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 What to look for when looking for a website host for your personal or small businesses site.


  Before you buy Website Hosting; Some stuff to think about...

Size Does Matter

  Your business may be small now, but you are going to be getting visitors from all across the country - indeed, the whole planet - so it's important that your host is large enough that they have good internet connectivity everywhere that your potential customers are.

  You'll also want to take into account that there are hundreds of web hosting companies - and new companies are entering the market every month. Over the next couple years some won't survive and others will be swallowed up by bigger companies. While losing your hosting service won't be the end of your business, it would still be a major pain in the neck to find a new one in a hurry.

  Also: smaller, newer companies will lack the experience that older, well established companies take for granted. Any hosting company that has been in business for a couple years has probably dealt with hackers, power failures, acts of God, bad software upgrades and a pile of other 'Murphy's Law Events' - and they have evolved procedures to deal with each of them in the shortest possible time.

  So, Your hosting provider choices just got a lot smaller, didn't it? Unless you are willing to risk the future of your business and your livelihood to a small, untested hosting company.

  Some Minimum Requirements to consider...

Starter Packages - In the beginning, a package offering 10GB/month Bandwidth and 5GB disk space may seem like it's plenty big enough, but it won't take your natural growth into account... and if you outgrow your host in a year or so it will just be too bad for you... So either start with much more than you will need, or make sure that they will let you change service plans without headaches.
  So that brings us to:

Scaleability - Unless you are willing to buy a package with much more 'stuff' than you need now, you will need to be able to easily and inexpensively upgrade to more bandwidth and/or more disk space as your business needs change. Read the 'fine print' to make sure that there won't be any expensive surprises down the road.

Versatility - not all hosting companies support all the scripting & programming languages. You may not need to use PHP or CGI scripting, Apache handlers or Anonymous FTP service, but limiting yourself to a host that won't support all the possible features you may want to add later may not be the best decision.

Add-Ons and Features - Most hosts we looked at supported some sort of e-commerce solution, but make sure that the shopping cart service is versatile enough for all of your possible needs: now and in the foreseeable future. Likewise with your guestbook, message board, chat rooms, email server, etc.

Checklist - So, before you go shopping around, decide what you need now and try to forecast your future needs, and make yourself a checklist of the features and options you want from a webhost. You'll be a better informed consumer, and in a better position later as your online business grows.

Some details you'll want to look at when shopping for a website hosting provider...

  • What kind of Control panel do they give you?
  • How much Disk Usage (or Disk Space) is available?
  • What is the maximum Bandwidth Usage?
  • Do they provide POP3 Email Accounts - and how many?
  • Is email Forwarding supported?
  • Are email Auto-Responders allowed?
  • Can you employ Email Filters on your POP3 accounts?
  • How many 'MySQL' Databases do they allow?
  • Is the supported PHP version up to date?
  • Do they support Frontpage Extensions?
  • Do they supply a free Shopping Cart?
  • How often do they Backup the files on their servers?
  • Do they support Mime Types, Apache Handlers, ht_access, etc?
  • What kind of customer support do they provide?
  • Do they have a customer forum or FAQ database you can use for help & information?

    Even if you are not planning on using (for instance) FTP access or PHP includes, if you change your mind in a year you should not have to pay extra for it.


          Our Top Pick for the best website hosting...
            this is the service we use, and recommend:

    HostGator is a world leading provider of shared, reseller and dedicated web hosting with a full in-house support team of over 400 industry veterans.
      The most popular plan is the Baby Croc plan, which comes with support for unlimited domains, Unlimited Disk Space and Bandwidth... plus Unlimited Sub Domains, FTP Accounts, and Email Accounts! We especially like the free scripts and the online web site building software they provide.
      (Of course, the 'no setup fee' and the money-back guarantee helped too)

      Build Your Site Online With the Easy to Use Site Studio Template System!!

    A Few Good Reasons To Try HostGator:
    * No Setup Fees & No Contracts
    * Unlimited Disk Space
    * Unlimited Bandwidth
    * Unlimited Domains on 1 Plan
    * Free SiteBuilder Tools
    * Easy-To-Use Control Panel
    * Easy 1-Click Script Installs
    * 4,500 Free Website Templates
    * Get $100 Google AdWords Credit

    Transfer from another host and they
    will even Help You Move!

    Get Web Hosting With Quality 24/7 Support Via Phone, Live Chat, and Email!

    Hosting for every budget AND every skill level

    Hosting for every budget AND every skill level. Try HostGator Today

    Affiliate Disclosure: Yes, we use Host Gator and we like their service ~ a LOT better than the others we've tried ~ so we signed up as affiliates... SO, Yes; if you follow one of the Host Gator links and purchase a hosting package, we get a referral commission.
    I am grateful to be of service and bring you content free of charge. In order to do this, please note that whenever you click the links on my site and purchase items, in many (not all) cases I will receive a referral commission. Your support in purchasing through these links enables me to pay for this site and keep it going. So - Thank you! :) - abby


    Linux vs. Microsoft Hosting

    Linux or Microsoft…? ~ both can work for you!

    The operating system that you use on your computer should not govern your choice of hosting platform. If, for example, your computer runs on Microsoft® Windows®, you are not obligated to choose Microsoft web hosting.

    Which is best for you?

    Both technologies are suitable for beginners, professional web developers, and everyone in between, but it is essential to choose the technology that is more suited to your style of web building. Each technology has its own distinct advantages for users.

      Linux hosting

    Linux is widely considered to be the best operating system for web hosting servers. Characteristically reliable, stable and efficient, Linux has been proven in the most demanding web and mail server environments.

    If you plan to incorporate work that uses PHP, Perl or MySQL, Linux is the solution you should choose. Linux is also ideal for the kind of websites that display information as a brochure, in newsletter format or as data sheets. Linux works well for 'brochure-ware' sites that offer interaction via inquiry forms, online purchasing and other e-commerce functions.

    Essential programs such as Microsoft FrontPage® can also be successfully used with Linux technology. In fact, HostGator offers FrontPage Extensions with Linux hosting packages.

      Microsoft Hosting

    Microsoft should be your choice of platform if you plan on utilizing Active Server Pages or other Microsoft applications to design your web pages.

    MS hosting also offers an advantage if you wish to incorporate searchable databases into your website. The Microsoft platform delivers reduced development time and better functionality for databases.

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    Should I Use Paid Or Free Web Hosting?

    When you are putting your site together you may start looking for good free hosting, and you may wonder if there is there a catch with the free hosting providers.

    The truth is that nothing is totally free. Think about it: How do free hosting providers stay in business? They have costs just like the paid hosting providers: servers, bandwidth, server software, maintenance, salaries and so on...

    How do they pay for all that without charging for hosting? The answer is advertising. They place ads on your site and usually have tracking software to determine if your visitors click on their ads and generate income or not.

    If your web site does not turn out to be profitable for them, you could easily loose it. Those free hosting providers that do not place ads on your site may simply be stealing your traffic, or may just decide to close your site and show their own web page to take advantage of your residual traffic.

    Some of the other negative things associated with free hosting are:
    * PHP, CGI & Perl Scripts are usually disabled.
    * Very limited disk space and limited bandwidth.
    * Limited access to useful tools, site builders, eCommerce, etc. (things that paid providers offer for free)
    * No email address associated with your domain name.
    * They can change their terms of service without any warning.
    * Very few of them offer much in the way of technical support.
    * Few free web hosts offer a real control panel for users.

    With a paid host you eliminate all these inconveniences for a very small monthly fee.

    If all you want is a simple page of information for your friends or family, then free hosting is probably fine for you.

    However, if you plan to have a serious site, especially for a small business, then you will eventually want (or need) web tools like PHP, CGI, eCommerce support, adequate bandwidth and other such things. If that is the case, then we recommend choosing a paid hosting service like the recommended reputable company listed above.

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      Glossary of common hosting-related terms...

    • .Backup - Always backup your own files, of course, but a good host will have a daily backup of all data on their servers too.

    • .Bandwidth usage - how much they will let you use before they stick you with extra charges, or shut down your site until the end of the month. (an example: with an average page size of 50KB, with 2000 page views per day will transfer an average of 3GB bandwidth per month)

    • Bytes - In round terms, just to give you an idea, "K" or "kilo" means "thousand" or "1,000", and "M" or "mega" means "million" or "1,000,000" and "G" or "giga" means "billion" or "1,000,000,000" ... SO, a host that gives 500GB storage is providing five hundred billion bytes of storage space for your website. If they allow 500MB of bandwith, that's five hundred million bytes of transfer in a month. In other words, much more than the average website will need. (For nit-pickers, a kilo-byte is actually 1,024 bytes, a mega-byte is actually 1,048,576 bytes and a giga-byte is actually 1,073,741,824 bytes)

    • C, C++ - two different, but similar, computer programming languages commonly used to write programs or scripts for use on web servers.

    • Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) - A 'list of instructions' that governs how your HTML document (webpage) is displayed by the browser. (The current version of CSS is CSS2).

    • CGI - (short for Common Gateway Interface) a specification for the transfer of data between a web server and a CGI program. CGI programs are commonly written in languages such as Perl, C++, Java, etc... and include search engines, guestbooks, forums, etc.

    • .Control panel - your 'user interface' where all the necessary administrative tasks are set out. 'C-Panel' is one of the best but there are some difficult ones out there, so look for a "Control Panel Demo" and play with it before you commit to a host.

    • .Customer forum or FAQ database - Someplace to look for answers to common problems or questions.

    • .Customer support - Email support will be good enough for most stuff, but make sure they have an 800-number you can call 24/7 - just in case.

    • Dedicated Server - simply a computer located in a data center that's used for a single webhosting account. Very large websites or someone who just wants a little more flexibility would use a dedicated server.

    • .Disk Usage or Disk Space - the total amount of space you are allowed for all your data. (to give a general idea, this website, with almost 3000 pages, plus graphics and downloads, uses just under 300MB of disk space.)

    • DNS (Domain Name System) Server - the server used by a registrar, isp, or other web entity which maintains a database of domain name information needed for internet navigation.

    • Domain - aka: Domain Name - ( - Most webhosts will provide domain name registration as part of a package, or will provide easy access to a domain name registrar - either way, it's generally a good idea to get your domain name registered first, then purchase your hosting.

    • Domain parking - the service of holding your domain name on a hosting company nameserver, most registrars provide this service for free when you register a domain name.

    • Domain registration - the process of registering for ownership of your domain name through a certified registrar. Registering a domain name gives you exclusive use of that domain name for a given contract period. (usually 1 or 2 years)

    • Domain transfer - moving to a new host and changing the DNS server information listed with the domain registrar to reflect the address of your new host nameservers.

    • .Email Auto-Responders - used for an instant acknowledgement of email receipt or to send requested information instantly... much better than trying to monitor your email 24/7

    • .Email Filters - keeping some of the inevitable spam out of your POP3 mailboxes.

    • .Email Forwarding - simply means having all mail that is sent to one name gets automatically sent on to another address. (which can be helpful, but can also get really confusing!)

    • .Email POP3 Accounts - ( Post Office Protocol 3) - that's the "" mail addresses... much more 'legitimate' than a yahoo or hotmail address. You need a mail program like Eudora or Outlook Express to access a POP3 account.

    • Flash media - a type of graphic commonly used to create web-optimized animations of small to moderate file sizes.

    • .Frontpage Extensions - If you use MS Frontpage to build your website you need to be able to upload the pages and have them display the way you wrote them...

    • FTP - FTP stands for 'File Transfer Protocol' - with an FTP program you upload files from your pc to the hosts' servers... 'anonamous FTP accounts' allow your visitors to access files (downloads) from your server - most hosts support that, but not all.

    • IP (Internet Protocol) Address - the numeric address that refers to a specific location. In most cases when you setup your domain name with a host they will assign a specific IP address for your account to which your domain name will point to. Why? Well, it's just easier... for example: is much harder to remember than

    • Java - a common programing platform, developed by SunMicrosystems, used for web applications on servers.

    • Java Applet - a simple program written in the Java programming language, placed in a web page to add interactivity for visitors.

    • Javascript - a simple programming syntax (unrelated to Java) which, once processed by web browsers, is used to perform functions like mouseover effects, time & date functions and other "dynamic" webpage effects.

    • Log files - a text record of activity for a certain web account over a specified period. Logs record various information about your visitors... time of visit, ip address, the referring site, visitor's browser type and other helpful statistical stuff.

    • .'MySQL' Databases - for forums, message boards, chat, etc. Most hosts allow a limited number of databases, most often more than you will need, but make sure that they have at least three.

    • Nameserver - see DNS.

    • Perl - possibly the most popular programming language used, you'll want your host to support a current version... at least 5.8 or better.

    • PHP - a scripting language used to create dynamic html pages "on the fly". PHP is primarily used for advanced sites, forums, blogs, etc. where visitor interaction and feedback is important.

    • .PHP version - PHP, like any other 'programming language', it's in constant evolution. You'll want the host to support at least version 4.2 - or better.

    • Registrar - The company that actually registers your domain name... most charge around $10 to $15 dollars a year. Your domain registration must be renewed annually and the domain owner data kept current.

    • Secure Servers - Secure server connections allow for personal, sensitive information to be encrypted and sent safely over the internet.

    • Server Side Includes - (SSI) - an advanced hosting feature which allows CGI code to be placed inside the html code of your webpage... a web browser 'sees' the SSI code and will access the CGI program.

    • "Shared" or "Virtual" hosting - This is the most basic, 'entry-level' type of service - you get your website hosted on a professionally managed server at a low cost because you share the expense of hardware and network connections without sacrificing privacy, performance or preference.

    • SSL certificate - a certificate, issued by an encryption technology provider, that allows for a secure server connection between a web browser and a web server with the SSL certificate installed.

    • Sub-Domains - that's the part... most hosts will allow some for free and the ability to add more for a small fee. Sub-Domains are useful if you want to organize non-related types of webpages on a single hosting account.

    • .Shopping Cart - The program and database that tracks purchases made from your website.

    • Uniform Resource Locator - URL refers to the location of an object on the web. In most cases a website URL is simply its domain name. See also IP address.

    • .Mime Types, Apache Handlers, ht_access, etc - ht_access can limit access to certain areas of your site... MIME types allow a variety of multimedia content, handlers can enhance the functionality of different scripting tools...




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    Affiliate Disclosure: I am grateful to be of service and bring you content free of charge. In order to do this, please note that whenever you click the links on my site and purchase items, in many (not all) cases I will receive a referral commission. Your support in purchasing through these links enables me to pay for this site and keep it going, plus (usually) a little more to help pay the bills. So - Thank you! :)

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