Choose a Web Host
You have taken steps to ensure that your client’s site will be listed in search engines and Web directories. You have also utilized a validation tool to decrease the chances that your Web pages will display inconsistently in a variety of browsers. Now that you have the tools to develop Web sites that everyone can use, it is time to actually get it out to the masses. In order to do this, you will need to find somebody to host your site so that others can access it on the Internet.
In order for your site to become available to the world, you will need to find a service to host your site. There are numerous choices of Web hosts and not every client has the same needs.
Following some straightforward guidelines will enable you to get your sites published on the Internet using a company that you are satisfied with and for a price that you or your clients can afford.
A Web host is a service that provides housing for a Web site on a server connected to the Internet. A Web hosting company maintains the servers that are responsible for distributing the files that make up your Web site when they are requested by users. Some Web hosting services are free and others charge a fee. The free services typically cater to those who create pages for a limited or personal use, while the services that charge a fee typically offer more features and services. Most Web hosting companies that offer free services can do so because advertisers pay them to involuntarily include some type of ad when users view your pages. These ads are typically displayed in a banner graphic, pop-up window, or a separate frame.
It is important to know that not every hosting company is the actual host. A company that represents itself as a reseller is essentially a Web hosting middleman. They subscribe to services from an originating Internet Service Provider (ISP), re-package them, and offer the re-packaged services on their own site. It is a good way for sales-oriented people to build a business on the Web by selling service instead of bearing the financial and technological burden of maintaining it. As a matter of fact, many large and successful Web hosting companies are actually resellers—although you may not see them blatantly advertise it.
Web Hosting Package Types
There are six major categories to be concerned with when considering paying for a Web hosting package. These categories are as follows:
Basic hosting packages are a less-expensive option that offer enough features for someone to publish a small site. These types of packages typically offer the promise of reliability, a varying number of email accounts, the ability to have your own domain name, some scripting support, and limited server and bandwidth capacity. The more you pay for your basic plan, the more scripting choices, database support, server space, and bandwidth you will usually get.
E-commerce hosting packages, at a minimum, offer the necessary utilities to process credit card transactions and maintain a database-driven catalog. They can be purchased with many varying degrees of performance. The cheaper ones can be very similar to basic Web hosting packages with the edition of some software that handles credit card transactions. The more expensive packages offer everything that basic hosting packages offer with the addition of robust site management tools, detailed site statistics and reports, pre-built customizable shopping cart applications, high-powered database support, and secure encrypted connections.
Dedicated hosting packages are offered at a premium price. The reason for this pricing is that a single computer is dedicated to your company. By adopting a plan that provides a dedicated server, you are essentially renting your own entire server rather than renting space with many others on the same computer. Good dedicated hosting should offer all or most of the features that the less-expensive packages offer, but with faster and more reliable service, a wide array of options for customization, and the ability for you or your company to host multiple Web sites on your own server.
Co-located hosting is when you or your company want to own your own servers and wish to pay a specialized Web hosting company to store the server and host sites from them. Instead of renting disk space on one or more of their servers, you are renting physical space at their facilities for your own hardware to exist. Co-location is typically less expensive than leasing a dedicated server and is good for people who already have the hardware they need to host their site, but may not have the time, resources, or knowledge to maintain servers themselves.
Managed hosting can vary between self- and fully managed. It simply refers to the degree and placement of responsibility for the maintenance and management of a dedicated or co-located server. Self-managed servers use proprietary control panels to allow the owner or lessee of the server to manage their own accounts while the hosting company may be responsible for the upkeep and performance of the server. Fully managed hosting places the responsibility of the upkeep and account management on the hosting company.
Web Host Selection
When selecting a Web hosting service, it is important to select one that is reliable and suits your financial and technological boundaries. To choose a Web hosting service that is right for you, adhere to the following guidelines:
Before you even begin to do research about Web hosting companies, it is important to do the following:
• Determine what type of site you will be creating.
— Personal (ex. Journal, Portfolio, or Hobby)
— E-commerce (ex. Services or Products)
— Information-based (ex. News or Reference)
• Determine your technological needs and requirements.
— Disk space
— Data storage
These are just a few examples.
To locate and research Web hosting companies:
• Use word of mouth.
• Visit an online message board that discusses Web hosting.
— Webhost Directory Forums (http://forums.webhostdir.com/)
— WebHostingTalk (http://www.webhostingtalk.com/)
• Check directories and listings of Web hosting companies.
— CNET (http://webservices.cnet.com/html/aisles/Most_Popular_-_Hosting_
— Host Buddies (http://www.hostbuddies.com/)
— Web Host Explorer (http://www.webhostexplorer.com/)
• Based on your research, create a list of potential candidates.
Once you have located a listing of Web hosting companies:
• Match your particular technological needs and the type of site that you are building with one of the typical Web hosting categories.
• Choose a service plan from the hosting category by comparing the plans with your technological and monetary requirements.
Don’t believe that a hosting company will actually offer “unlimited” bandwidth on a fairly low level hosting plan. If your site is seen as a bandwidth “hog,” you will most likely be limited or asked to pay a premium fee for more bandwidth. There is much less gray area if a company
states your bandwidth limits up front.
• Compile a list of companies and service plans that meet your requirements.
Once you have compiled a list of possible companies and plans:
• Check their policies and procedures.
• Search message boards that are related to Web hosting for the names of the companies on your list. How would you rate their customer satisfaction?
Keep in mind that it is easier for a person to criticize a company in an open forum than sing its praises. It is a good idea to place more weight on the comments that seem to be based on reason instead of flippant, emotionally driven rants.
• Weigh all of your findings, choose a company, and consider getting into a short term (three months) service plan to start. This is your trial period with the company. A short-term deal will allow you to get out of a bad situation without spending too much money.
Don’t get sucked into a long-term hosting contract because a company offers free domain registration. The cost of registering your own domain is much less than the cost of signing a long-term deal with a company that you are not satisfied with. There is no financial gain for a company to transfer your domain to another host and it is often difficult to get them to do it in a timely manner.
The following are the types of Web hosting packages that are selected by various audiences:
• People who create pages for their own personal or portfolio use will typically sign up with a free hosting service.
• Those who do not care for services offered by free Web hosts, but still want minimal costs, will often choose co-located service.
• Small to medium businesses who own sites where customers make direct monetary transactions with the site will often select an e-commerce service package.
• Large companies that want to house a high-end, high-traffic Web site will often opt for a server dedicated solely to their site.
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