Thursday, October 13, 2011
How to Choose a Web Host - Web Hosting Guide
Choosing the right Web Host matters
Whether you're putting up a personal website or a commercial one, you should choose your web hosting provider wisely. The reason is that you will most definitely want your website to be seen by the largest number of people. To do that it is essential to take a little time to go over certain basic but very important factors that will ensure more visibility for your site.
Points to consider when choosing web hosting
There are so many web hosting providers and packages on offer today. Each one of them have their own unique advantages and weaknesses. So how would one decide which one to choose?
Even after you zone in on a particular provider, you still need to choose the hosting package that will suit you. Every web hosting site offer many different types of packages to choose from. The most popular type is the 'Unlimited Bandwidth' package.
The following points should make your task of choosing web hosting simpler for you.
1. Server Uptime & Customer Support:
The most basic thing for a website to be found on the internet depends on whether the server where the files are stored is online i.e. up and running at any given time. This is called Server Uptime.You will find that most of the web hosting providers will claim a 99.99% server uptime. Some even claimed 100%.
If you have time, search for comments by users of the provider on internet forums or elsewhere online. Or go for the larger more established hosting companies who have built a trusted reputation. Most good hosting companies have multiple server data and power backups. A few also promised 100% and they do that by guaranteeing refund of fees in the eventuality that any downtime might happen.
Another very important feature of a good web hosting is Customer Support. They should provide customers with 24/7 phone and internet support. They should have a good collection of tutorials and FAQs readily on their site in case you might need help. Make no mistake, you will contact your hosting support more often than you think, especially if you are serious about your website.
2. Pricing & included features
The range of pricing and features included in web hosting packages are pretty wide. You will want a fair balance of features and quality that will suit your needs. As with any other product, cheap usually gets less quality. On the other hand some pricing can be exorbitant without any special value.
The prices of hosting packages are usually dependent on the set of features included. These includes data storage and bandwidth limits, number of allowed addon domains and subdomains, number of email and ftp accounts hosted, shared or virtual or dedicated server plans, programming languages and databases, site tools, shopping cart etc, and the list goes on. One can be easily confused with these numerous choices more so if you are not familiar with them. Don't worry, we will cover the essential ones in the next paras.
Pricing for a fair value shared hosting packages usually starts around 6-8 US$ per month. Virtual Private/Dedicated Server around US$ 30-50 pm and Dedicated Servers at US$ 60-80 pm.
Pricing tip: If you have not acquired a domain name or want to add another, then some packages include free domain with hosting. They can be a good bargain.
3. Data Storage and Bandwidth limits
If you are new to putting up websites, you might have very little idea about how much data storage space and bandwidth your site will need. First off, don't worry too much about this. Even the most professional people will tell you that themselves. Because your needs will grow as the number of visitors to your website increases, you will know all about it as you go along.
Data Storage Space: Unless you intend to host lots of video/movie clips or a gigantic amount of big resolution pictures, most hosting packages will do. Normal websites rarely occupy beyond 40-50 MB (megabytes of storage space). The basic shared hosting package for the top registrar costing $4.99 pm includes 10 GB(1000 MB) of storage space.
Bandwidth Limits: Bandwidth limit is the amount of data transfers your hosting permits per month. This depends on how much visitors your site has and the type of files you serve i.e. basic web pages, pictures or video clips etc. Here too, not that much to worry about for normal websites. Most hosting providers will offer "Unlimited Bandwidth" even on their value shared hosting packages.
3. Shared Hosting vs Virtual Private Server vs Dedicated Server vs Cloud Hosting
How to choose between these types of hosting? Putting it simply, you should choose by how busy or popular you think your site will be viz Shared - VPS - Dedicated - Cloud, in that order.
Shared Hosting: Majority of websites on the internet are on Shared hosting. It is good for personal and small websites. They are the most economical of hosting packages. In shared hosting, a number of hosting accounts usually 10-100 are hosted on a single physical server. They share the same server storage and broadband connection.
Shared hosting is particularly recommended for starters and small to medium personal and commercial websites that do not host picture/movie/video downloads.They can cost between $5-$15 per month.
Virtual Private Servers: This type of hosting is usually used by medium websites with medium storage and bandwidth requirements. Virtual Private Servers are hosted on unique ip addresses (eg. 188.8.131.52) and are virtually like a dedicated physical stand-alone server, but with less cost than a physical dedicated server. The way it works is that multiple accounts say 3-10 are hosted on a single physical server, each accounts having it's own unique host id or ip address, data storage and bandwidth separated from each other by software.
VPS hosting can cost between $30 to $150 per month depending on the features for a 1 year contract. Note: All hosting packages price decrease as you increase the number of years of contract.
Dedicated Server: They are usually used by the medium to big websites who need storage and bandwidth scalable to their requirements. They are hosted on separate physical servers. In other words they have a server rented out to them. They have full control over the server with its own unique address, hard disk, ram and bandwidth.
The price of renting a dedicated server depends on the physical components of the server, the hard disk capacity, the processor version, the amount of ram and the broadband connection. Prices can vary between $65 to $200 and beyond per month.
Cloud Hosting: A relatively new thing in the world of web hosting, Cloud hosting is the next generation type of hosting. Instead of having one physical server, cloud hosting uses several servers located in different locations connected to each other.
The main advantages of cloud hosting is the scalability factor and cost efficiency. For big websites there is big benefits. As a website grows larger than its current capability, all they need to do is add another server to join the networked group of servers.
Cloud hosting packages can be priced anywhere from $100 to $550 and beyond depending on the storage and bandwidth requirements.
4. Addon Domains & Sub Domains
Addon Domains are the domain names i.e. websites eg. "http://www.yoursite1.com", "http://www.yoursite2.com" that you want to host with your hosting provider. If you intend to host more than one website, you need to choose the package that allows it. Most of the cheapest web hosting packages will allow only one website.
Sub Domains: They are the different directories that you may want to create eg. "http://directory1.yoursite.com" or "http://directory2.yoursite.com". The number of Sub Domains allowed may be different on different packages. Do not confuse this with folders eg. "http://www.yoursite.com/folder1" or "http://www.yoursite.com/folder2". There is no limit on folders.
5. Email and FTP accounts
Email Accounts: These are unique email accounts for your website/s eg. "email@example.com". You can set these up and give it to anyone, your friends, visitors, customers. No worries here cause most of the hosting packages will give you plenty.
FTP Accounts: FTP stands for "File Transfer Protocol". FTP accounts are used to access your hosting files from web softwares. They are of tremendous help to web masters in that they allow you to update, delete or create new files and folders in your host directly from web design software and ftp softwares. No worries here too as most packages will give you more than 10 accounts. You can allocate this to your designers and co workers as you like.
6. Programming Languages & Databases
Frontpage Server Extension, PHP5, Custom PHP.ini, Perl w/FASTCGI, Python CGI, Java, Ruby CGI, Ruby on Rails w/FASTCGI, ColdFusion, MySQL(Unix), MsAccess, MySQL(Win) etc.
These are programming softwares and databases used by your hosting server. They are used for the more advanced web features like automated content management, user management, running scripts and programs etc. If you don't understand them, you don't need to. Because most of the package include the popular languages and databases that you might need when you want to use them.
7. Content Management, Blogs, Forums: Drupal, Joomla, Mambo, Nucleas, Moodle, Wordpress, Geeklog, Lifetype, Serendipity, phpBB, SMF, Vanilla Forum etc.
These are ready made tools for setting up blogs, forums and content management to enhance websites. Most packages have enough choices here too.
8. Website Tools, Marketing Tools, Shopping Cart Website Tools: Website Builder, Web Analytics Tools, FrontPage Extensions, Google Custom Search, Google Webmaster Tools etc.
These are basic tools that helps in building websites, gauging website popularity and statistics and site enhancements included in most hosting packages.
Marketing Tools: Google AdWords Credit - $50, Yahoo! Search Marketing Credit - $25, Facebook Ads Credit - $50 etc.
These are ad credits for advertising your website. They are great bargains if it is included.
Shopping Cart - For those wishing to sell products online this tool is quite important. Most packages include them.
9. Web hosting tips for good SEO
One of the things that improves Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and should be considered when choosing a web host is the location of the server. Experience shows that search engines favor locally hosted websites when search is made. Big search engines like Google are known to give preference to locally hosted sites. This means that to rank higher in, for eg., UK, it helps to have a web hosting server that is located within the UK. Another thing that also is known to help SEO in local search rankings is regional TLDs or domain names. So for UK, the domains.co.uk or.org.uk are given preference.
Another point to note is that shared hosting can hurt your website's SEO rankings. Experts believe that if you have a site which shares the same server and ip address as a Google penalized site, your site also suffers as a result. The obvious way to avoid this is to host your site or sites on a separate ip address which will mean a dedicated server of a Virtual Private Server.