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Choosing A Web Host – Selection Parameters

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Choosing a web host is an essential pre-requisite for making your website come “live” on the internet. Irrespective of the size of your website, the quantum of your visitors’ interaction, or presence or absence of any other complexity, you still need a host to launch you website and make it available to the world wide web. Web Hosting

Selection of a host is not a complex process though at times it can be quite confusing. This is so because a number of hosts are offering so many different packages on their menu cards, to cater to a wide variety of demands that it seems to go on endlessly. With fast changing technology and the ignorance of one’s own requirements it can be quite daunting to pick and choose one web host that meets most of one’s demands.

The best way to come out of this situation is to tread your path in a step by step method. Make a list of your own assessments and weigh their pros and cons and then short select a few hosting companies.

We have provided below a number of crucial selection parameters that you must verify for each selected host. Give some weightage points for each parameter to all the companies that meet those criteria. There are plenty to choose from and some research into each company will help you find one that not only is affordable but also provides excellent customer service, plenty of features and access to free server-based applications.

We have also prepared list of best web hosts which you can access at:

Analyze your list of hosts with respect to the following parameters. To check for a specific parameter click the one you want to know about.

1- Assess You Own Requirements

At the very onset, find out your own requirements. A clear picture about it will go a long way in helping you to select your best web host. What are the goals of your website? What is it that you are expecting from it? What kind of visitors are you looking at? How soon and by how much do you expect your website to grow in the future. This is important because you shouldn’t be paying for something that your really don’t require and simultaneously you should be prepared for the unexpected growth in size and traffic in the future. Ideally try to visualize what you need right now and what you would be expecting to cover up later in the future.

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2- Disc Space

Disc space represents the amount of hard disc space reserved by the web host for your exclusive usage. Most websites need less than 5-10 MB space but if a site has many images, sound or video files then you should look for more space. Nowadays hard disk space is quite cheap and knowing that an average website hardly ever needs more space, most web hosts offer space like 300-500MB or more than that per month in most of their packages.

You can even find words like “Unlimited” space being used while defining space availability by a web host to attract web masters to host their websites with them. Don’t get misguided by these tactics as extra space is not going to be of any use if your website doesn’t demand it. Do look for your own growth potential and decide accordingly how much space is actually just right for you. You are quite unlikely to run out of space but make sure you find out how much does a web host charge for each extra MB, if at all in future you do require buying extra disc space.

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3- Bandwidth

Bandwidth is also known as traffic or data transfer. Bandwidth is the amount of data transfer that takes place while accessing your website. It is used all the time, either in viewing web pages or in downloading images, sound or video clips or any other file or while using software. Your monthly bandwidth increases with the growth of your website. More traffic translates into consumption of more bytes being transferred.

Most average websites don’t need to transfer data more than 2-5 GB per month. But if you foresee unexpected growth in traffic then amount of bandwidth that you require becomes an important criterion. Look for what most web hosts have to offer. Usually you will find sufficient bandwidth allocations in most packages. Web hosts are aware of the fact that not all website eat up their bandwidth, and it is in some special cases only that need more than the other, and on the whole they all get balanced out. Hence they are quite generous in allocating bandwidth in all of their packages.

Here too you are most likely to find the word “Unlimited” being used often by a web host to define the amount of bandwidth allocation. Find out exactly how much is this unlimited bandwidth. That is so because most web hosts have quite steep outages charges, which means the amount you will be over charged should you cross their monthly bandwidth limits. So it will be quite worthwhile to assess your own requirement and look for the most suitable bandwidth value rather than paying extra each month. In the normal run you are most unlikely to cross their monthly limits.

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4- Reliability, Speed & Security

Reliability, access speed and web security are key points that any good web host must ensure. Not just the growth but the very existence of your website depends upon these three factors.

A web host must ensure minimum uptime of your website to be nothing less than 99.95%. In fact it should be 99.99%. That will ensure that your web host will keep its servers running for ever and your website will be available to all your visitors at any time of the day. A reputed web host does provide guarantee for its minimum uptime and refunds for the loss of time in case it falls below the guaranteed limit.

A website that is down loses visitors. Similarly slow speed infuriates visitors and they are liable to switch to a different site if it takes too long to upload your site. That can be very painful for the health of your website.

The speed at which your website is uploaded for viewing depends upon the type of internet connection being used by your web host. Some web hosts use T1 or T3 type of internet connections which offer low rate of data transfer. Top level web hosts use Optical Carrier lines to connect to the internet which are many times faster and much more reliable.

A good web host must also ensure security of your website against any hacking or intrusion attack. This is more important if you are running an e-commerce website and have crucial data to protect. This must be protected from unauthorized access. Simultaneously they should have frequent backups so as to protect your data from getting lost in case of any server crash.

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5- Customer Service & Technical Support

Customer service and technical support are the hallmarks of a good web host. Check out whether your web host provides you service support or not for all the 24 hours a day, seven days a week (24x7) for 365 days a year without missing on Sundays or Public Holidays? Not that you need support all the time but you should get help when you want it. It could be in the middle of night too!

It is vitally important that your web host should provide you technical support along with their customer service. Their staff should be technically sound and most importantly be accessible round the clock to answer all your technical queries. When you have problem with your website and need help immediately it definitely can’t be postponed. It has to be tackled then and there just like any other emergency.

Most hosting service providers do have it written on their profiles that they have support 24x7, but do they really have it? Do check out by calling at odd hours or on holidays.

Customer service and technical support are extended in a number of ways. A good host has a database that answers a number of queries that are common for most webmasters and that which have been collected over a number of years of providing service. Most of your queries can be solved by digging deep into their FAQs or similar modules. Some web hosts also have video tutorials to guide website setting up procedures and for other technical issues. This is non interactive support.

To cater to someone who doesn’t have time or inclination to personally look into a large database, a good host provides solutions via e-mail, telephone, or chatting support. All these one to one interactive services and technical support do come with a price and eventually would hike the cost of any package they are associated with. But it’s alright as long as you have help at hand and your website is always free from any technical hiccup.

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6- Price of Hosting Packages

Most people who don’t take time to understand the concept of web hosting are primarily guided by the price of each package. They either turn up paying for a higher plan that offers much more than they are ever going to use or choose to pay for something that falls short of even their own expectations.

Price should never be a deciding factor. You can find cheaper plans that offer innumerable facilities and satisfy most average websites and you can also find costlier ones that offer the bare minimum essentials. It is for you to compare prices of various packages offered by hosts and decide what suits you best. While doing so you can judge each hosting package with reference to whatever you feel is most critical to you. Some give importance to bandwidth, while others might be looking for extra disc space.

Hosting service providers usually offer a number of packages to cater to a wide variety of requirements. Obviously the one with the most add-ons will be dearer than the one with just the basics. Don’t get conned by the term “Unlimited” and look for the hidden meaning. Your web host might even have a lot of freebies to entice you to choose one over the other. Find out if at all those freebies are of any use to you.

Although most plans are with annual payments but you can find some web host service providers offering monthly or even quarterly payment plans too. The annual plans are cheaper but if you want to initially try a host then monthly plan should serve you better. That way you don’t have to wait for one full year to get over before transiting your website to a different host.

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7- Site Builder, FTP Access & Control Panel

Nowadays most hosting service providers offer site builder facility. This is especially sought after by those who are not comfortable with designing their own web pages. This is a very good option because lack of knowledge about HTML and other technical stuff shouldn’t be a hindrance to your ambition of setting up your own website.

A good host also has tutorials and other supporting material to teach you the intricacies of not just making your website but also how to make it grow. They also offer a number of well designed web templates to choose from and by following their step by step procedure you can make your web page within no time, if you have your content ready.

Although this is a good feature yet hosts should also provide facility for you to upload your own web pages. Some cheap or free hosting packages don’t allow this.

FTP or File Transfer Protocol, is used to transfer files between your own computer and the servers with your host. This is very essential if you have a number of pages on your website and which need to be edited, modified and updated quite often.

Control Panel gives the control in your hands of your website and some administrative jobs associated with it. Some hosting service providers also refer to it as Site Central. Web masters who are not acquainted with FTP have a sort of lighter version in control panel and can easily upload their web pages from here. Besides modifying your website you can also access your web hosting account and carry out many activities like changing passwords, making payments, checking traffic, domain names management, web mail, and many more. The convenience of taking charge and doing things yourself with control panel is much greater than seeking support, time and again from your host.

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8- Other Features

Although the above discussed parameters are crucial to all web masters, whether big or small, yet there are a number of other features which may just be appropriate for a few others. There are certain features which are meant for more advanced users and for those that have commercial websites that also handle large database. There could be some features that are required by all but come with additional charge. Some of these additional features are:

  • 1. Type of web hosting package – Linux or Windows
  • 2. PHP, Perl, SSI, MySQL
  • 3. E-mail, POP3, Automailresponders, Mail forwarding
  • 4. SSL (Secured Sockets Layer) or Secured Server, if you are planning to collect payment via credit card.
  • 5. Shopping Cart for commercial websites.
  • 6. Multiple Domain Hosting, Virtual Hosting

Different hosts provide different services. Not every webmaster requires everything that is on offer. So choose what suits your requirements and compare them with what other hosts are offering.

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9- Experience, Popularity and Client Base

While most hosting service providers cater to most varied demands, yet there is one factor which is their deciding factor. Their acid test lies in their experience and overall popularity.

It is not the price tag that differentiates one host from the other. It is their knowledge, management, and experience that matters the most. Without these they themselves are not going to stay in business for long as cut throat competition will wipe them off. And with that can go your website, if you don’t take pains to select a host with lots of experience and popularity.

A look at their client base can tell about their popularity. Find out the type of websites being hosted by their clients. Through this you can know whether this host is capable of hosting your website or not. Some satisfied clients post their testimonials. Read them and evaluate them.

A host who has been in business for a number of years must have gained enough experience to host all kinds of websites. Do look for their business credentials not just on their own websites or blogs but also on other forums. Some very popular web hosts get discussed too often. The internet is a good source for further investigation. Look out for good hosting reviews posted on other websites. Some professional websites rank various web hosts and each year bring about their own lists of top performers. These can be very helpful.

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