educational

How to Choose A Web Host

Martin Smith
Editor's note: lots of folks turn to our message boards seeking hosting advice, and sometimes the answers they receive may be overly technical for their level of expertise. For the absolute noob, we present this introduction to help you become more familiar with the issues:

In this article you'll be provided with helpful information about how to choose a web host. There are several things to look for when choosing a reliable web host. Below, you will find some frequently asked questions, and their answers.

Q. How reliable is the service of a web host?

Most surveys indicate that reliability is an e-businesses main concern. You should look for at least a 95 percent guarantee uptime, to ensure that the service is indeed reliable.

Q. What kind of performance can I expect?

A great hosting company has one or more T3 lines that are always connected to the Internet, not going through someone else's network operations center. The servers should be fast, ideally Pentium Pro or Linux. You should also let your host know if you plan to use bandwidth killers such as streaming audio or video.

Q. How good is phone support?

When it comes to phone support, you should look for 24/7 phone support that's always available with a live operator. Once you have found it, you should always check it. Call or email the technical support line at 10 pm on Sunday night then expect it to be answered.

Q. How much will it cost me?

The entry level hosting service with a single domain name, 20 – 30 MB (Mega Bytes) of hard drive space, email services, and up to a 1 GB (Giga Bytes) of monthly bandwidth should cost you no more than 50 dollars.

Q. How is security handled?

Passwords to your website or domain should be required to control the host as well as manage the web site. Every file on your server should also be backed up on a daily basis. You should always look for a host that offers you secure transactions as well.

Q. How much bandwidth will I need for data transfer?

Roughly estimating, 2GB of bandwidth should be perfect for a very small personal site. If you're going to running a medium site with text and images but no large files, 5 GB would be ideal. Larger sites on the other hand, require 30 GB of bandwidth. Good hosting companies will send you an email if you're about to run out of bandwidth, letting you know that your site may go offline if you exceed the quota. This way, you can upgrade your plan if you choose to do so.

Q. What about a control panel?

Almost all hosting packages come with some type of control panel, enabling you to configure your hosting packages as well as your settings without having to learn the entire operating system that powers the site. Control panels can be accessed through a secure webpage, and then they will appear in your web browser. The most popular control panels are Helm, Cpanel, Hsphere, Plesk, and Ensim. The most common is Cpanel, which only runs on Linux. Most beginners and other users would be more suited to Cpanel, as it runs on the cheaper platform of Linux.

Q. What about a POP3 account?

When sending and receiving email, POP3 counts are very important. These types of accounts can be assigned to individual users as their own email addresses. You'll need enough POP3 accounts for the amount of email addresses that you wish to assign to other people. Often times this number will be quoted as being unlimited, although there are only so many email addresses that you can actually create.

Q. What about spam and viruses?

These features are classified in a separate category, and can include autoresponders, spam filters, even anti virus protection. They may be important to you, but they will actually vary from host to host. Basically, these are all free things that the host will give to you when you sign up for an account. If your plan doesn't quite offer what you want, your host may be flexible when setting up the account.

Q. What about running my own online store?

If you are planning on running your own store on the Internet, there will be a few factors that will be involved with that decision. First of all, you'll need an SSL certificate for your website, so that you can process credit card transactions. Basically, these are 3rd parties that will take care of each and every transaction, for a small percent fee, eliminating the need for extra security on your server. You'll also need to ensure that the server as well as the software is capable of running the script you have for your shopping cart.

Q. I need help making that final decision.

If you plan on having a website that you'll be relying on for income or storing important data, you'll need to make sure that you go with a host that will offer you a high level of customer support. A lot of hosting companies will offer forums as well as their contact numbers; however the forums can be excellent when you are dealing very small problems.

By taking your time and checking to see what each host has to offer, you'll find which service best fits your needs. There are many hosts and many different packages out there to choose from, which mean you shouldn't go with the first one you see. Take the time to compare plans, costs, and customer service and you shouldn't have any problems choosing a web host.

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