What to Look for in a Web Host

It’s very easy to spend far more than you need on web hosting. This is especially true if you are using the same web host today that you signed up with years ago. I can speak from experience on this one – I admit it – I wasted a lot of money over the years by sticking with the same web hosting companies (tried and true tho they were). These days, the capabilities and features of basic web host packages that cost $25 or $50 back in the ’90s can be had for just a fraction of that.

I’m happy to say that I have cut my hosting fees by better than 75% on specific projects.

I ran on a virtual server at the cost of $55 per month for ages. The virtual server hosted roughly half a dozen sites. In the early days, that was a pretty fair price. But as competition in the hosting market has ratcheted upward, prices have plummeted. And that’s good for you and me. When the business model changed for the primary site on that virtual server, I took the opportunity to close the virtual server account and move the web sites to their own servers–at a cost of $3 to $7 per site.

The purpose of this article isn’t to plug one web host over another–not at all–it’s merely to help you find the right host for your needs. Web hosting is now a commodity business. While it is certainly technical, it’s no longer exotic. You can compare apples to apples.

Here are some things you should look for when comparing basic web hosts:

  • How much storage space does the web host provide?
  • How much does each additional meg of storage space cost?
  • How much bandwidth (data transfer) is allowed each month?
  • How much does it cost for each additional gig of data transfer?
  • Which OS does the server use? (Linux or Windows?)
  • Is CGI-Bin access allowed?
  • Are any pre-configured scripts installed? Which ones?
  • How many FTP accounts are included?
  • Is a shell account included?
  • Is there a MySQL database?
  • Is there support for JSP, Java Servlets, Perl, C++, TCL, PHP, and Python?
  • Will you have access to your raw server log files?
  • Is a free web server statistical package provided? Which ones?
  • How easy is the Control Panel to use?
  • Will you get a unique IP address?
  • How many sub-domains are allowed?
  • How much does it cost for SSL Support?
  • How many POP3 email accounts are provided?
  • Are email aliases and auto-responders supported?
  • Is spam filtering provided? Is it optional or required?
  • Is there a guaranteed uptime? (What concessions are made if the guarantee is not met?)

And most importantly:

Is support provided 24/7? How is it provided? (i.e: phone, email, chat)

Peace of mind is at the top of my personal list when choosing a web host. I want to know that the web host will be there when I need them.

You might have noticed that there�s one thing left off the list: the price.

You should only compare price after you’ve compared all of the other web host’s features. Make sure you’re getting exactly what you need with regard to capabilities, before you start shopping around on price. If you’ve sacrificed needed web hosting capabilities for a few dollars, you can count on it to come back and nip you in the rear.

So there you have it � a bit of a primer on comparison of basic web hosting capabilities. If your needs are more complex, you may want to look at dedicated server hosting.

[tags]web hosting[/tags]

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