Alright, so I am looking at all these posts, of people asking what the best host is, what they should look for, what they should stay away from, what do I need for this, that, and my third uncle. Now it's getting tiresome, so maybe someone will sticky this, and it will help someone. If it does, I am a miracle worker, please hire me.
So, I am going to divy this up into sections, the first section entitled What do you need
I - What do you need?
You may ask yourself do I really need my own SERVER to do a lot of the stuff that people talk about here. If you're an experienced developer, or a seasoned sysadmin, or maybe just a person with big needs, a site that gets a lot of hits, uses a lot of bandwidth, sure. But you don't always have to. This guide (hopefully) should help a lot of you make a more informed decision.
Shared hosting is your first step in getting a basic website up, maybe a small community of about 100-300 users max. You should expect to pay from $6
/month to $20
/month for a shared hosting package.
If you're paying more than that, you're being ripped off.
Getting a Dedicated IP isn't really going to make the site go faster, although dependent on your hosts network connectivity, it might appear to in some cases. Mostly, the only reason to get a Dedicated IP is to either get an SSL Certificate for secure websites, or if the host decides you generate too much load on other sites, and asks you to get one. You should probably expect to pay around $3
dollars for an IP of your own, depending on the host.
Virtual Private Server
VPSes are the next step towards getting your presence known. Once you've established your site, and you have grown more of a userbase, the load on your shared hosting may become too much for a single shared server with literally hundreds of other websites on it, even with a Dedicated IP. If your pages are loading very slowly, or things take a long time to get done, then you may need to go ahead and get your own server to do it on. It's kind of a good thing, because you get to try your hand at System Administration if you so choose, or you can hire some junkie (like me) on WHT or other job posting sites to do it for you. Either way, the load on your website is now way down, and the capacity to grow is now tenfold. It's not quite a dedicated server, though the machines running VPSes are powerful servers, it's really sort of limited, but will provide stability that makes shared hosting pale in comparison. You should expect to pay around $40
for a standard VPS.
A dedicated server is a big step, and should probably only be used in the case that you host a site that is traffic intensive, hosts a lot of downloads, images, or things of that nature. I'm not talking about your Christmas Party photo gallery that you got drunk at last year and started singing Prince at. I'm talking about sites like file repositories that allow anyone to upload, create an account, and does intensive database queries, and constant processing. Also, you might need a Dedicated Server if you need your own IP range. Most server providers have agreements with ARIN/RIPE (consult google for your countries IP provider), that will let you lease a large block of IPs, and assign it to one machine or more. The ballpark figure for this kind of venture is going to be around $100
to upwards of $600
a month. This may or may not include a management service, but I will cover that later.
Got a box laying around that you want to use, or know someone that can build a rackmount server for you? Got money to burn? (gimme some) You can send your machine off to a datacenter, and they'll provide bandwidth and IP addresses for your machine to use. This is a costly method, because it includes power, network connectivity and usage, IP fees, and storage space. This is not to mention the admin you will need to hire, and a point of contact that can either goto the datacenter should a problem arise, or someone at the datacenter that can monitor your server, and that knows how to fix it in a timely manner. Most providers will ask that you commit to a certain amount of bandwidth per month, so don't expect to walk away from a colocation deal for less than $400
II - Where do you need it?
A good location can mean a night and day difference between your response times, and even network connectivity. As a personal preference, I choose to stay Central (Texas, Oklahoma, Chicago) because it provides equally good response time and good connectivity to both East coast and West coast customers, and even better to Central customers. That is up to your location however, and based on the location you choose, it will affect you in one way or another. Being that I am East coast, I have a slight advantage for Central and West coast providers, in that I can call them 1-2 hours earlier due to the time zone difference should a problem arise. Most providers I know keep good hours around 9am-7pm.
III - How to tell a good host from a bad one
Well, let's start off by saying most tech savvy individuals, in desperation for a quick buck will sign up for a reseller package, which means they are buying a bigger package from the provider, and they have the ability to host other people on that same account. That being said, a great many deal of providers that you see are actually resellers of a larger entity. For most resellers, the parent host provides the means of billing resellers and their customers, and allowing the reseller to bill their customers. Now that that's said, I can say that businesses that have made a real investment into the hosting industry, as in buying their own racks, setting up their own servers, registering themselves with the BBB (http://www.bbb.org/)
, and obtaining a business license in their respective state is a good way to see if you can really trust your host. You should really use the Search
feature here, and just put in the name of the company and read on. and do your research on the company first, make an attempt to find a host that rubs you the right way, don't just go ooh look they have 85932958GB of space and 5832125GB of data transfer a month for $2.00 a month! That's another topic I will cover called "Overselling" later in this guide.
Now, a few good ways to tell that you're not being cheated or tricked in some way, is to have good contact information on the company you are looking at. Most respectable hosts will provide you with the following:
- A phone number (preferrably toll free)
- A support, billing, sales, and abuse email address
- Their mailing address, or company HQ address
- A ticket or helpdesk system
- Live support
You should call up the company (during business hours of course), and chat with a sales and support representative, just to test the waters a little, and see how they respond to you. Don't incessantly bug them, but try to deal with them a little, and see if they are respectful, and deal with your issues politely and efficiently. That not only helps you, but if their calls are monitored, and probably are, then you're helping that company train it's representatives, and giving people like me a job, which pays for my internet and lets you see this guide that I have taken (at the time of this sentence) 25 minutes to write. Now, on the subject of Indian support, personally it drives me nuts. Not to be disrespectful at all, but the language barrier is almost too much for me. I realize they work very hard, and most of them are very well educated, moreso than I. In any case, try to be respectful no matter who you're talking to, it's just common courtesy, and they're just doing their jobs. Most but not all companies choose to outsource their support to India, because it is cost effective. Saves a lot in having to hire employees to be trained on special software, when there is the same thing already available in another country.
IV - What should my host have?
For Shared Hosting
, your host should have AT LEAST:
- PHP4 or PHP5 Support
- SpamAssassin or DSPAM Mail Filtering
- A demo version of their control panel or billing software for you to try
- A well formed, well thought-out website, kept simple and to the point
- A security seal or certificate to indicate that they value your privacy
- A very specific, tailored Terms of Service and Acceptable Use Policy
For Virtual Private Server
hosting, your host should have:
- An automated reboot facility
- Decent response times for server-related issues (30 minutes or less)
- A control panel selection for you to use on your server
For a Dedicated Server Provider
, you'll want:
V - [root@server #] --- ehhhhh... what?
- Free reboots, and free or minimalistic OS Reload fees
- Server Staff to provide support in the event of an attack or a server failure due to hardware or security issues
- A stable network that provides more than at least 2 upstream carriers
- A courteous and professional support staff to resolve your inquiries or issues in a timely and friendly manner
My whatsamawhozits did WHAT to the WHAT? I'll admit, I do it sometimes, makes you appear to know a lot more than you really do. Doesn't really help the customer much if he or she doesn't know what it is though. This is something that a Server Admin will be able to do for you, this is really only applicable to VPS and Dedicated Server customers, but the time and money spent on the right server admin can mean the difference between an OK webhosting experience, and an AWESOME one. So what if you don't know how to recompile apache, your server admin does! That's one less thing to worry about, and there are people that will do this for cheap, even entire server management companies that will take care of EVERYTHING (for a modest monthly fee of course). If you have the time (or don't in this case), then hire a server admin to do all the dirty work. Shop around though, there are several companies to choose from. Off the top of my head, there's Rack911
, and many more, just do some googling or use the search feature at the top of this page.
VI - Some common practices
Overselling is the selling of webhosting at a very cheap rate that includes insane deals, or massive amounts of disk space or bandwidth, operating under the assumption that you won't use it all, or much of it. This tends to drive more customers to that location, kind of like a sale at Best Buy, they sell everything at cost or cheaper to make more people go there, then drive the price up and offer Instant Rebates once they have a bigger customer base.
95th Percentile Billing
Wikipedia describes 95th Percentile Billing
The 95th percentile is a widely used mathematical calculation to evaluate the regular and sustained utilization of a network connection. It is commonly used among all major internet transit and peering networks, as well as datacenters and ISPs for both capacity planning and/or calculating usage. It roughly means Ďfor most of the time this was the throughput on the lineí.
The 95th percentile is a good number to use for billing as it can allow the customer throughput bursts without additional financial compensation. Basically the 95th percentile says that 95% of the time, the usage is below this amount. Conversely, 5% of the time, usage is above that amount.
There are important factors to percentile calculation:
Sampling interval, or how often samples are taken (called also "data points").
* A percentile is calculated on some set of data points.
* Every data point represents the average bandwidth used through the sampling interval, calculated as the number of bytes (or KB/MB/GB etc.) transferred divided by the sampling interval length in seconds (effectively representing the average utilization for single sampling interval). The number is expressed in a data transfer rate as bits per second (Kbps/Mbps/Gbps).
And that is really all I have to say on that issue. Tune in next time, or make some requests, I might have time to write one. If you like this kind of guide, or want more of them, or you don't and you hate me now, please email me using the link below
Also please comment on this thread, and let me know if this helped you in some way. Donations are also accepted -ahem- at the address below (take out the NOSPAM). Have fun!