Web hosting is analogous to leasing a building for your business. A web hosting service is the place that houses your web site, all of the web pages and data, and serves it up to your visitors. The domain name is a basically your address and phone number rolled into one. You can switch to different web hosting companies while still retaining the same domain name, and most of the time, your web visitors will never notice who your web hosting service even is. However, a poor web hosting service is like a bad office building — if the roof leaks, or the web servers can’t handle the traffic loads, it reflects poorly on you.
Selecting a Web Hosting Company
When selecting a web hosting company, its important to know what some of your web site requirements will be. You’ll need a basic understanding of the architecture of your web site design along with a rough estimate on the storage space required.
You’ll usually be faced with an array of packages, generally based on the amount of traffic and data you’ll be hosting. Some of the key terms:
- Server Type – The first choice is usually between a Windows/IIS or Linux/Apache based host server. The decision is driven largely on whether you need ASP.NET or PHP support. Most web designs now use Linux/Apache configurations.
- Disk Space – Look at the total storage needed for your web site, and factor in future growth. If you have a lot of photos or movies, you can chew up disk space fast. Generally, 500MB of storage should be plenty to start with.
- Databases – You’ll need to know what type of database products they offer, and how many databases you can create. MySQL is the most popular in the Linux
- Bandwidth – Bandwidth is largely determined by the number of visitors and the size of data you are serving up. Sites with high traffic and/or big files like movies, will require more bandwidth. And most companies will also include the traffic going through your email accounts as part of this number. A number like 10GB per year is probably a safe start for smaller companies with low traffic or small files.
- Email Accounts – If you plan to host a lot of email addresses, make sure it is part of the package. Most services offer at least 15 to 25 accounts.
- Shared Host or Private Server – Shared hosting is usually fine for most small or medium web hosts. But a private server (frequently a virtual one) keeps your web resources isolated from rude web hosting neighbors.
- Web Statistics Packages – If you want to know information about the traffic visiting your web site, like where it is coming from and what pages the frequent, then you’ll need a web stats package.
A good web hosting company will accommodate your growth, letting you start at one package and upgrade to a larger package as your web needs change. And there may be price breaks based on duration of service (discounts on one year versus month-to-month).
As of spring 2008, costs ranged from as cheap as $25 per year for a very tiny web site, to $60 per month for some of the higher end set ups. In general, a smaller company should expect to pay around $120 per year.
Kicking the tires on a web hosting company isn’t easy. We basically do a lot of research on new web hosting companies, looking at ratings and reading reviews from current and former customers. The key pieces for us:
- How well does the technical support staff respond (both timely and with accurate, detailed information)?
- How infrequently do customers complain of downtime?
- What are the expected costs (especially hidden costs for things like add on services)?
E-Commerce: If you’re planning on selling products via the Internet, then you’ll need to delve into the world of e-commerce. This includes topics like payment gateways, merchant accounts, SSL certificates and static IP addresses.
- A Small Orange – Very low cost service, and generally quite good communications with the support staff.
- BHI – Located in Eden Prairie, we’ve had experience with them for over 10 years now (and shockingly the same support people).
- Siteground – Middle sized company, very few hiccups but technical support can sometimes be a little slow or somewhat generic.
TechApt can assist you in the full process, helping you select the right plan for your needs and setting up or migrating your web site — Contact Us today.
Your domain name is identity on the Internet. It’s your street address and phone number rolled into one.
Selecting A Domain Name
You’ll need to pick a clear and concise name that represents your organization. Try to keep it short, but avoid using mnemonics, punctuation or shorthand that will make it hard for visitors to remember your site name.
You’ll also need to decide on the type of domain extension: .com, .net. and .org are the most common, but newer extensions like .biz and .info and .us are becoming popular backups. In almost all cases, .com is still the preferred extension and by far the most common. Some organizations (generally a non-profit) will choose .org, and when the .com just isn’t available and you really want the name, .net has been a reasonable alternative.
Once you’ve determined a name, you’ll need to check if it is available. Most domain registry services provide the tools to check on availability (and frequently offer suggestions on alternatives). And you can use a whois lookup service like InterNic. If the whois service doesn’t find any matches for your domain name, then you should be able to register it.
Registration and Fees
After you’ve found an available name, you can finally register it. This involves registering your organization as the owner and paying a fee. You’ll need to register with an ICANN approved domain registrar. Comparing the registrars can be quite confusing, as they all set their own prices and frequently offer many additional services. Be wary of low cost initial registrations as they may charge substantially higher prices on renewal and dig into the company reputation if you are unfamiliar with them.
A one year subscription for a .com domain runs $15-$30 annually. Most other extensions may run a little cheaper.
Expiration and Renewal
Make clear notes on the company you’ve registered your domain name with, and when the domain registration will expire. There are some companies that will attempt to scam you into a bogus renewal.
Once settled into a domain name, you might consider renewing the domain name for a multi-year contract to avoid the hassles of renewal and possible rising costs.
If your domain name does expire, you may need to fight to get it back again, so pay close attention to the renewal dates. Once your domain name has expired, it becomes up for grabs, and in most cases, will be captured by some firm purely for the purpose of reselling it or holding it ransom if you ever want it back (sometimes referred to as ‘cybersquatting’). Basically never allow your domain registration to expire unless you are absolutely sure you’ll never use it again.
Tieing It Together
The simple act of registering the domain doesn’t mean it will go anywhere. It’s like a phone number that has been disconnected: You can type it in, but it won’t connect you. Now if you’re just holding the domain for some future use, then that’s fine — you are basically parking it.
When your ready to have the domain setup to show a web site or provide email addresses, you’ll need to point that domain at a set of nameservers. A nameserver maps a domain name to a specific IP address where the hosting computer resides. Your web/email hosting service will provide you with a set of nameservers. Usually you can login into your domain registrar and update the nameserver entries yourself. Once you’ve mapped your domain name to a web host, it will take up to 2-3 days for all computers to recognize the new mapping (although the vast majority will recognize the mapping within a few hours).
While some web hosting services offer easy or cheap domain registrations, we generally recommend that you register your own domains. This ensures you have full ownership over the domain and control over the renewal process.
Some of the firms we can recommend…
Dotster – We’ve been using Dotster for over five years now. They are a decent middle-of-the-road registrar. They tend to send out a lot of reminders about renewals, usually months in advance.
At TechApt, we can handle the complete process of registering and updating your domain — just Contact Us.