Choosing a Web Hosting Provider
In the recent years finding a web hosting provider has been a huge hassle. Everywhere you look there is a web host advertising their services. So where do you start? Is there a host that does it the best? The short answer is no. The best host is the one that fits all your needs. So lets put together a list of all the required items of a site, and from there we can start deciding on hosts. You should have a list of hosts ready to look through, you may have to start a fresh list soon ;-).
-Website Theme - Is the site theme allowed by most hosts?
-Disk Space - How much space will your site use?
-Bandwidth - How much bandwidth will your site use?
-Scripting - Will the site be static (plain HTML) or dynamic (ASP/PHP/CGI)?
-Everything else (databases, e-mail, ftp, domains, etc) - How many extras do you need?
-The Budget - How much are you willing to pay? -- This is an important topic.
1. Website Theme
Your site theme can eliminate half of your host list at once. What kind of site will you be hosting? Many hosts don't allow different sort of material such as adult, chat, IRC, music, and video content. Be sure to read each host's Terms of Service and Acceptable Usage Policy to find if what you want to host is allowed. You may also find odd things such as large file sizes not allowed, and non-linked content not allowed as well. This is more common on the hosting companies that seem to offer so much for so little, a term called overselling. And to be able to control this "overselling" they have to find ways to physically limit you.
2. Disk Space
Next we come to one of the two simple concepts most users tend to get completely confused on, disk space. These days you see hosts offering over 100 gigabytes of disk space for your website, will you ever end up using it? Not really, sites usually consist of just text and images that take up less than 50 megabytes on average. Web hosting providers know this and offer outragious amounts of storage because you will never end up using all of it. Technically if each user actually used 100 gigabytes of storage space, the hosting company offering this would probably go broke -- this is where overselling comes into play.
This is the other misconception, bandwidth. Bandwidth basically means -- how much data will your site need to transfer? You commonly see packages with 500 gigabytes or even 5 terabytes of bandwidth, will you ever use this much? No, but most importantly, will your hosting provider actually let you use this much? Probably not, read the TOS and AUP again and you'll most likely find a clause regarding CPU and Memory usage. You will most likely hit those limits way before you use all the bandwidth available to you (overselling). So how do you actually calculate the bandwidth you expect to use? Very simple, get the average web page size and multiply it by the hits you expect per month. So lets say we have a 100kb page, and it will receive 100,000 hits in a month (thats a lot of hits!), you'll only end up using 10,000,00kb or 10 gigabytes of data. Probably a lot less than you initially expected.
The two most popular scripting languages today are PHP and ASP/ASP.NET, and most sites today utilize these for dynamic pages. If you site uses a scripting language make sure the host of your choice supports it.
5. Everything Else
There's a lot of nifty little features each web host offers. Make sure they provide enough of each resource to cover your requirements. One important thing to note, make sure the host provides updated versions of sofware such as databases and automatic script installers. Outdated versions can perform poorly and can be a security vulnerability.
6. The Budget
Now we come to the most important piece of finding a web hosting provider, the budget. It's extremely important that you have the right budget for your requirements. In the hosting industry you get what you pay for, if you go with a cheap host then you will get poor reliability and performance. Note that when reliability is mentioned, it's not a reference to a host advertising "99.99999999999999999%" uptime, its the host's actual uptime. There are many tracking services such as HyperSpin who track uptime. Many times its the cheap hosts who can't live up to their promise.
Good luck with your hosting venture!