mature platform and there are a large number of applications and development tools available. Because of Sun’s capacity and stability it is ideal for high-traffic functions, such as database servers, high-traffic Web servers and mission-critical servers.

Cobalt RaQ
The RaQ was designed for virtual (shared) hosting of multiple Web sites. It’s simple administration makes it a great first Web server. Its flexible administration interface also allows you to share administration responsibilities among your staff.

FreeBSD
FreeBSD is a version of BSD that was designed for the X86 processor. FreeBSD is a very stable open source operating system, and a good alternative to Linux. It is an extremely well-integrated and tested system, and is inexpensive. There are a large number of free applications available for use with it

How do I choose? As your site grows in size and complexity, in all likelihood your needs will change and the capability and scalability of a particular platform will come into question. It’s best to anticipate this contingency and choose a web host that offers a variety of operating systems which are scalable and backs them up with technical expertise.

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