How to Choose a Web Host - Web Hosting Guide


Choosing the right Web Host matters

Whether you're putting up a personal website or a commercial one, you should choose your web hosting provider wisely. The reason is that you will most definitely want your website to be seen by the largest number of people. To do that it is essential to take a little time to go over certain basic but very important factors that will ensure more visibility for your site.

Points to consider when choosing web hosting

There are so many web hosting providers and packages on offer today. Each one of them have their own unique advantages and weaknesses. So how would one decide which one to choose?

Even after you zone in on a particular provider, you still need to choose the hosting package that will suit you. Every web hosting site offer many different types of packages to choose from. The most popular type is the 'Unlimited Bandwidth' package.

The following points should make your task of choosing web hosting simpler for you.

1. Server Uptime & Customer Support:

The most basic thing for a website to be found on the internet depends on whether the server where the files are stored is online i.e. up and running at any given time. This is called Server Uptime.You will find that most of the web hosting providers will claim a 99.99% server uptime. Some even claimed 100%.

If you have time, search for comments by users of the provider on internet forums or elsewhere online. Or go for the larger more established hosting companies who have built a trusted reputation. Most good hosting companies have multiple server data and power backups. A few also promised 100% and they do that by guaranteeing refund of fees in the eventuality that any downtime might happen.

Another very important feature of a good web hosting is Customer Support. They should provide customers with 24/7 phone and internet support. They should have a good collection of tutorials and FAQs readily on their site in case you might need help. Make no mistake, you will contact your hosting support more often than you think, especially if you are serious about your website.

2. Pricing & included features

The range of pricing and features included in web hosting packages are pretty wide. You will want a fair balance of features and quality that will suit your needs. As with any other product, cheap usually gets less quality. On the other hand some pricing can be exorbitant without any special value.

The prices of hosting packages are usually dependent on the set of features included. These includes data storage and bandwidth limits, number of allowed addon domains and subdomains, number of email and ftp accounts hosted, shared or virtual or dedicated server plans, programming languages and databases, site tools, shopping cart etc, and the list goes on. One can be easily confused with these numerous choices more so if you are not familiar with them. Don't worry, we will cover the essential ones in the next paras.

Pricing for a fair value shared hosting packages usually starts around 6-8 US$ per month. Virtual Private/Dedicated Server around US$ 30-50 pm and Dedicated Servers at US$ 60-80 pm.

Pricing tip: If you have not acquired a domain name or want to add another, then some packages include free domain with hosting. They can be a good bargain.

3. Data Storage and Bandwidth limits

If you are new to putting up websites, you might have very little idea about how much data storage space and bandwidth your site will need. First off, don't worry too much about this. Even the most professional people will tell you that themselves. Because your needs will grow as the number of visitors to your website increases, you will know all about it as you go along.

Data Storage Space: Unless you intend to host lots of video/movie clips or a gigantic amount of big resolution pictures, most hosting packages will do. Normal websites rarely occupy beyond 40-50 MB (megabytes of storage space). The basic shared hosting package for the top registrar costing $4.99 pm includes 10 GB(1000 MB) of storage space.

Bandwidth Limits: Bandwidth limit is the amount of data transfers your hosting permits per month. This depends on how much visitors your site has and the type of files you serve i.e. basic web pages, pictures or video clips etc. Here too, not that much to worry about for normal websites. Most hosting providers will offer "Unlimited Bandwidth" even on their value shared hosting packages.

One word of caution though for those intending to host video/movie clips or high resolution pictures. Do not be fooled by Unlimited Bandwidth Shared Hosting packages. If you go through the "Terms of Use" and "Common Usage Policy" for most shared hosting packages, they will undoubtedly have a section where it says that you are not permitted or will be charged extra for "abnormally high data bandwidth usage". Advice is you will probably be better off choosing VPS or dedicated server or Cloud hosting or high bandwidth packages.

4. Shared Hosting vs Virtual Private Server vs Dedicated Server vs Cloud Hosting

How to choose between these types of hosting? Putting it simply, you should choose by how busy or popular you think your site will be viz Shared - VPS - Dedicated - Cloud, in that order.

Shared Hosting: Majority of websites on the internet are on Shared hosting. It is good for personal and small websites. They are the most economical of hosting packages. In shared hosting, a number of hosting accounts usually 10-100 are hosted on a single physical server. They share the same server storage and broadband connection.

Shared hosting is particularly recommended for starters and small to medium personal and commercial websites that do not host picture/movie/video downloads.They can cost between $5-$15 per month.

Virtual Private Servers: This type of hosting is usually used by medium websites with medium storage and bandwidth requirements. Virtual Private Servers are hosted on unique ip addresses (eg. 192.170.1.8) and are virtually like a dedicated physical stand-alone server, but with less cost than a physical dedicated server. The way it works is that multiple accounts say 3-10 are hosted on a single physical server, each accounts having it's own unique host id or ip address, data storage and bandwidth separated from each other by software.

VPS hosting can cost between $30 to $150 per month depending on the features for a 1 year contract. Note: All hosting packages price decrease as you increase the number of years of contract.

Dedicated Server: They are usually used by the medium to big websites who need storage and bandwidth scalable to their requirements. They are hosted on separate physical servers. In other words they have a server rented out to them. They have full control over the server with its own unique address, hard disk, ram and bandwidth.

The price of renting a dedicated server depends on the physical components of the server, the hard disk capacity, the processor version, the amount of ram and the broadband connection. Prices can vary between $65 to $200 and beyond per month.

Cloud Hosting: A relatively new thing in the world of web hosting, Cloud hosting is the next generation type of hosting. Instead of having one physical server, cloud hosting uses several servers located in different locations connected to each other.

The main advantages of cloud hosting is the scalability factor and cost efficiency. For big websites there is big benefits. As a website grows larger than its current capability, all they need to do is add another server to join the networked group of servers.

Cloud hosting packages can be priced anywhere from $100 to $550 and beyond depending on the storage and bandwidth requirements.

5. Addon Domains & Sub Domains