Website Hosting

Category: Webmaster

Website hosting was a gold-rush business during the late 1990s, when everyone wanted a website and everyone with a spare computer in his bedroom could be a website host. Some of those bedroom businesses actually provided better website hosting services than some Fortune 500 telecommunications firms, and the former grew rapidly into today's best Web hosting sites. Here are some tips on choosing a website hosting company that fits your needs...

Website Hosting

How to Choose a Web Hosting Company

Today, the website hosting industry is still highly competitive. That's good for buyers seeking the best hosting companies or discount hosting; you can find a Web host that meets your requirements no matter what they are. But it can also be confusing, because it's hard to tell whether, behind the fancy corporate Web front-end, there is a well-run enterprise or a lone wolf.

WebHostMagazine has tracked the Web hosting industry since 1997. It publishes truly independent website hosting reviews with loads of feedback from both satisfied and unsatisfied customers. Webhosting.info is another site focused on research and statistics on the web services industry -- hosting companies, registries, domain registrars. Beware, though, some Web hosting site reviews you find online are not unbiased journalists, but rather affiliates of many hosting companies who earn commissions for every customer referral. The "top 10 hosting companies" site you found is probably showing you the top 10 best-paying of its affiliates, without regard to how well they host websites or service their customers.

There are several levels of service in Web hosting. Shared hosting means your website shares a physical server with many others. Dedicated Web servers are physical servers dedicated to a single website. It's like owning your own single-family home versus an apartment in a large condominium complex.

With a dedicated server, you are in control of everything from the operating system to the color of the server's case. With shared hosting, you have your choice of software and server-side applications selected by the Web hosting service. But with control comes responsibilities, unless you hire a manager.

Managed Hosting and Services

Managed hosting service means the website hosting company manages the dedicated server for you. The range of management services runs from basic uptime assurance to fulfilling orders placed via your online store. The more managed services you want, the more you pay. Most customers go with managed hosting services of some sort these days; it frees their staffs for developing websites instead of just keeping things running. Unless you're rather geeky, it's especially important to have your operating system and security updates managed by the hosting company. Failure to keep these components updated will almost certainly result in your server being hacked and/or compromised.

The features you need in your website largely determine what features you need in a Web hosting company. If your website incorporates SQL database applications, for instance, you need a SQL server hosting company. Do you want to run a blog? You'll need WordPress or something similar. Planning to sell stuff online? Make sure your host offers a shopping cart application. Most hosting companies offer both Microsoft and Linux based hosting services; the latter supports open source Web tools such as Apache, MySQL and PHP. It's your choice.

Some of the largest Web hosting companies include GoDaddy, Bluehost, ThePlanet and Rackspace. But big doesn't necessarily mean better. Too many Web hosts skimp on customer service, and it can be hard to predict what service will be like until you actually experience it. Here is one way to sample a Web host's customer service.

Park your newly-created domain name with a Web host while you develop the website itself. Parking simply provides a physical location for your domain and a small number of email addresses and other rudimentary services. If you have any technical glitches while parked, the response of the customer service and tech support group will tell you whether to upgrade to a more expensive Web hosting service.

One final note -- you may see offers for "free web hosting" when shopping for a web host. My advice is to steer clear of these, because they tend to be very slow, with abysmal service. You'll also be very limited in the types of web services you can offer your visitors. You can get a quality shared hosting service for under $10/month that will meet the needs of most beginners, and move up to a dedicated server when your website becomes more popular.

Do you have something to say about website hosting providers? Post your comment or question below...

 
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Most recent comments on "Website Hosting"

Posted by:

Professor Joe
21 Jul 2010

Thanks for great info, Bob. Could please give me/us an assessment of Yolasite? They are one of the freebies, with a nominal fee to go TLD. I have a parked domain, but haven't finalized site construction. Any response would be great, personal email or newsletter doesn't matter. I always read your NL.

Prof. Joe


Posted by:

Peter Mauro
24 Jul 2010

Dear Bob,

I don't understand why anyone, but, especially small business owners, would want a hosting company.

Why not just put all of your information on a Google " Docs " page, then, simply have your registration host redirect your name .com to the Google page. What's wrong with this approach? I'd really appreciate an answer, I've been wondering about this for years.

EDITOR'S NOTE: If you wanted a single page website, that might do. But check out Google Sites for a better solution -- http://www.google.com/sites


Posted by:

James
26 Aug 2010

I have worked for years doing web development, and have run through a number of hosting companies. You will want a company large enough to offer you a good deal and reliable service, but not so big that they don't care about you. I have felt very lucky to find ANHosting and Midphase (same company, different operating names). Stellar, excellent service. I recommend checking either of their site for whichever side has the best deal at the time. If you have a really demanding site (one that needs a lot of computing power, e.g., has automated scripts running to add content) then I suggest using their upgraded service, vps.net.

In response to Peter, try visiting one of the many shopping boards (like fatwallet) and look what people say about companies with poorly designed web sites: "If they can't afford a good webmaster, then I don't want to do business with them." For many visitors, your company's web site is not just a web site, it is the company itself. Simply presenting lots of info is not enough. A polished design is essential to inspire trust -- and thereby, return visits.


Posted by:

SarahL
26 Aug 2010

My personal tips for checking out a webhost:

1. Call. Not just 9 to 5, but on weekends, holidays, in the middle of the night. Find out who actually answers the phone when your website goes down, and there is no one in the front office.

2. Email. Same as above - how long does it take to get a reply? If your site is down, you don't want a hosting company that doesn't answer email.

3. Go through their website thoroughly. If they have customer forums, check to see what recent gripes/complaints are about. See how often Admins log in and comment. Read enough to get a feel for the type of customer they seem to specialize in. Some hosts don't do any "hand holding" at all, and others are great with newbies.

4. Ask for a list of current customers, and contact them. Find out - from the customer - how long they have been with the company. Ask them how often servers seem to be down, and when the last time was they had a "mandatory" server move. (which can disrupt your site for hours, if not days). Ask the customer what their biggest complaint is about the hosting company. Those email exchanges should give you a "real world" feel for how the hosting company actually does business.

5. Check the BBB for the city/state that the hosting company is located in. Also check Angie's List for that city (if available). Don't bother searching Google or other search engines for information, as most hosting companies will "own" at least the first page or two of results.

6. Spend some time at WHT - http://www.webhostingtalk.com/

It's been around for a long, long time and is a great place to learn about hosts, industry trends, etc.


Posted by:

Irena
23 Mar 2011

With website hosting and in many areas in life, you get what you pay for. You need to pay attention to space limits and bandwidth limits to ensure that you really are getting the right package for yourself. And the list of features that come along with every package is important as well.A big mistake that people make while they begin a business on the internet is not selecting a website hosting provider that fits their needs. The web hosting provider that you select is crucial and is more than just a utility for you.
Irena @ web hosting reviews


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