You have a lot of choices in the web hosting market and it can be very confusing to find the best deal that meets your needs. So the first step of web hosting guide is to determine your needs of web hosting.
It can be very tempting to look for plans that offer everything. There are many such deals available, even at a low price, but you will be storing up trouble for yourself. Take a step back and determine exactly what you need and then Select a Best Plan for Your Web Site to find a plan that matches at the right price from a web hosting company that you are comfortable with. 1. Reliability and Speed of Access
Not only should the web host be reliable and fast, it should guarantee its uptime (the time when it is functional). Look for a minimum uptime of 99%. In fact, even 99% is actually too low - it really should be 99.5% or higher. Most of the Paid Web Hosting can promise this percentage, and you will not get it from Free Web Hosting site. So if your business is critical, Paid Web Hosting Plan is your only choice. 2. Data Transfer (Bandwidth/Traffic)
Data transfer (sometimes loosely referred to as "traffic" or "bandwidth") is the amount of bytes transferred from your site to visitors when they browse your site. If you go over the limit, then either you will have to be an extra fee, or your website will not be available. The amount of bandwidth you use is obviously related to the amount of traffic (visitors) that you receive.
There are web hosting companies that offer Unlimited bandwidth. This sounds like a good deal. The truth is that this is nothing but a lie and you should steer clear of web hosting companies that offer unlimited bandwidth. Bandwidth is a commodity that costs the web hosting company money - unlimited bandwidth is not only impossible, but would cost an unlimited amount of money. When web hosts offer unlimited bandwidth they are trying to trick you. They know that you will probably not use very much bandwidth. The moment you try to use a lot of bandwidth - then you will find your website shutdown.
For most web sites you will not need much bandwidth. Probably 99% of all websites use less than 2 GB of bandwidth a month. If you intend to have a lot of downloads of software, audio or video, then you may end up using a lot more bandwidth, maybe 50 GB. Sites like mp3.com require an enormous amount of bandwidth, but for the average site - a low level will be enough in almost all cases. 3. Disk Space
For the same reason as bandwidth, watch out also for those "unlimited disk space" schemes. Most sites need less than 5MB of web space, so even if you are provided with a host that tempts you with 200MB or 500MB (or "unlimited space"), be aware that you are unlikely to use that space, so don't let the 500MB space be too big a factor in your consideration when comparing with other web hosts. The hosting company is also aware of that, which is why they feel free to offer you that as a means of enticing you to host there. As a rough gauge, WebHostingClue.com, which had about 80 pages right now, used less than 5MB for its pages and associated files.
You will see that even a lot of pages doesn't really create a big requirement for disk space since the size of each file is small. If your web site doesn't have a lot of picture, video or mp3, Disk Space should be an important factor when you choose a web hosting plan. Many web hosting plans will offer large amounts of disk space. This is fine, it doesn't hurt to have the extra space - but unless you have a huge site - you will more than okay with 20MB.
4. Technical Support
You need to ask yourself questions like Does its technical support function 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? If you have a small website that is not critical (i.e just some personal web site to introduce yourself) then you probably don't need it. Otherwise, you should see this item in your web hosting plan. 5. Email Accounts
If you have your own site, you would probably want to have email addresses at your own domain, like [email protected], etc. How many email accounts will you need? Normally 10 is enough, but if you think you might want more then you can use, especially you build the web site for business usage, and you have many employees in your company, you will need more email accounts, and the good news is: most of the web hosting plan will give you more than 1000 email accounts, and some of them are un-limited.
6. PHP, Perl CGI-BIN access
This requirement depend on how you build your web site, do you use php or perl in your source code? If yes, you need to have this one in the plan otherwise, your web site will not work properly. 7. SSL, MySQL, and Shopping Cart (eCommerce Cart)
If you are planning on doing any sort of business through your website, you might want to look out to see if the host provides these facilities. These facilities normally involve a higher priced package or additional charges. The main thing is to check to see if they are available at all before you commit to the host. You will definitely need SSL if you plan to collect credit card information on your site.
8. Server Type
Is the type of operating system and server important? Whether you think so or not on the theoretical level, there are a few practical reasons for looking out for the type of server.
If you have a small website, then it is unlikely that you will need to select a particular type of server for your website.
Windows 2000 server web hosting tends to be a little bit more expensive than Linux. If you need to run a Microsoft SQL server database, or use Microsoft Active Server pages then you should choose Windows2000.
If you have no clue what these things even are - then you don't need Windows2000 - you will almost certainly be fine with any type of server and my preference is to sign up for accounts using the often cheaper, more stable and feature-laden Unix systems running the Apache server.
9. Subdomains, or Multiple Domain Support
For those who are thinking of multiple domains or subdomains hosted in your account, you should look to see if they provide this. If you have many web sites, and most of them don't use a lot of space and bandwidth, then, host all your domain in a web hosting plan is a great choice for you and will save a lot of money for you. Many company provide this kinds of plan, such as: StartLogic, Dot5Hosting, Bluehost, GoDaddy, IXWebHosting, etc; They can host 6-10 web site in one web hosting plan. 10. Price
Price is always a factor, you should realize that you often get what you pay for, although it's not necessarily true that the most expensive hosts are the best. A stable, 24*7 support server is more important than money.
Most web hosts allow you to select an annual or 2 years payment plan that gives you a cheaper rate than if you were to pay monthly. You might be worried about if you aren't satisfied with the plan you purchase, what can you do. You need to check that whether the company provide the money back period so that you can request a refund if you are not satisfied. Or the other choice is to sign a plan provided by a reputed web hosting company. Below are some company will provide money back guarantee (trial days):Dot5Hosting, StartLogic, etc. 11. Free Domain Name
You need to check whether a free domain name is included in the plan. In most of the plan with price more than $3 monthly, a free domain will be included. But if not, you need to apply for domain name by yourself and then direct it to the service you just order. 12. International
If you don't stay in the USA, you have the option of hosting your site with some local provider. The advantage here is the ease of dealing with them (they are after all easily accessible by phone call or a visit), your familiarity with the local laws and easy recourse to those laws should it be necessary. It should be your choice if your target audience is local (eg a local fast food delivery service). On the other hand, hosting it in USA has the advantage of faster access for what is probably the largest number of your overseas visitors (particularly if you have an English-speaking audience). You also have a large number of hosting companies to choose from, and as a result, cheaper prices too.
Although, we have listed a lot of factor above, you need to think about what's the most important factor to you, try to rank all the factor above, and give them a value. If you care about the support and reliability and with a lot of budget, you should find some company can provide quick support and 99.99% uptime. If you only have limited budget, you might need to lower your expectation on bandwidth or multiple domain host, etc. There is always a trade-off between price, reliability and features that you're willing to live with. There's no way for you to afford to put all your sites on your "ideal" web hosts. For sites that are not so critical, you can pay a cheaper price at the cost of a little more "down" time and inconvenience than your more important sites.
11. Free Domain Name
You need to check whether a free domain name is included in the plan. In most of the plan with price more than $3 monthly, a free domain will be included. But if not, you need to apply for domain name by yourself and then direct it to the service you just order.
Very nice overview!
Just a quick note about free domain names offers - if your web host offer free domain name then make sure it will be registered on your name.
I've left my response in this thread...Was it deleted? Anyway, i just thanked for the nice article and suggested making your #8 the first point, the operating system being the most decisive factor while making a choice of hosting.
Excellent points in that basic guide. I admit I have initially been tempted by the offers of high data transfers and disk space, but my website surely does not require that much data transfer or high disk space. It is a photo website with lots of image files so it does need a bit more than if it were not, but I can easily do with one of the plans offering less transfer and disk space. The reliability of the provider is most important to me. One question I have is how important is it really to have a dedicated IP address? If the domain server is down I still would be able to access my site with the IP address, correct? Other than that is there any benefit?
Nice read, i like the conclusion part, especially, as there are sites where you shouldn't be afraid of 99% uptime, not 99,9%; and for a person with a few different projects the best thing is to make flexible hosting solutions.
One question I have is how important is it really to have a dedicated IP address? If the domain server is down I still would be able to access my site with the IP address, correct? Other than that is there any benefit?
Other benefits include that you don't get blocked together with the "sinners" that would share your IP and do something like spamming or unauthorized scripts. I guess a dedicated IP is required for SSL, but if you don't use it you don't mind.