How to Select a Good Hosting Company – Part 1

This series of articles is written for someone who has never set up a web site and would like to learn how to select a good hosting company. Not all hosting companies are the same. Many do a poor job of handling the needs of their customers. Make sure that you select a hosting company that will help your web site to achieve your goals.

Hosting companies offer web servers that provide space for web site scripts, databases and other web objects that need to be served to users on the Internet. A web server is simply a place to host a web site and contains all of the necessary programs and tools that make a web site work. A web server connects to the web and allows users to access the resources on a web site placed on the server.

A group of us started developing web sites as independent web developers in 1997 and we therefore have a lot of experience working with various hosting companies. We have learned from this experience that bigger is not necessarily better. In fact, some of the largest hosting companies we have worked with provided the poorest levels of service.

During 2004, when our current company was founded, we changed hosting companies four times due to excessive downtime and poor levels of support. This shows how difficult it can be to select a reliable hosting company when experienced web developers have trouble finding a good hosting partner. I am writing this article in the hope that some of the advice that we provide can help you to avoid some of the pitfalls we experienced with poor hosting.

Register Your Domain Name
The first step in the process is to make sure that you have a concept in mind for your web site and select a good domain name related to your web site’s theme. You will need to register a domain name before you set up a hosting account. Here is the first valuable tip: Never allow a hosting company to register your selected domain name. Why? Because you need to have complete control over your domain name. Many hosting companies register your domain name in their registrar account, which can make it very difficult to move your web site to another hosting company if you run into problems. When you have control over your domain name, you can move your web site whenever you feel the need to do so. Although it is rare, we have seen situations where hosting companies refused to transfer a domain name to the site owner’s registrar. We find that the easiest and least expensive domain name registrars to work with are GoDaddy.com and NameCheap.com. Set up an account and register a domain name before you select a hosting company.

Make a list of Requirements
Next, make a list of your requirements for hosting. Which programing language will your site utilize? Do you need a database? If so, which one? Will you be using open source software, such as WordPress, Joomla, Drupal or others that have specific requirements? How much traffic will you expect to receive?

An web site developed with static HTML pages can run on any web server. However, if you have a site that uses PHP, JSP, ASP or other server-side languages, you must match the type of server you your needs. Most web sites today utilize PHP and the MySQL database. In this case you should use Linux or Unix hosting. Almost all Unix/Linux hosting includes the MySQL database, but always verify this. MySQL is the most popular database used with open source software.

Unless you have a specific need to run an ASP or ASP.NET web site, we suggest that you avoid using Microsoft web servers. We avoid Microsoft servers because they frequently use restrictive, proprietary control panels, and in some situations can put your site at a disadvantage with search engines. We therefore only recommend using a Microsoft server if you have a need to use a Microsoft server.

How Much Web Space and Bandwidth Is Required?
The web space is the amount of disk space required for your web pages, images, database, other web objects and server log files. Be aware that a current WordPress installation requires 15 megabytes or more of disk space and may quickly grow quickly to 50 megabytes or more if your site becomes popular. Disk space is relatively cheap these days and it is not unusual to find hosting companies that offer 50 gigabytes or more at a very reasonable cost. Some top-notch hosting companies, such as Host Gator, offer packages with unlimited web space and bandwidth for under $10 per month. Just make sure that you will not run out of space in the future if you decide to select a cheap hosting option.

Continue with Part 2 of Selecting a Good Hosting Company