It is particularly important for individuals and SMBs (Small and Medium-sized Businesses) that build their own websites, or spend very precious capital to do so, to find a good web hosting plan. If you are just now getting up to speed in this area, it is important that you know how quickly things change in this industry. In addition, you need to know what the basic components of a good hosting plan are, and learn to compare apples with apples, as they say.
It used to be crucially important to pick the right web host, as there were fly-by-night firms actually ripping people off and running away to Belize or somewhere. Things have settled down quite a bit, and there are scores of hosting firms to choose from, all of which are reputable and honest. It may still be true that some hosts have better uptime statistics or offer better deals, but as long as you stay with an established host you should not have any problems with rip-offs.
After making a list of potential companies, you should get these 10 questions answered before choosing a web host:
#1. Will you get unlimited disk space?
You certainly can't afford to run out of disk storage space when people are relying on your site to provide important information or services. Most of today's plans, even low-cost ones, feature unlimited disk space, a testament to how much the price of hard drives has come down.
#2. Is there unlimited bandwidth?
This term refers to the amount of traffic that can be sent back and forth, to and from your site. When a lot of people want to connect to your site at the same time, limited bandwidth is a real problem and a business-killer, too. Again, even low-cost plans now offer unlimited (or extremely high amounts of) bandwidth.
#3. Is there a 99.9% uptime guarantee?
No web host can honestly guarantee 100% uptime, but many hosting services get very close. A standard in the industry is now 99.5%, but leading hosts will advertise a 99.9% uptime guarantee.
#4. Do you get free setup?
Setup fees were appropriate at one time when the tools were less powerful and the process less automated. There is currently no reason in the world to pay setup fees, and companies that advertise that they "waive" these fees are essentially imputing a value to something they wouldn't charge for anyway.
#5. Do you get subdomains allowing for unlimited sites?
You may begin your Internet strategy with a single site, but when you want to launch others you will need a way to do that, and without setting up a new domain at new cost. This option is quite important, as subdomains (with the format, subdomainname.maindomainname.com) allow you to spread out and create other separate online entities that may not be strictly related to the main domain's purpose.
#6. Is 24/7 support available, and how much of it is from real people?
Some hosting services don't let customer call by phone, which should throw up a red flag. Support is absolutely critical, so make sure it's available, and the best companies will provide it in several ways-via e-mail, online web forms, chat and phone calls to real human beings.
#7. Do you get installed software for databases, scripting, email, etc.?
Even if you don't understand or make use of Perl, CGI, MySQL, PHP or other acronyms you've been told are important, you do need them. You can make use of them through graphical-interface applications that ease the process, or your IT consultant or employee can handle all of it. You do need these.
#8. Is the cPanel hosting tool used?
This is by far the most useful control panel for managing sites, and is made available by many of the leading hosts. If not cPanel, what tools are offered? If you can't find much information in a web search about the toolkit being used by a potential host, considering choosing only a host company that has this one available. The cPanel took is the best example of its kind.
#9. Is the plan affordable?
Many hosting plans start at under $10 per month. That's very affordable, but you can do even better by paying for a year's hosting service in advance. When you start requiring e-commerce components and huge database access, your hosting cost will increase, of course.
#10. Are there contracts, excessive fine print and/or hidden fees?
Everything in the plan should be made crystal clear from the beginning. Read every word of the user terms and conditions, and don't sign up for anything if you don't understand them. If you start hearing about extra fees, scratch the company off your list of potential hosts.
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Amy Armitage is the head of Business Development for Lunarpages. Lunarpages provides quality web hosting from their US-based hosting facility. They offer a wide-range of services from dedicated servers and managed solutions to shared and reseller hosting plans. Visit online for more information.
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