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.