How Do I Choose The Best Web Host Server?

Choosing a web host or a server to host your website files and serve them to the web is a decision with so many variables it’s hard to cover them all in one article. So if this is a big deal for you, I suggest that you do your own research in the many forums online where people talk about the best web hosts and share their experience with them. In general a competitive web host should offer

  • Excellent Support available 24/7 via phone or chat, and email
  • Minimum of 20 gig of Hosting Space or 30,000 files or inodes
  • CPanel – A Control Panel area with Fantastico or Simple Scripts
  • FTP access and Web server access to the domain
  • Minimum of 10 Addon or Parked domains and subdomain capability
  • Webmail: Minimum 5 email addresses with POP3 or IMAP
  • 99% Server Uptime Guarantee
  • PHP 5, CGI-BIN, Custom Cron jobs,
  • Support for International Domain Names if needed
  • MySQL Databases and PHPMyAdmin
  • Log Files and Site Stats
  • Automated and Custom Backups

There is a big difference between someone choosing a host for a mini site and someone who is starting their first website but knows they will build a big website or have several websites on different domain names. A single website of perhaps 5 pages, often called a mini site, might provide for sale of a single product or be used as an online brochure for a business with their name, business and contact details. A big site example might be a portfolio site for a photographer who wants to display multiple examples of their photographs in a gallery, or a shopping website with multiple products for sale, or a company network.

Someone wanting to build a big website will need to ensure that their Hosting Space is large. So lets first tackle many web host’s usage of the word “Unlimited”.

What does “Unlimited” really mean?

The only way to be absolutely sure is to read the web host’s Terms of Agreement Policy document and if you are still not sure and certain what it means, to ask the company in an email or support ticket.

The one thing that is certain is that it does not really mean unlimited! It means unlimited within reasonable boundaries. Most people will not come close to these boundaries but some people will.

The small print to look for here is a limit of files or inodes. This can vary from 20,000 to 50,000 and you may often go over this limit with only a warning, but eventually, maybe at 250,000 you’ll get an email saying you have reached your limit and you must delete files within 10 days to bring you back to under 50,000 files, or be taken offline. If this happens, 10 days is not long to get things under control.

You can read more about this in What Does “Unlimited” Really Mean?

How Do I Become A Web Host?

You will encounter the option to be a reseller when you are comparing web hosts. When you open an account with a web host, you can make a one off payment to the host and become a reseller for their server. You will be given your own “webhost” website and can set your own prices for hosting other people’s websites. The down side of this option is that you need to handle people’s support requests. If you don’t mind doing this and are well organized, owning an account with a web server can be paid for by hosting friends or other people’s sites, either by adding on their domain name into your own shared host account, or taking the reseller option and promoting it.

The difference between Shared Hosting and a Virtual Private Server or Dedicated Hosting?

There are two main differences. One is regards the IP address of your site and the other is about having more control over what your server can do.

The IP address is a numerical address for your domain name. On a shared host, you share an IP address with many other website owners that are using the shared host. You share bandwidth resources with them, your file count is limited because you share with them, and your server may have restrictions to ensure that the set up suits the majority of it’s users and is efficient for the host.

If you have a Virtual Private Server (VPS) or Dedicated Hosting, only your websites are at the IP address (or generally a 4 IP block) that you are allocated. As well as having CPanel, you have Web Host Manager (WHM) which makes it possible to create individual accounts with their own CPanel. This makes it possible to have multiple “root” domains which have more functionality than addon domains. For sites that need a Secure Server Certificate (for shopping carts using gateways, or for the submission of confidential data) having a dedicated IP for that site is a requirement.

There are many benefits to having a VPS but not usually for mini site owners. You can have 5 shared host accounts for the cost of one VPS that will provide IP diversity if you need it. You will only need to upgrade, if you need specific configurations for the server that a shared host cannot provide. One of these may be the ability to create subdomains on the fly for WordPressMU, or a specific version of PHP to run WordPress or other programs in a better optimized environment. These are just an example, there are hundreds of others, but usually only a website designer, maker or programmer will need this capability.

Using Free Hosting Accounts To Make Websites

Free host or server space is widely available all over the web. You probably have a gig of Web Host space from your internet service provider if you look for it. There are many business directory sites that offer a 10 page website, many search engines offer different types of spaces where you can create websites and there are hundreds of popular sites where you can get a free blog or space, many of which have built in communities.

So why pay for a web host? Just one reason – Control.

If you use your internet service provider and then get offered a better deal on your broadband and want to take it up, you have to move your site. At any time a site can go out of business and be sold and declare that they no longer offer free hosting. The same is true of fly by night reseller accounts and small hosts that may offer really cheap rates for a while but can’t maintain their business. Hosting with a web designer is also risky. If you fall out with them or decide their hosting rate is too high, you need to start again.

Backing up and moving a website to a new host isn’t that hard, but it is time consuming, and may be beyond you if you don’t do much work on the web. Hitches like these always seem to occur at the worst possible time for you to be able to allocate the time needed to deal with it.

How Do I Secure a Domain Name and Find a Host for My Website?

Most web hosts offer a free domain name with their host account. So you secure a domain name and find a host in one go if you choose. Some hosts offer the domain name free for as long as you host with them, which means you don’t have the extra cost of renewing it each year. So long as the host is reputable and meets your other requirements, this is a good deal.

Choosing a web host for a small website is not really hard, but don’t scrimp on a dollar a month difference, to go with an unknown web host. Choose a web host that has been in business¬† for a while, that gets good comments from users, at a competitive price, with excellent support.

Choosing a web host for a big site is trickier, and you should consult with someone experienced in IT before you commit, so that you know what you need to look for – whether it be a secure server, the ability to use specific software or the amount of hosting space and bandwidth you will need.

These are the hosts I recommend for DIY Website Clients, but there are many other great hosts to choose from. This article should give you enough information to get started comparing what they have to offer, and help you to make a wise choice. In closing, before you commit to your choice, always read the web host’s Terms of Agreement Policy document! It’s just common sense.


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