Choosing The Best Web Hosting Plan

Activities on the Internet are changing every second and minutes of the day as more technological innovations increase in complexity. Gone are the days when only a few players partake in Web hosting services. Today with millions and millions of people joining the web every day more and more hosting services enters the scene the competition increase exponentially.
With changing complexity of the internet daily, choosing a good hosting plan especially for businesses becomes crucial to the success of the businesses online. One of the frequent complains about some Web hosting services is the lack of good customer service, website going down for an unacceptable period of time and hidden fees. These have negative implications on the development of businesses especially small business online. Having your website down for even as little as 1 minute can be devastating to the business. How can we choose a reliable web hosting service? Below are pointers to look out for when choosing a reliable hosting plan :

1. Advertising
Most free web hosts impose advertising on
your website. This is done to cover the
costs of providing your site the free web
space and associated services. Some hosts
require you to place a banner on your
pages, others display a window that pops
up every time a page on your site loads,
while still others impose an advertising
frame on your site. There is really no hard
and fast rule which is to be preferred: some
people hate a pop-up window, other
webmasters dislike having to stuff banner
codes onto their pages, and many people
cannot stand an advertising frame (which
may cause problems when you submit your
website to search engines). Whichever
method is used, check that you’re
comfortable with the method.

2. Amount of web space
Does it have enough space for your needs?
If you envisage that you will expand your
site eventually, you might want to
anticipate future expansion. Most sites use
less than 5MB of web space. Indeed, at one
time, one of my other web sites,
thefreecountry.com, used less than 5MB of
space although it had about 150 pages on
the site. Your needs will vary, depending
on how many pictures your pages use,
whether you need sound files, video clips,
etc.

3. FTP access
FTP is the most common method used by
people to transfer their web pages and
other files from their computer to their web
host’s computer, so that it can be viewed
by anyone in the world.
Some free hosting providers only allow you
to design your page with their online site
builder. While this is useful for beginners,
do you have the option to expand later
when you become experienced and their
online page builder does not have the
facility you need? Online site builders also
have significant disadvantages. .
FTP access, or at the very least, the ability
to upload your pages by email or browser,
is needed. Personally, I feel FTP access is
mandatory, except for the most trivial site.

4. File type and size limitations
Watch out for these. Some free hosts
impose a maximum size on each of the files
you upload (including one with a low of
200KB). Other sites restrict the file types
you can upload to HTML and GIF/JPG files.
If your needs are different, eg, if you want
to distribute your own programs on your
pages, you will have to look elsewhere.

5. Reliability and speed of access
This is extremely important. A site that is
frequently down will lose a lot of visitors. If
someone finds your site on the search
engine, and he tries to access it but find
that it is down, he’ll simply go down the
list to find another site. Slow access is also
very frustrating for visitors (and for you too,
when you upload your site). How do you
know if a host is reliable or fast? If you
can’t get feedback from anyone, one way is
to try it out yourself over a period of time,
both during peak as well as off-peak hours.
After all, it is free, so you can always
experiment with it.

6. PHP and/or Perl
(In case you’re wondering: What is PHP and
Perl?)
It’s quite possible for a website to work
even without PHP or Perl access. For
example, you can always use one of the
many free script hosting services available
that provide counters , search engines ,
forms, polls , mailing lists, etc, without
requiring you to dabble with Perl or PHP
scripts.
However if you really want to do it yourself,
with the minimum of advertising banners
from these free providers, you will need
either PHP or Perl access. Note that it is
not enough to know they provide PHP or
Perl access: you need to know the kind of
environment your scripts run under: is it so
restrictive that they are of no earthly use?
For PHP scripts, does your web host allow
you to use the mail() function, which allows
your scripts to send email? For Perl scripts,
do you have access to sendmail (a computer
program) or its workalike?
7. Bandwidth allotment
Nowadays, many free web hosts impose a
limit on the amount of traffic your website
can use per day and per month. This
means that if the pages (and graphic
images) on your site is loaded by visitors
beyond a certain number of times per day
(or per month), the web host will disable
your web site (or perhaps send you a bill).
It is difficult to recommend a specific
minimum amount of bandwidth, since it
depends on how you design your site, your
target audience, and the number of visitors
you’re able to attract to your site. In
general, 100MB traffic per month is too
little for anything other than your personal
home page and 1-3GB traffic per month is
usually adequate for a simple site just
starting out. Your mileage, however, will
vary.
Choosing a Commercial Web Host
1. Reliability and speed of access
Not only should the web host be reliable
and fast, it should guarantee its uptime
(the time when it is functional). Look for a
minimum uptime of 99%. In fact, even 99%
is actually too low — it really should be
99.5% or higher. The host should provide
some sort of refund (eg prorated refund or
discount) if it falls below that figure. Note
though that guarantees are often hard to
enforce from your end — especially if the
host denies there was any downtime.
However, without that guarantee, the web
host will have little incentive to ensure that
its servers are running all the time.
2. Data Transfer (Traffic/Bandwidth)
Data transfer (sometimes loosely referred to
as “traffic” or “bandwidth”) is the amount
of bytes transferred from your site to
visitors when they browse your site.
Don’t believe any commercial web host that
advertises “unlimited bandwidth”. The host
has to pay for the bandwidth, and if you
consume a lot of it, they will not silently
bear your costs. Many high bandwidth
websites have found this out the hard way
when they suddenly receive an exorbitant
bill for having “exceeded” the “unlimited
bandwidth”. Always look for details on how
much traffic the package allows. I
personally always stay clear of any host that
advertises “unlimited transfer”, even if the
exact amount is specified somewhere else
(sometimes buried in their policy
statements). Usually you will find that they
redefine “unlimited” to be limited in some
way.
In addition, while bandwidth provided is
something you should always check, do not
be unduly swayed by promises of incredibly
huge amounts of bandwidth. Chances are
that your website will never be able to use
that amount because it will hit other limits,
namely resource limits. For more details,
see the article The Fine Print in Web
Hosting: Resource Usage Limits
.
To give you a rough idea of the typical
traffic requirements of a website, most new
sites that don’t provide video or music on
their site use less than 3 GB of bandwidth
per month. Your traffic requirements will
grow over time, as your site becomes more
well-known, so you will need to also check
their policy when you exceed your data
transfer limit: is there a published charge
per GB over the allowed bandwidth? Is the
charge made according to actual usage or
are you expected to pre-pay for a potential
overage? It is better not to go for hosts
that expect you to prepay for overages,
since it is very hard to forsee when your
site will exceed its bandwidth and by how
much.
3. Disk space
For the same reason as bandwidth, watch
out also for those “unlimited disk space”
schemes. Many new sites (that don’t host
videos or music) need less than 20 MB of
web space, so even if you are provided with
a host that tempts you with 100 GB (or
“unlimited space”), be aware that you are
unlikely to use that space, so don’t let the
100 GB space be too big a factor in your
consideration when comparing with other
web hosts. The hosting company is also
aware of that, which is why they feel free to
offer you that as a means of enticing you to
host there. As a rough gauge,
thesitewizard.com, with nearly 400 pages in
April 2013, used only about 18 MB for all
its pages and associated files.
4. Technical support
Does its technical support function 24
hours a day, 7 days a week (often
abbreviated 24/7), all year around? Note
that I will not accept a host which does not
have staff working on weekends or public
holidays. You will be surprised at how often
things go wrong at the most inconvenient of
times. Incidentally, just because a host
advertises that it has 24/7 support does
not necessarily mean that it really has that
kind of support. Test them out by emailing
at midnight and on Saturday nights, Sunday
mornings, etc. Check out how long they take
to respond. Besides speed of responses,
check to see if they are technically
competent. You wouldn’t want to sign up
for a host that is run by a bunch of
salesmen who only know how to sell and
not fix problems.
5. FTP, PHP, Perl, SSI, .htaccess, SSH, MySQL,
crontabs
If you are paying for a web hosting account,
you really should make sure you have all of
these.
Note that some commercial hosts do not
allow you to install PHP or Perl scripts
(“What is PHP and Perl? “) without their
approval. This is not desirable since it
means that you have to wait for them
before you can implement a feature on
your site. The ability to create or modify
“.htaccess ” files is needed if you are to do
things like customize your error pages
(pages that display when, say, a user
requests for a non-existent page on your
site) or to protect your site in various ways
(such as to prevent bandwidth theft and
hotlinking, password-protect a directory
(folder) , etc).
SSH access is useful for certain things,
including testing certain scripts (programs),
maintaining databases, etc. MySQL (” What
is MySQL? “) is needed if you want to run a
blog or a content management system . Cron
is a type of program scheduler that lets you
run programs at certain times of the day
(eg, once a day). Check to see if these
facilities are provided.
6. SSL (secure server)
If you are planning on selling any goods or
services through your website, you may
want to see if the web host lets you set up
SSL (a secure server). You may have seen
this on other websites where their web
address begins with a “https://” instead of
http://”. Setting this up will normally
involve additional charges or a higher
priced package. At this point, the main
thing is do is to check if they are available
at all before you commit to the host. You
will definitely need to have SSL if you plan
to collect credit card payments yourself. If
you’re relying on a payment gateway
instead, and are not otherwise collecting
sensitive or private information from your
customers, it’s possible that you don’t need
this facility. For those who are wondering
about what this is, but are too lazy to click
through the link in the previous sentence,
a payment gateway is just a third party
company, like PayPal, that collects credit
card payments on your behalf.
7. Email, Autoresponders, POP3, Mail
Forwarding
If you have your own site, you will probably
want to have email addresses at your own
domain, like sales@yourdomain.com, etc.
Does the host allow you to set up whatever
email addresses you want on your domain,
so that mail can be forwarded to your
current email address, or placed into a mail
box on your web hosting account itself? Can
you set an email address to automatically
reply to the sender with a preset message
(called an autoresponder)? Can you retrieve
your mail with your email software ?
8. Control Panel
This is called various names by different
hosts, but essentially, they all allow you to
manage different aspects of your web
account yourself. Typically, and at the very
minimum, it should allow you to do things
like add, delete, and manage your email
addresses, and change passwords for your
account. I will not sign up for a host where
I have to go through their technical support
each time I want to change a password or
add/delete an email account. Such chores
are common maintenance chores that every
webmaster performs time and time again,
and it would be a great hassle if you had
to wait for their technical support to make
the changes for you.
9. Multiple Domain Hosting and Subdomains
For those who are thinking of selling web
space or having multiple domains or
subdomains hosted in your account, you
should look to see if they provide this, and
the amount that they charge for this
(whether it is a one-time or monthly
charge, etc).
10. Web Server and Operating System
Is the type of operating system and server
important? Whether you think so or not on
the theoretical level, there are a few
practical reasons for looking out for the
type of server.
In general, if you want to use things like
write/use ASP programs, you have no choice
but to look for a Windows server.
Otherwise my preference is to sign up for
accounts using the often cheaper, more
stable and feature-laden Unix systems
running the Apache server. In fact, if
dynamically generated pages that can
access databases (etc) is what you want,
you can always use the more portable (and
popular) PHP instead of tying yourself down
to ASP. Another reason to prefer Unix-based
web hosts (which include web hosts using
systems like Linux, FreeBSD, OpenBSD,
Solaris, etc) using the Apache web server is
that these servers allow you to configure a
lot of facilities that you typically need on
your site (error pages, protecting your
images, blocking email harvesters, blocking
IP addresses , etc) without having to ask
your web host to implement them.
Knowledge about configuring Apache
servers is also widely available, and can be
found on thesitewizard.com’s Configuring
Apache and .htaccess
pages as well.
For those interested, you can read another
discussion on the matter in the “Should
You Choose a Linux or a Windows Web
Hosting Package? Is There Such a Thing as
a Mac Web Host?
” article.
11. Price
I was actually hesitant to list this, but I
guess it’s futile not to. However, I would
caution that while price is always a factor,
you should realise (“realize” in US English)
that you often get what you pay for,
although it’s not necessarily true that the
most expensive hosts are the best.
12. Monthly/Quarterly/Annual Payment Plans
Most web hosts allow you to select an
annual payment plan that gives you a
cheaper rate than if you were to pay
monthly. My current personal preference is
to pay monthly with all new web hosts until
I’m assured of their reliability and honesty.
Paying monthly allows me to switch web
hosts quickly when I find that the current
host does not meet my requirements: this
way, I’m not tied down to a bad web host
because I have prepaid for an entire year. I
do this even if the new web host
guarantees that they will refund the
balance if I’m dissatisfied, since at the
point I sign up, I have no assurance that
they will honour their guarantee. Later
(usually after a couple of years), when I’m
satisfied with the host, I may change
payment plans to the discounted annual
plans.
13. Resellers?
Not all hosting companies own or lease
their own web servers. Some of them are
actually resellers for some other hosting
company. The disadvantage of using a
reseller is the possibility that you are
dealing with people who don’t know much
about the system they are selling and who
take longer to help you (they have to
transmit your technical support request to
the actual hosting company for it to be
acted upon). However, this also depends on
both the reseller and the underlying
hosting company. It is thus wise not to rule
out all resellers; there are a number of
reliable and fast ones who are actually
quite good and cheap. In fact, a number of
resellers sell the same packages cheaper
than their original hosting company. I find Just Host plan particularly cheaper http://www.justhost.com/track/dariyan209
As we strive to find a good hosting plan for our businesses, we also have to keep it in my that business is about providing service to people. Let’s practice it. The journey towards provision of good service, financial progress and freedom starts with you.

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About dariyan205

Am a simple guy with a passion for business and investment. A self employed Hero. I love helping people achieve their financial goals and objectives.
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