Web hosting is one of the most basic needs of an online business. Once you’ve decided to launch a website, one of your first tasks after choosing a domain name will be to deal with hosting. If this is the first time you’ve gone searching for a web host, the choices can be overwhelming.
Selecting a hosting provider is a lot like buying a house, in that you have to make sure that you have enough space and it suits your needs. With few exceptions, if you pay a low price you will encounter limitations and problems in your hosting service, which in turn will stunt your online business. Read on to understand the most important aspects of web hosting that you should look at for any hosting company that you consider.
Essential Hosting Features
1. Customer Support
This is very important to your business! When something goes wrong, which it inevitably will, the speed and quality of your hosting providers’ customer service will be paramount. If your host doesn’t have excellent 24/7 customer service, you will end up losing a lot of money due to problems with your website.
2. Costs And Hidden Fees
Some hosts charge initial fees to setup your site and monthly fees to maintain your site. Make sure to check, because sometimes hosting providers will advertise a cheap monthly fee but will hide an expensive setup fee. A simple technique is to look past the cheapest and most expensive hosting providers and pick a mid-range plan. Something that costs $10 to $25 a month should get you a pretty decent web host.
3. Web Space
Make sure to get a host that gives you enough space or preferably a bit more than you need. This gives you room to grow without having to pay to add extra space later on. You never know how much you’re going to use, especially when you start adding more content or programs to your site.
In general, 20 to 30 MB of space is enough, especially if you are only using it for a small site. It is also vital to ask the hosting provider if you can upgrade to bigger space later on and what this will cost you.
4. FTP Access And Telnet Access
FTP (or file transfer protocol) access is something you will certainly want your host to have. This allows you to quickly and easily upload your website files onto the hosting server. Fortunately, FTP access is pretty standard with most hosting providers.
Telnet access is also important for troubleshooting CGI scripts and server settings. However, there are some servers that don’t allow telnet access.
If you plan to create an online business this is probably the most important component of your hosting. If ever you plan on adding forms, shopping carts and anything that has interactivity, you will need this component. It is standard with most reliable hosting providers; however some cheap hosting providers leave it out of their package, so be careful with this.
6. E-mails And POP 3 Aliases
The ability to have different addresses to sort your mail will make your online business easier to maintain and help it to look professional. If you purchase a “wildcard” hosting account, you can set up as many aliases, or email addresses, as you want. This is useful if you have other partners or employees that will need their own email. Check with the web host to see how many email addresses you’ll be able to create for your domains.
The amount of bandwidth allowed in your hosting plan is a key part of running your website. Bandwidth refers to the amount of data that can be transferred from your website in a month’s time. Be aware that hosts put a bandwidth limit on their accounts. This might be a problem if you’re advertising your site extensively and the amount of visitors to your site is steadily increasing. Find out what the limits are and what happens if you come close to this limit.
8. Site Statistics
Tracking is an essential part of optimizing your site and being successful online. You always want to be tracking your traffic with a stat tracker. Some hosting providers will package site tracking as part of their package, or give you access to your site’s log files, which you can use with third-party software in order to track traffic.
A few other things you’ll want to check for include: autoresponder service, a secured server for payment transactions, shopping cart software, and what kind of backup systems the use to protect your site and limit downtime. By checking for the essentials that I’ve detailed above, you’ll make sure that you are picking the best hosting deal to meet your needs.