How to Choose a Web Hosting Service

by eHow Internet Editor

There are many Web hosting companies offering a variety of services. Be sure to choose one that fits the specific needs of your site.

Make sure the host's server provides a sufficiently fast connection to the Internet. A T3 connection is optimal, but a T1 will work for most Web sites. A dial-up connection is usually much too slow.

Find out how many machines will be sharing the server with you. You don't want to be slowed down by traffic from other sites. Compare this number with other hosting services to give yourself negotiating room.

Investigate limits on bandwidth and hits. Make sure you won't be charged severely if a lot of traffic goes through your site. Look for reasonable flat monthly rates as opposed to rates based on use.

Find out what kind of customer support the host offers. Twenty-four hour support and speedy replies aren't unreasonable demands. Try to avoid paying for customer support.

Plan ahead when thinking about Web space. The amount of space you need depends on the nature of your site, but be sure to give your site room to grow.

Look for a company that offers virtual hosting. This will allow you to use your own domain name (www.yoursite.com) as your URL as opposed to a directory within the host's domain (www.host.com/yoursite). If you don't feel that you need your own domain name, save money and stick with the host's URL.

Make sure the host provides adequate CGI-bin access if you'll be using forms, and that the CGI bin can support your scripts. You should have your own CGI-bin directory with unlimited access.

Opt for Web-based administration if you're unfamiliar with Web programming. This will provide a Web-based interface for the maintenance of the site.

Look for a host that offers FTP and Telnet access to facilitate uploading files and editing CGI scripts.

Evaluate your e-mail needs. Some servers offer POP mailboxes, while others simply offer aliases that reroute mail to existing mailboxes. Some hosts put limits on the number of allowed aliases. Make sure you fully understand the host's e-mail services.

Tips

  • check If you'll be doing business through your site, be sure to get SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) security for transferring credit card information.
  • check Ask about reduced rates and free services for non-profit and student-run Web sites if applicable.
  • check Ask about special features like anonymous FTP, mailing list management and e-mail auto-replying. Also ask if the host company will maintain statistical data for your site.
  • check Be sure to tell your host which platform you're using (UNIX, NT, MacOS, etc.) and make sure the host can support it.
  • check Your current ISP may be able to offer sufficient Web hosting services if your site isn't too sophisticated.
  • check Some hosts offer the option of "vanity domains" instead of virtual hosting. This will give you a URL of the form, "yourname.host.com".

Warnings

  • close Many hosts that offer virtual hosting will offer to pay for and handle your domain name registration, but be careful. Make sure your name, not the host company's name, is listed as the administrative contact with InterNIC for your domain name. Otherwise, switching hosts later may be difficult.
  • close Avoid buying into long-term contracts to save money. You want to be able to switch hosts whenever you want.

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