Welcome to Step 2 of the website building process. Now that you have selected and/or registered your domain name you’re ready to purchase hosting. Great! I’ll try to keep this as simple as possible. There are several different options to consider when purchasing hosting and I’ll give a brief overview of the most important features.
This step in the process is very important. Please read this information carefully so that you choose the best hosting plan for your new website. After reading about the different options below take a look at this comparison chart I created to help you make your final decision.
What is a web host or hosting company?
A company that sells space for files and web pages on their servers (a computer that stores files to be shown on the internet) for direct access to the world wide web. Hosting (also known as Web site hosting and Web hosting) is the business of housing, providing a server, and maintaining files for one or more Web sites. A web host provides you with the space, tools and support to create your web pages and email accounts (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The two most common types of hosting are virtual (shared) and dedicated.
What is virtual (shared) hosting?
This is where several websites share one server. It is the most inexpensive option because the price is divided between several users. This option is the best for starting out, but just beware of hosting companies that advertise unlimited web space and unlimited bandwidth. When you’re hosting provider doesn’t specify how much space is available for your site, there’s a possibility they may be overselling. Overselling is a practice where hosting companies sell more hosting space then they have available on a shared hosting plan. As a result when one website uses too much space it detracts from the other sites sharing that server. Which in turn makes the other sites load slower.
What is dedicated hosting?
In this option you typically lease a server from a web host and your sites (or sites) will be the only files located on this machine. Dedicated servers are great for sites that receive a large amount of traffic or host large media files (like video or graphics). The cost is usually around $100 or more. If this is an option for you, just be sure the hosting provider offers managed hosting. This means the company with monitor your server at their location, providing technical help and fixing issues when they arise.
Standard Web Hosting Features
Web Space – Web Space is the amount of space on the server available to store your files, graphics and video. Requirements will vary from site to site and really depends on the content of your site. Just starting out 5 – 10 GB is more than enough be comfortable.
Bandwidth – The term bandwidth refers to the data transferred from the hosting server to a visitors computer. Each time a visitor clicks on a new link text, graphics, scripts and video need to be transferred in order for them to view the page. For the majority of sites and minimum of 100GB is usable amount.
Uptime – Uptime generally means the amount of time your site will be online. Nothing is perfect and issues will come up that are beyond a hosting companies control. A hosting company should be able to provide at least 99% uptime. One percent seems like a small amount, but when your site is making thousands of money an hour, every second counts.
Email Accounts – Email accounts are a very important feature in a web hosting plan. Most plans will provide unlimited email accounts at yourdomain.com. I personally prefer to use the mail servers by Google Apps, which enables me to take advantage of Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar and much more all under your domain. To set this up yourself I have a tutorial available.
Server, Tools and Control Panel – Severs have operating systems just like home computers. Home computers normally use either Windows XP or MacOS. The operating system on a server is either Windows Linux or Unix. I won’t waste too much time on the difference, but if you’re interested you can read more about it here. The main difference is what program languages, databases and scripts will run on each machine. Most hosting plans will run on a Linux operating system.
Some additional tools to be are databases, control panels and one click installers. If you are thinking of installing WordPress or Joomla you will need at least one database available to run these systems. The most commonly used database is MySQL. It is open source GPL (free) software and can serve a lot of online applications. The control panel for your website is the web based admin area where you will manage all aspects of your site, cPanel is the most popular and easiest to use. One click installs like Fantastico, help customers get their blogs or websites online within minutes of creating an account and come with a variety of software all ready and packaged for installation.
Technical Support – A crucial aspect of selecting a web host is technical support. An average technical support team should be available 24 hours a day and be knowledgeable enough to walk you through any problems you have. Technical support can be in the form of a 24 hour phone line, email support, support tickets, forums and wikis.
Price – Finally the last factor is price. In this option there are many different prices depending on which serves you needs. For most personal and small websites you should expect to pay no more than $10 a month. For large websites and businesses they should expect to pay at least $20 a month for a business plan or $100+ for a dedicated server. For more information on these costs refer to How Much Does This Cost?
In general, it’s a good idea to go for a shared web hosting plan with a set amount of available space and bandwidth for each plan. However, to separate yourself from the other sites on your server, I would pay additional for a dedicated IP address. As your web presence grows you can always upgrade later.
WHEW! That was a lot of information, so now lets start buying! Below is a list of reputable service providers which sell domains and hosting.
So What are My Hosting Options?
It’s important to understand that you don’t have to host your website at the same place you register your domain name, but trust me, it does make it a lot easier. You can register your domain name at Hostgator or read about why I love them so much.
HostGator – This is a company I currently use for a few other projects and have been exceptional. They offer all of the standard web hosting features and have a top notch customer support department. No matter what time or day they have always been patient and helped me through every issue or stupid question. (Even if it’s 3am). Hostgator is the best in the business. Seriously. You can host an unlimited about of websites for about 8 bucks a month. They have awesome customer service. There have been times when I have had trouble with my WordPress sites and through their online chat feature we were able to detect the problem and find a solution within minutes. There aren’t many hosting servies that will give you instant access to technical support 24 hours a day.
They have a huge selection of free html templates to help build your new website, however I think my free website/blog templates are much better. They have tutorials, cPanel website administration and a one click install of the best CMS software available online (ie, WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, etc.). But the best reason of all is that their servers are GREEN and almost completely wind powered! Build a website and help the environment.