What to Look For In a Web Hosting Plan

Tips on finding a suitable company to host your website

What others are saying

Linux or Windows Hosting.

Depending on the intended website design you will have to make a choice between a Windows based hosting plan or a Linux/Unix hosting plan. If your Web site is designed for ASP or ASP.NET you will need to find a Windows hosting plan. If on the other hand you have a Web site that uses CGI or PHP, you will need to get a Linux hosting plan. One important thing to have in mind when making this decision is that Windows hosting generally costs more than Linux based hosting and Linux hosting usually comes with a host of free tools to help you develop your website. Companies such as Bluehost and Allurehost will, to name but a few, give you all these options. As a general rule of thumb choose windows hosting if you are going to use Active Server Pages (ASP) in your website. Otherwise choose a Linux hosting plan which will cost you far less in terms of hosting fees and development tools.

Shared or Dedicated Hosting.

Shared hosting plans involve hosting a site alongside several others on the same server. All sites on the server share the computer's resources, including the processor, memory and hard disk space. This means that performance may potentially be reduced, particularly if one of the sites processes large amounts of data. On the other hand dedicated plans provide a stand-alone server exclusively for the use of your site. Unlike shared hosting plans, the server's entire resources are dedicated to your site. The advantages of a dedicated hosting server are obvious but this type of hosting is only ideal for websites that receive a large number of visitors, or have high bandwidth requirements as such plans come at a higher cost compared to shared hosting plans. Generally speaking if yours is an average small business or personal website then shared hosting is a cost effective choice.

Amount of Traffic How much traffic or how many visitors do you expect monthly? The more visitors or traffic you expect on your site, the higher the bandwidth you will need. When choosing a hosting provider, the amount of bandwidth you get can be crucial to the success of your site. Bandwidth is the amount of data or information being sent and/or received from your website over a period of time. The more visitors you expect to visit your site, the bigger bandwidth it will require. Every time a visitor views your site they are downloading files from your site and this uses your bandwidth allocation. The amount of bandwidth allocated to your site is an important consideration. Unfortunately, it is not always possible to determine how much bandwidth your site will need until it actually goes online. If your site happens to exceed its bandwidth allocation, a hosting provider may charge you for excess data transferred, or alternatively, temporarily take your site offline for the remainder of the billing period. There are some hosting providers offer unlimited bandwidth but it's advisable that you read carefully their Terms of Use before signing up for the service. Consider finding a host that provides at least 2.5GB of bandwidth allowance month. If your site acts as a portal for web users to find information, such as a search engine a minimum of 6GB of monthly bandwidth is recommended to start and may increase considerably depending on your traffic levels.

Speed Even though a website maybe 99.9% available, if it's slow loading, it can greatly affect the success of your website. Most internet users would not want to waste their time just waiting for a single page to load unless that is the only page with the kind of information they are looking for. Thus, choosing a hosting provider that has fast servers and good connections to the internet even during peak times is crucial to the success of your website. A reliable way to tell download speeds offered by hosting providers is to look at websites they currently host and note their download speed, taking into consideration the amount of data being downloaded in each case. It may not be easy to find websites hosted by a hosting provider but newsgroup research is a good tool to use. Some hosting providers will give you examples of sites they host if requested.

Since the physical location of servers will play a role in download speeds, you may wish to consider hosting your site at a hosting provider located close to where you expect most visitors to reside. This can be a city, country, or even a continent. If your website is about renting a house in Manila then the most likely visitors are people living in Manila. The wise choice would be a host that provides its hosting services in that locality in this case Manila. You could even get concession on bandwidth because most of your traffic would be local. You may find that performance for your visitors is enhanced considerably because data being transferred does not need to travel as far. On the contrary if you leave in certain parts of the developing world consider hosting your site with a provider in North America, Europe or certain countries in Asia. Most service providers in developing countries have very limited connections to the internet as they depend mostly on satellite links. This is especially the case for websites where large amounts of data will be transferred. It would also be better if the hosting provider that you choose will let you upgrade or downgrade your account anytime for you to save and maximize your account at the same time.

Storage Limits

Often hosting companies will have a cap on how much information or data for your site they will allow. If you are planning on having a large site with a lot of multimedia content, you will probably need additional disk space. When choosing a host do not only consider your present requirement, but bear in mind also that you need to grow your site in the future. Always choose a few times more storage than you need at that moment. Fortunately assessing the disk storage requirements of your site is much easier than assessing its bandwidth requirements. Once the site is completed you can determine your disk space requirements precisely but always remember that once the site is established Also note that in some cases, a portion of allocated disk will also contribute to application files used by the server.

Reliability

If your website in online all the time you won't risk losing visitors who may not return if a site is often down. The hosting company that you choose should be able to guarantee up-time of at least 99%. The availability of a website usually comes down to the quality and reliability of the hosting provider's equipment. Unfortunately you won't be able to physically inspect the provider's equipment but you can for each provider on your list do some reliability checks. Find information about each provider from newsgroup posts and forums. Particularly see if there are any complaints or recommendations made about the provider. Of course you would want your website to be available all the time but always remember that websites are bound to be unavailable momentarily at some stage in order for routine server maintenance and software upgrades to be carried out. However, choosing a reliable hosting provider will ensure down-time is kept to a minimum.

Customer Support

Excellent customer service is always one factor that you should look for as a consumer. Good hosting companies should have 24x7 support especially on the technical side because websites do not close business. . It is advisable to choose a hosting provider that offers 24 hour technical support and maintenance services with fast response times. Find out if the company provides online knowlegebase and FAQ support. Check if the system is frequently updated and used. Online knowlegebase and FAQ are very useful when you have trouble with your website at anytime. Look for a hosting service that provides you with some ability to make changes to your site. Some hosting plans come with Control Panels which allows you to change and manage your hosting account remotely at anytime. Another sure way to tell you will get help if you need it, is to find out if that provider has any technical certification in supporting and providing the service. If they do then you know they have the qualified manpower to keep you running.

Hosting Costs Check the cost of the hosting plans carefully. With all the factors mentioned above, the hosting provider should be able to provide the service at the best price possible. Some hosting features are optional so don not pay for options you won't use now you can pay for them when you need them. The cost of shared hosting plans and dedicated hosting plans varies a lot but dedicated plans tend to cost more. Most new websites do not need a dedicated server.

Service providers often give discounts for longer term payment plans so instead of paying monthly pay up for year to save on cost but it's advisable to choose to pay upfront only if you get a money-back guarantee. This is beneficial for you since you get to try their service and if you are not satisfied, then you can request for a refund and select another provider. Otherwise it is recommended to first choose the monthly payment terms and then change to an annual plan once you have tried the service for a year to save on cost.

Additional services Each hosting plan is likely to come with additional services and frills, which are well worth taking into consideration when making your final decision. The most common services are mentioned below:

ASP, PHP, CGI and MySQL: Advanced scripting and database functionality can greatly enhance the design of your website. You can, for example, include contact forms within web pages or operate discussion forums and newsgroups.