What Should You Check Before Choosing WebHosting
I’ve had my own blog on wordpress for quite a few years now, but recently I decided it was time to upgrade my site and go professional. I started attracting enough visits each month for me to justify my own hosting account. I was really excited to make the move since I couldn’t wait for the extra control I will get over my blog when I host it on my own seperate account. I was already pretty familiar with hosting accounts as I helped set up the hosting where I work. I did however find it very difficult to compare and choose the right hosting, that’s why I decided to put pen to paper and write this guide.
This guide will look at the features I looked at when choosing the perfect company for both my personal blog, and at work. Of course there’s no right or wrong answer, different hosts and different packages will be suitable for different people.
When I started looking at hosting the first thing you will notice is the difference in cost. On the face of it, one hosting account provides the same features as the other. However, this isn’t true. Although it is important to choose services which suit your budget, don’t just choose the cheapest. Also avoid buying hosting on auction sites, especially the “lifetime hosting accounts” which appear quite a lot. I tried one of these once, they’re not actually bad, until the servers go offline and you have to find other hosting.
Cost was also an issue when choosing the package at work. Although we had a much bigger budget, it was still important to shop around and get the best value for money.
As Apache is open source, it’s possible for literally anyone to set up their own web server in their bedroom. This might be a great way to spend a weekend, but if you are unwittingly buying space on one of these ‘servers’ then you will live to regret it. I chose a well known and reputable hosting company which offers up time guarantees. Of course computers aren’t reliable, so your site won’t always be available. Just make sure that the equipment is maintained correctly to minimize the amount of downtime.
Reliability is even more of an issue when choosing hosting for a business. If your site is down then you can’t use it to make any money. NetFirms is one of the biggest names in the industry and offers state of the art servers in temperature controlled data centers.
Although the content of your website will be your own responsibility to look after, lots of reputable web hosts also offer daily or incremental backups. This can be an invaluable feature since it will make getting your site up and running again in the event of a crash so much more straight forward.
Search Engine Optimisation
Whether you are setting up a blog or business online, SEO is very important. Everyone uses Google or another search engine to find sites that might be of interest to them. SEO is the process of making your site appear higher up the list when uses search for a particular phrase.
Search Engine Optimisation is big business because it can help to drive a lot of traffic to your site. Many big hosting firms will offer SEO friendly features which should make it easier for search engines to crawl and index your site correctly. This should result in higher ranking positions, an hopefully more people visiting.
When looking for hosting for my blog I wasn’t bothered at all by SSL or Secure connections. However, if you plan on running a business which accepts payments or requests personal information over the Internet then this is a must. Not all of the smaller hosts are able to provide SSL certificates as you will also need a dedicated IP address. Both Hostgator and NetFirms are capable of offering this feature which will make your site much more professional and trustworthy.
Windows or Linux
Most of the webservers actually run Linux, although the big companies will also be able to provide Windows servers on request. Even if you don’t use Linux on your desktop computer it’s probably the easiest form of hosting you can find. Don’t be afraid of using Linux, all commercial web hosting packages are designed to be as easy to use as possible.
Your hosting account will be managed and administered through a control panel which can be opened in your browser. Some hosts use cpanel, although big names like Hostgator and Netfirms have their own proprietary control panel. These are designed to be intuitive and make it easy to access the features that most people would want.
Bandwidth Vs Storage
When you buy hosting you will notice that it is measured in both storage space and bandwidth. It’s important that you fully understand the meaning of both of these terms. Storage is measured in GB’s and is the size of the hard drive in the server which is allocated to you. This limits how much you can put on your site.
Bandwidth is also measured in GB’s but is the number of GB’s send to and from the server. For example, if you have a 1MB photograph on your server and 100 people access this photograph once then it will result in your bandwidth being 100MB. Typically the bandwidth for a regular website is very low, although video sharing sites, or websites with lots of images will consume much more bandwidth due to the size of the content they are transmitting.
Dedicated or Shared Hosting
The prices of dedicated server hosting is much more than shared hosting, even though they seem to be very similar. However, shared hosting means that you share a single server with hundreds of small websites. The server is literally split up to make this possible. With dedicated hosting, only your own content exists on the server.
Shared hosting has a big downside in that it could result in your site getting blacklisted if other people using the same IP address spam or have suspicious looking webpages. It is also possible to assign a unique IP address to one domain on a shared server, which becomes a VPS (Virtual Private Server).
Dedicated hosting gives you more control over the server, normally you will receive shell access for advanced administration. You can also be sure that your website will not suffer because of other people sharing the same server.
What Packages Did I Choose?
For my personal blog I decided to use a shared hosting plan from Hostgator. This is because I didn’t need any fancy features and the price was very attractive. I’m also fine with shared hosting for now. The great thing about working with a big host is that you can always upgrade your hosting account at any time.
At work though we opted for a much more professional and expensive hosting package. We needed the additional security and features as found on dedicated servers. Whilst these are more expensive we could justify the extra cost. This also gave us a dedicated IP address and shell access into the server. Netfirms had a competitively priced dedicated server package available, again the hardware can be expanded and upgraded at any time.
When choosing hosting accounts, be sure to take you time and compare all of the different packages on offer.