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How to Choose a Web Host for your Website(s)
Choosing the best web hosting service

I’ve put together some helpful articles by other web developers on choosing a web hosting company. Take your time in your research. Good luck and God bless! Eric Gondwe.

1. How to Choose a Web Host: 12 Steps, by wikiHow

One of the most crucial decisions you will make for your website is selecting your web host. It's essential to choose the right host or all your hard work could be wasted or even worse, lost!

How do you choose from the plethora of web hosts available today? Will they hold your files to ransom when you come to transfer away? Can you be in full control of your account at all times?

With so many hosting businesses out there how can you ensure you choose one of the more reputable ones? Here are a few pointers that should help steer you in the right direction:

12. Steps for Choosing a Web Host
      1. Figure out what you want in a webhost first. Do you just want one to play around with and have one for your friends and family or do you want one for your local business or to create a way of making money online? Free web hosts will be fine to play around on but you will need something more if you want it for a business or making money online.

      2. Do they have an easy site builder system if you don't know any programming or anything about making websites? Most do these days.

      3. Do they have cPanel, ispCP or ISPConfig with a system that will let you set up your own blog or forum with a few clicks? (cPanel, ispCP or ISPConfig, like others, is just a system that lets users access the files and website without knowing how to use ftp -file transfer protocol.) Many find this availability useful, but you must be aware it will do for small sites, not medium or big corporate ones, because of the difficulty to update.

      4. If you don't know anything about creating a website will they teach you what you need to know to get the site found and achieve the goal you have for the site?

      5. Get e-mail through the domain name of your website. It's best to go with a host that provides unlimited autoresponders, pop mailboxes, email aliases etc. These services are needed to stay in touch with your visitors, potential customers and indeed your past customers in the hope of back end sales. Using your_name@your_website_name.com also looks more professional and official.

      6. Investigate the uploading method. Using an online manager takes a lot longer when transferring large amounts of data. FTP provides more flexibility when managing your website. For the non-techies, always look out for a host that provides a good online manager, too.

      7. Track your website's progress with logs. If you are a serious entrepreneur, pay close attention to these. All good hosts will provide you with the ability to access your website logs via download.

      8. Leave room for growth with enough space. The amount of space good web hosts provide would matter if your website grows bigger than allowed. Always look for a host with at least 25GB of space available with the option to buy more space if need be. Moving hosts can be a pain. Avoid this with a little foresight and planning. Of course, if you're planning on a simple site, 5GB would be obviously a lot more than enough. Average websites don't even occupy over 50 MB.

      9. Test the speed of a host's network to your location by clicking start > run > type in "command" enter, and then type "ping hostdomainname.com" wait for it to finish and look for the average ping. The lower the number the better, and chances are the faster your site will load. Any number averaging around an 80 would be good. Anything over 100 is very bad except, of course, if the host is based in another country.

      10. Seek good customer service with lots of help pages and FAQ pages, 24/7 telephone support preferably toll free, 24-48 hours reply email support or chat is vital. Avoid a host that has a reputation for poor quality customer service. Check out their average response time and their true uptime guarantee. See the Tips below.

      11. Enable interactive features with access to your own cgi-bin directory. This is the directory from where scripts are carried out. CGI scripts are the backbone of all the functionality of the web. Every time you fill out a form, buy a product, use a forum or engage in a chat room conversation, you're running a script of one type or another. This feature is very important if you want your website to be interactive in any way.

      12. Make transactions with a secure server with https:// capability because your potential customers will expect it. Security is of paramount importance to your customer. Visitors who are concerned about the insecurity to their plastic will never become customers. This is only important if you are considering building an e-commerce website.

    * Test a host's support before joining by calling in. You'll be surprised how many hosts with a toll free number never answer their phones, or have long hold times. Make sure you call the technical or support department. It's not unusual for a web host to have incredible response times for their sales department but lousy response times for their technical or support department.
    * Most popular domain names have already been taken. Before purchasing web hosting it would be wise to use a domain availability tool to help you find a domain name.
    * The cheaper the plan and the more space/bandwidth included, the more sites per server the host will have to pack in to make their money back. Don't shop for a host based on their plans! Shop based on recommendations and experience!
    * Look closely at how your guarantee is defined and if your host will honor it. Most guarantees are prorated and are often worthless.
    * Check out how legit the web hosting company is by doing a WHOIS on their domain name. Also look for the creation date of the domain name. If the domain name was created less then a year ago, it's more of a risk to join that hosting company.
    * Using the company’s name, search Google for honest reviews. If they have been around a year, you should find many real reviews of people who use their hosting. The web hosting company's forum is another good place to check but be warned as they may delete negative posts and ban the user.
    * There are a wide variety of websites that present comparisons of web hosting services. These can be helpful if you don't want to spend so much time conducting these comparisons yourself.

    * Look for a host with an uptime guarantee of a 99.9%. No hosting company can guarantee 100% uptime. Beware of anyone who does, they are lying. Read the terms of the uptime guarantee to find out what types of downtime are not included in the guarantee. Most hosting companies exclude maintenance and other items which makes the 99.9% uptime less meaningful.
    * Be wary of hosts that include a free domain name with their hosting package unless you are certain they will be putting your information in the WHOIS. Whoever has their information in the WHOIS is the owner, not the one who paid for it.
    * Think twice about web hosts with a more competitive yearly rate, forcing you to pay for a year up front. If you have paid yearly and are dissatisfied with their service, you are less likely to swap. It's always best to only pay monthly!
    * Hosting companies that offer unlimited disk space and data transfer for shared hosting accounts will restrict the amount of memory (RAM) and processor (CPU) you can use. If you can't get a hard number for how much memory or CPU you are entitled to, be prepared for unpleasant surprises.

2. How to Choose the Best Web Hosting Service, by Web Hosting Geeks

One of the most crucial decisions that most online businesses have to make is choosing the best web hosting service. With a popular or well known and reliable Internet Service Provider (ISP) you won't face many problems, however with a poor web hosting service provider it can be a nightmare.

Choosing the right kind of web hosting service can be a very daunting task at times as there are some very important features that you need to make sure of. Here you can find below what exactly to look for when choosing the best dedicated hosting service.

Amount of web space: A web hosting service provider would usually assign you a certain amount of space on their server. You need to ensure that does it have the right amount of space for your website and your business requirements. You might want to expand your online business tomorrow and would require much more space. So it's imperative for you that the web hosting company should be able to provide you with ample of space especially if your website is rich in graphics or has video clips.

FTP access: FTP access is very crucial since it provides the ability to upload new pages. Some web hosting service providers allow you to just design your web pages with their own personal web builder. This may be useful for beginners however you need to ensure if they provide you the facility to expand later when you enhance your online business capabilities.

Degree of reliability, security and speed of access: Speed, security and reliability are extremely important for the success of any online business. While choosing a reliable web hosting service you need to ensure that this is taken care of. A site that is not available, not updated on time or is down, will lose many online visitors. If an online visitor finds your site listed on a search engine, and he tries to access it but finds it down, he is sure to move on to the next link and you lose an important customer or visitor. Even slow working websites are very frustrating. So how do you know if a hosting company is reliable or not? By word of mouth or feedback from others! If that's not possible then you can yourself try accessing your site during peak hours and non-peak hours too. Your site has to be secure of intruders at the same time, especially if it's an ecommerce website.

Dependence and support: Does the web hosting service provide 24x7 supports? Do they respond rapidly to your issue? Can you depend on them? If you need 24-hour technical support that larger companies need then expect to pay substantially more. In fact, people are much more expensive than machines.

Pricing plans: Price is also one factor that you should look out for when choosing the best web hosting service. It's not necessarily true that the most expensive hosts are the best. Simply compare prices and services before you finalize one.

Data transfer (Bandwidth): You also need to see if the hosting company provides you with sufficient bandwidth for efficient data transfer. After all it's your website and you need to ensure that you are getting the best services for the money you invest.

3. Free vs. Paid Web Hosting, by Gina Hughes, from Yahoo Tech

Simply put, a web hosting company is able to store your web site's contents on a server to make the web page accessible to others on the World Wide Web. Most web hosting companies want you to register your domain name first in order to set up your account, but if you haven't, they will offer to do it for you. So here's a tip: Never let anybody else register your domain name, no exceptions. Don't be tempted by the host's free registration offer; doing so will only create problems for you in the future.

As you start looking through the thousands of listings for web hosting services, you'll realize that choosing a reliable web host is not easy. The reality is you can't always let price be the main deciding factor, especially if you're setting up an online business. What you want is a good combination of features for an affordable monthly price. With that said, let's look at the pros and cons of free web hosting versus paid hosting.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Free Web Hosting
Everyone has different budgets, and with that comes the decision of taking on yet another monthly payment or not. Free web hosting sounds like a great deal, until you realize the limitations involved. Insufficient web space, FTP access, no email, imposed advertisement, lengthy URLs, and lack of support are just some of the main disadvantages, so don't expect a lot of flexibility. If you decide to choose a free web hosting service, pick one that's been around for at least a few years. You don't want to invest all that time creating a web site that will disappear along with the host.

On the other hand, if you're creating a very simple static site, a good free web host is a great way to get started. You want to make sure they offer you plenty of storage space (50-100MB), email, domain forwarding, site building tools, bannerless advertisement, and reliability. You also want to have the option of upgrading your free hosting account to a paying account in the future, just in case your site grows. Yahoo! GeoCities, Netfirms, and Bravenet seem to offer some pretty decent packages. You may not realize it, but MySpace, Blogger, LiveJournal, and Wordpress are also free hosting services, and the most popular among bloggers. I'll tell you more about them in my design post.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Paid Hosting
Business owners, however, should seriously consider a paid service. Having an online presence is essential for any business even if it's not an elaborate ecommerce web site. Either find a free web host that offers bannerless advertising, like DotEasy, or purchase a budget hosting plan so you can at least have some control over what is displayed on your site. Prices have gone down considerably due to the increasing number of hosts springing up on the web, so finding competitive prices is possible.

The good news is that web hosts will offer you very generous deals on paid packages that include databases, 24-hour phone support, design tools, statistics, plenty of space, bandwidth, and some will even move your site to their server for a low fee. The bad news is that choosing the wrong company can cause you a lot of trouble, especially if your site is down most of the time. This is the number one reason people switch hosts, which makes reliability a very important factor to consider when looking for a web host. Before you sign up, find out what others' experiences have been with the company you're considering. Start by reading reviews, forums, and look for a customer testimonial page with actual links to their customers' sites. Many sites today will have a blog or news page that alerts their audience of any downtime that may inconvenience them. That should be a good indication, too.

4. How to Choose a Web Host, by Daniel Scocco, at DailyBlogTips.com

Choosing a good web host straight from the beginning is very important for the success of a blog. The web host plays a major role on the overall user experience on your site. Secondly, should your hosting provider turn out to be inefficient you might have some trouble to move your blog down the road. Below you will find 5 steps to guide your web hosting choice:

1. Reliability is the main requisite: when choosing a web host many people base their decision on the offered disk space and bandwidth. Unless you already have a very popular blog you will hardly use even 10% the bandwidth on most hosting plans. The main factor on your decision, therefore, should be the reliability of the host (i.e. the speed of the servers and the uptime).

2. Research online: in order to verify the reliability of the different web hosts you will need to research online. Use search engines to gather customer reviews and check the online forums dedicated to web hosting (the best one is Web Hosting Talk).

3. Stay away from oversellers: it is very tempting to sign up with a web host that offers many Gigabytes of disk space, Terabytes of monthly bandwidth and unlimited domains. Specially if they charge $5,95 monthly for those specifications The only problem is that those hosting providers are clearly overselling, and thus they are not able to guarantee service quality. When choosing a web host look for a company that offers reasonable specifications.

4. Test the support service: before signing up make sure that you send some emails to the sales support. Check how fast they answer, how friendly they are and what degree of technical knowledge the operators have. If a company has a poor customer care department to begin with its very likely that other parts of the business will have the same performance.

5. Don’t be cheap: if you are serious about your website or blog you should invest some money into a good web hosting solution. I am not saying that you will need a dedicated server hosting right from the start, but consider that if you want a reliable and fast provider you will need to spend from $10 to $20 monthly.

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