In my previous articles in this series (Parts 1-3) on How To Build A Web Site both available here at EzineArticles.com) I began to outline just what is needed for the "real" web-site to succeed. In this article we are going to discuss what your web host (commonly known as a "server-farm") should be offering you in the base package. There are quite a few excellent web hosting companies out there and you should be able to find one to suit your needs.
First let us make a few things clear.
1. You do not need to be physically close to your hosting company. They do not need to be in the same state nor in the same country for that matter. However, they should be able to provide their customers with uninterrupted, fast access to the internet backbone. The last thing you need is some bottleneck caused because you are paying someone to serve your site out on a web server that is connected with the same type of line you are!
2. All that being said, take into account that from time to time you will need to talk or email your hosting company. If you need to talk to them, and you are not in the same time zone that will cause some sleepless nights on your part. For instance. I live in Israel, and if I use a web hosting company in California, which is usually 10 hours behind us, then I must take that into account if I need to speak to a techie there.
3. Yes you should look for the best bang for your buck - but beware of the too-good-to-be-true deals. The Hosting company is in business to make money - not to do you a favor. So if it sounds too too too cheap or too too too good it probably is just the opposite, and you should stay away.
Okay now down to some particulars and some technical information which you will need to understand to correctly pick what you need from a hosting company.
- Amount of disk space - This is the amount of disk space your site will take up on the server. Packages usually begin at 100 mgs. and go up to 1 gig and beyond. Remember this is the physical allocation of how much your files will take up on the server.
- Bandwidth - This is crucial. Hosting companies create packages based on Bandwidth + Disk space. If your bandwidth is not unlimited be careful here. Every single person who hits your site, even if they stay for one second, uses your bandwidth. YOU USE IT TOO! When you upload and download files as well. This bandwidth gets monitored. And you are allowed X during one month. Go over, and you usually will pay through the nose. So be realistic. New web sites, unless they are built by Bill Gates, usually do not need a lot of bandwidth. Wait on the big MOMMA package until you REALLY need it. BUT do not underestimate it either. Ask the Host Provider what they think if you are in doubt.
- FTP access - A real MUST. If you do not know what FTP is and you are planning on building a web site....well we will deal with it in a future article. For now on your list of MUST HAVE is FTP access.
Okay now what should your Web Host be providing IN the package:
- At least ONE FREE domain name registration. This is the name of your site. http://www.yoursite.com or whatever. You already own a domain name? Does not make a difference. You may want another one and since it is part of the package then make sure they allow you to keep you the ability to register as long as you remain a client.
- FTP Access - Depending on the package you will get from one to XXX number of FTP accounts. Personally I have no idea why anyone would need more than say 5 FTP user names and passwords, but hey, who am I to argue when they throw in 100 FTP accounts!
- Disk size & Bandwidth - Make sure YOU ARE CLEAR ON THIS.
- Linux or Window Servers - see my previous article on these
- Are you going to use FrontPage? Then check to see if they have Frontpage Extensions installed. Most do, but it is important to check.
- PHP - Do they have it installed? If you are getting into web site building, then make sure you get PHP support. And here is a caveat. Find out just how much memory they have allocated for PHP use as well. 8 megs of memory is usually okay but 16 megs is much much better.
- ASP - Windows Servers If you are going to use ASP technology (MS answer to PHP) then make sure you have a Windows Server.
- Email Accounts - How many do they give you? Oy Vey you say. What do you need more than a couple of email accounts? Hah. Try this on for size...
You never have enough email accounts! (And btw you can always gmail to create accounts as well. It is a great alternative though it does not have your domain name.) With your email you should be given web-based access with the ability to create accounts within your parameters and it should have auto responders as well.
- Tech Support - 24 X 7X 365 and I mean that. You have NO idea how many times on a Sunday night you will have to be in touch with some technical support cause you got the message "Server Unavailable" on your screen when you went to check your web site, and then swallowed a few hundred valium to calm down.
- MySql support - Do they have MySql? Do you "create" the tables or do they? Are you limited in the amount of tables? Do they allow PHPMyadmin access to the MYSQL tables?
There are a lot of other parameters as well. But these are the basics. Do research. Google and Yahoo and MSN search for Web Providers, Host Providers etc. You will find directories of all and user comments as well.
One final point. BEFORE you sign and pull out the Credit Card, and in less than 24 hours have your web site all set up - ASK YOUR PROVIDER FOR A FEW COMPANIES THEY HOST. Then on your own line access them with the URL. See how fast they appear on your screen. See what the access time is compared to what you are used to. If all of them are slow, then go to another provider. Don't waste your time! (I didn't say one - I said ALL!)
HTML pages will pop up usually. PHP pages take a bit more processing time. ASP pops up usually. So just use it as one of your measuring sticks, not to make the final assessment.