Choosing a host for your web site can be easy, you need to find a place to store your files. One choice is to let your internet service provider (ISP) host your Web site most ISPs provide some amount of server space as part of a standard dialup Internet access account. An advantage to this is that you won’t have to pay extra for hosting services, although some ISPs can’t provide the bandwidth or the reliability needed for a fully functional business site.
True Web hosting companies resemble ISPs in that they also provide servers connected to the Internet. But good Web hosts invest in more powerful servers and faster, more direct connections to the Internet. A Web hosting service is also likely to offer other features that you can’t get from a regular ISP, such as special commerce servers that provide additional security for online transactions.
Factors to consider when you choose a Web host include:
Server space. Initially, 10MB of disk space on a server should be enough for a typical business site. If your site has lots of graphics or multimedia files, you may need much more room; many hosts offer 100MB or more of disk space at reasonable rates. Also, find out whether email, log files and other “overhead” files count against your space limit once you exceed your disk quota, the hosting service will charge a penalty. It’s always better to have too much space than too little.
Traffic. Your host may impose a limit on how much traffic your site can attract each month before you have to pay a surcharge. You don’t want an increasingly popular site to suddenly become a financial liability, so look for a plan that offers unlimited traffic or at least low over-limit charges.
Support. Make sure you can get technical support during the hours you’re most likely to need it. When you evaluate a hosting service, call its support lines a few times to see how long it takes to get through.
Other features. Make sure you can get your own domain name. Most hosting sites will register a domain name for you at no extra charge (although you’ll still have to pay the standard registration fee). Also check into how many email addresses you get and whether they support aliases, which allow you to set up email addresses. Ask about programs for managing mailing lists and generating automatic email responses.
You will want to find out about the visitors to your site what links they followed to get there, which pages they view most often so make sure that your host is equipped to track and provide that information.
If you or your Web developer uses Web authoring and management software (such as Microsoft FrontPage) that offers nonstandard features, look for a host that can support that software. And if your site provides interactive functions such as forms or surveys, or if you allow online transactions, you need to ask about features such as CGI script and e-commerce support.
Just as you need to make sure your host can provide the features you need, you want to be equally careful not to pay for ones you don’t. If you don’t plan to take credit card orders online, for example, you don’t need to pay for secure socket layer (SSL) or other special security features.
Once you’ve narrowed your list of Web hosting candidates, ask each service you’re considering for a list of the sites it houses. Visit those sites to see how quickly the pages load, especially sites with pages of similar size and complexity to yours. You can also try sending email to the Webmasters at the sites to ask for their opinions of the hosting company. Internet mailing lists, computer user groups and professional associations are other good sources of information on finding the right Web host for your business.