Website Hosting Services
Look Before You Leap
The majority of those who want an Internet presence, a 'rented' web host with website hosting services is a necessity. Companies that
offer Internet-connected servers that provide space and bandwidth for a domain, for one or
more web sites, are called Web Hosts and web hosting is what they provide. Large companies have private
networks that allow them to host domains on their own equipment
and IP address range.
There are a wide variety of hosting plans available. Some are free, others charge up
to a $100 or more per month. Some website hosting companies provide nothing but a tiny
amount of disk space and minimal network bandwidth. The web site owner is on his or her own for any thing else. Others offer
a wide range of website hosting
services, including server and email administration, backups, web site design assistance,
troubleshooting and many others.
In the world of web
hosting, you may often find yourself sharing a server with anywhere from one to a thousand or more other web sites. That
allows the web hosting company to keep
equipment and staff expenses lower. Many web sites are simple and low-volume enough that the arrangement works
fine. When you or one or more of the others grow, it may be helpful to consider a dedicated
server, as the name suggests, hosts only your
domain. You can put one web site on it, or as many as you wish. You control the access. You may also, as
an option, take over much of the server administration yourself. That may save you money on support costs, but cost you
considerable time. If you don't have the expertise, you can end up costing yourself much more than you
In order to carry out those administrative functions yourself, even if you hire
help, it's desirable to have some technical knowledge under your belt of website design and hosting services. Some of that
knowledge will be useful, even for day-to-day tasks apart from dealing with emergencies. FTP, email administration, backup
methods and other technical areas are among the more common areas you'll need to be at least somewhat
When your web site grows to a certain size and level of complexity, you'll begin
to find it worthwhile to look at implementing a database. But that brings with it a still higher level of ability, both technical and
logistical or creative.
Implementing a database can be relatively simple. Designing one that provides what you want, with
decent performance and maintenance that doesn't become a nightmare, will take some careful thought. Not everyone
has the temperament for that type of work, especially those who prefer graphical design, content creation or
development, and the many other web site tasks that are part of every implementation.
There are other, more low level administrative matters. Managing disk space, maintaining domain names, dealing with registration and
changes, and a number of other 'utilitarian' tasks are also not everyone's cup of tea. Some
understanding of how DNS works, as
well as the design of the Internet itself, are helpful. That provides a good context for understanding the role of
some of those tasks.
When you begin to seek out website hosting services to implement a
web site, consider all these factors and look in the mirror. What kind of web hosting you should pursue is
determined by a combination of who you are and what's being offered. Look before you leap.
How To Select A Web Host
As with many purchases, our first impulse when selecting website hosting services or a web hosting
company is to go with the cheapest. Hey, they're all alike, why pay more? Au contraire.
There are a number of objective criteria that separates one web hosting company from another and money is
only one of them when considering website hosting services. And not the most important one. Selecting a company
based on price alone is equivalent to selecting an auto mechanic on price alone. Sure, he may maintain or fix your
car cheaper. But will the car spend all the time in the shop and none on the road?
The first consideration is 'horsepower'. Do they have the capacity to carry your
load and deliver decent performance? Most hosting companies will advertise that they have huge bandwidth and hundreds of servers.
They're usually telling the truth.
But there's a difference between existing capacity and usable capacity. If they
also have thousands of sites with millions of visitors per day the available or free capacity will be much lower. A
big pickup truck may be able to tow 5,000 lbs. But not if it's already carrying 4,999.
Be sure to ask about available capacity, and have the prospective company back it
up with reliable numbers. If you can't interpret the information they provide, find someone to help you do
Next, and a very close second, is reliability. A lot of power is worthless if it's
cut often. Outages are a normal part of business. Even Google and Microsoft go down from time to time. The
difference is, it happens rarely and they have failover plans. That means, if their site/system does go down it's either up again in
a flash, or you never see the outage because a backup system kicks in automatically and seamlessly.
Be sure to grill the company closely about their up time. They'll often tout
99.6%, or some such figure. But, like the on-time figures of the airlines, those numbers can be shaded by adjusting
the definition of 'up time'. What matters to you is whether your visitors will be able to reach your site at any
time of the day or night they might want to.
Find out what systems, both technical and human, they have in place to deal with
failures of all sorts. Servers can go down, networks can fail, hard disks can become defective and lose data even
when the other components continue to work fine. The result is YOUR site is unavailable, which is all that matters
to you. The web hosting company should be able to deal with all of that and have you up again very
Last, but not least, is security. With the continuing prevalence of viruses and
spam, you need to know that the web hosting
company you select has an array of methods for dealing with them. That means a good technical plan and
staff who are knowledgeable in dealing with those issues. The old saying: 'an ounce of prevention is worth a pound
of cure' is more true here than anywhere else.
All these issues are central to finding a web hosting company that can deliver the
website hosting services you need.
After those criteria are satisfied by a number of candidates, then you can start narrowing them down by