Today you can go online and find over 263 million links to web hosting related sites. With all of those links, how do you pick one? Which company is right for you? What do you need and what can you skimp on? This article will go through every option of a typical web host and not only explain what they are, but tell you if you need them or not.
Before you go looking for a host you need to know some basic things. First off every hosting plan will come with a set amount of bandwidth (sometimes referred to as transfer). Bandwidth is how much information is passed between the web hosting server and a visitor’s computer. You will get a monthly allowance of bandwidth and it will most likely be a number in Megabytes (MB) or Gigabytes (GB). When someone visits your website (referred to as a visitor) their computer pulls information from the server you website is located on and transfers it to their computer. This transfer of information uses some of your allocated bandwidth. In general, the more intricate your web page is, the more bandwidth it uses per visitor. Pages with many photos, music, etc use more bandwidth than pages with all text. You only need a lot of bandwidth if you are planning on having a large number of visitors to your site and have an intricate site.
The second thing all hosting planes must include is space. Space is simply the amount of storage allocated for you to place your website in. This number will be in Megabytes (MB) or Gigabytes (GB). The more space you have the more stuff you can put online. If you plan on putting pictures or big files online, make sure you go with a hosting plan with a large amount of space. If you plan on hosting a small site with just a few pages, then pick a plan with less storage. A typical plan would include 500 MB of storage and 1 GB of transfer. This is often more than enough for a small website.
So far we have talked about bandwidth and storage space. Both of these are required to even have a website. Now we move to the extras. Some may not consider email an extra, but in terms of what you have to have for a site to function it is only an extra. Email accounts are almost universally considered a must for website owners. If you have a website you should have an email address for that site. Most sites need only one email address per person. Find the number of people who are “behind the scenes” of a site, and give each of them one email address. For example, if you are planning on having a family website, give one email address to each family member. Business sites are required to have multiple email addresses (addresses like email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, etc), so people seeking to start a business website should find a hosting plan with many email addresses. POP3 email allows you to use outlook, thunderbird, and other email programs like that. I would not look at a hosting plan that does not offer POP3. A typical website needs about 3 email addresses.
Another extra that is very useful is FTP. FTP (File Transfer Protocol) allows you to transfer files between your computer and your website quickly and easily. FTP is not required, and not necessary for small sites or sites that don’t change often. I would suggest picking a plan with FTP access if you are creating a website for business or one that needs constant changes and/or updates.
Sub domains are a great extra that some people like. A Sub domain is simply something. yourdomain.com. You can place whatever word you would like in front of your domain name and have it directed to a different webpage. For example, if you had pictures located on your site at www.yoursite.com/pictures, you could add a sub domain and rearrange that link to look like pictures. yoursite.com. Sub domains are used most often by more experienced users. Most people do not need them, so don’t pick a host based on these.
My SQL Databases are necessary for things like most photo galleries, calendars, shopping carts, etc. Simple sites do not need these databases, but someone looking to place a photo gallery, support system, etc. on their site should get a hosting plan with these included. Each item that requires My SQL will use one database, so pick a plan with enough databases for your specific situation. Only factor databases into a decision if you think you may use them at some point. Be aware of hosts that charge extra if you decide later on that you want My SQL databases. You should try to find a host that is flexible and will allow you to add on to your package at anytime.
The absolute most important thing when considering web hosts is support! A web host that does not have great support should not even be considered. You will run into problem with your website. Unless you are a seasoned webmaster, you will find something you don’t know how to do or fix, and great support is critical then. You will need a host that can reply to your support requests quickly, and correctly. Pick a host that has been highly rated, or that you know puts more emphasis on support than things like marketing or flashy site designs. Beware of hosts that will say anything to get you signed up, and beware of sites that charge for support. A good web host included great support with all of their plans.
There are other features of web hosting not discussed here, but the most important and most widespread are. The last two issues that arise with web hosting are what server operating system to pick, and what type of hosting to pick. 90% of people should be on a shared server (a server with many different hosting clients on it), but some may want a dedicated server. A dedicated server is what big businesses or high traffic sites need, but they are not cheap. Dedicated servers host you and you alone (hence the term dedicated). As for operating systems, I highly recommend Linux servers. They are more stable and often cheaper than windows servers. Do not worry about not being able to find scripts that will work with Linux servers. Linux has a huge following and most scripts are designed to work on Linux servers. In fact, many great scripts are only available for Linux.
So in conclusion, focus on service and support of a web hosting company. Figure out an estimate of what you need (in terms of space and transfer) then search for a reputable host that can provide you with your needs, great support, and good prices. Find a good price, but don’t go with a free host. These are almost always terrible hosting plans, bad service, and older (often slower) servers. You can even ask around to see if anyone you know has a website and can recommend a good host to you. Don’t be afraid to ask a host a question. In fact it’s recommended that you talk to your host before you join. After all, this is the only way to evaluate their support before you join.
Helios Solutions.net (http://www.heliossolutions.net) is one of the top internet web hosts today. We strive for perfect customer support, great products, and prices everyone can afford. We have been in the hosting market long enough to know that it is all about the customer, and we are not afraid to show that. We have been giving people hosting, design, and tech advice for years, and have a great support team in place for any questions our customers ever have. In short, we are all about the customer and would love to help you in regard to hosting, design, servers, or general hosting questions.