Thursday, March 20, 2008

But This Host Is So Cheap!

One of the things that I find confuses a lot of my clients is what type of hosting package to buy. If you are new to the Internet business world and your have never had a website – a host is a foreign word to you, even if you do have a website you may not know what you need in a hosting provider. I hope this article will help clear up some of that confusion. I have met the most brilliant business people who have been confused by terminology so let me first start by explaining the difference between an ISP and an Internet hosting provider… ISP – Internet Service Provider This is the company that actually provides you with a way to access the Internet – if you have a dial-up then it would be something like PC People or Earth Link. If you have cable modem it would be Comcast, Quest – etc. This is the connection that goes from your computer to the Internet. Internet Hosting Provider Which is where you place your website – if you were/are a business owner that had a brick and mortar business you would rent a store and place your goods in that store. The same holds true with an Internet host they hold all the pages of your website, graphics, scripts and everything else. This is a simplified explanation, but you get the picture. Now that we have that out of the way lets talk about hosting packages and what to look for. As a web developer/designer I have worked with the best and worst of hosts. I have found hosting companies that look inexpensive but nickel and dime the customer to death by the time they are done. They look great in the beginning and even sound like a fantastic deal but are really not a great bargain. I have found hosting companies I have loved in the beginning but later have gotten so big or changed hands and the customer service was so bad I had to go else where. I want to warn you of the one stop shop hosting companies that do everything – they will register your domain name – build your website (usually template websites) and host them. Saving you money and touting the convenience of all they do… Ultimately you feel like you are hostage to them – they own your domain and website. Please see this article for more … Promotional Designer: I thought it was a good idea... What do I do now? I know as a business owner you want to save money where you can – which is just good business sense, there are a lot of choices – do your research - make sure that host will meet your needs. I want you to chose carefully – be wise about the host you pick this is so important because all hosts are not created equal.
Factors to look at when selecting a hosting company
  • Live Tech Support This is one of the most important aspects of a host I want to be able to talk to a live breathing person – through chat on the Internet or phone. I do not want to rely on an email period. Which is my position – if my store (website) is down or my email is out of order my business is going down the drain. This is #1…

  • Do they use a C-Panel What is a c-panel you say? A C-panel allows you or your web developer/designer to be able to control different elements of your website. You can add emails, change passwords, even point domain names and many other important tasks. It gives you control over many aspects of your website.

  • What is the up Time If the the server is down and your website is not up on the Internet 24/7 then what happens when your website visitors go to your store? You lose business ! I look for a 99% up time guarantee . There are ways to monitor your up time go to you will be able to get a free website monitor. Just click on the monitor you see on the left hand side of the website. You will be able to register and get a monitor to put on your website - best of all it is FREE!

  • Disk Space - Depending on how large you website is will depend on the disk space needed. If you have a logo and a lot of text you will need very little disk space.

  • Bandwidth - If you are running a site with lots of images or downloads you will need a lot higher bandwidth than a small site with mainly text. If you go over your allotted bandwidth you will usually pay a lot of extra money or visitors may not be able to download files you need them to download.

  • CGI Bin - It is very rare you will see a host without a CGI bin. It is important that you have one. If you do not have you own CGI bin you cannot install scripts and programs.

  • MySQL Database - Some programs require a data-base. If you are going to have a shopping cart, a customer log in or a number of different functions for your website in the future you may want to store the information. Some hosts will want to charge you extra for MySQL included in a hosting package - but you will fine most good hosts will include it. Even if you don't think you will ever need it, I would find a host who has it in a hosting package even one which is an upgrade from the one you are purchasing. I find most websites grow as the business grows, and eventually you may need a database for something.

  • PHP - Many dynamic scripts and programs require PHP support. Again, this feature can be extra with some hosts but most good hosts will offer this free. With this you will find free blogging scripts (WordPress) shopping cart scripts (Zen Cart) and many other things. As a matter of fact in the host that I use and would recommend these things are right in the C-Panel and can be applied with a click of a mouse!

  • Perl - If you do not have Perl, you cannot run Perl programs. Many good scripts that you can get for free or buy are written in Perl.

  • SSL (Secure Socket Layer) - If you intend to accept credit card orders directly from you website, you will need Secure Socket Layer included in your plan. This is an easily overlooked feature. To use this feature you need a merchant account – there is no essential need to make this a priority if you have no merchant account – or if you use a 3 party processor such as PayPal.

  • FTP Access – Unlimited and unrestricted ability to transfer files to your site is essential. You will need an FTP program to transfer files.

  • Statistics Program - I use to say have a great statistics program and it still is an essential tool to have. Most good hosts provide this as well.

    My preference is Google Analytics it is an impressive tool and you would not believe how much information you can gain from having that on your website. It goes way above and beyond anything I have seen a hosting package provide. Google provides the code for free you just need your web professional to place it on the pages of your website. You will be able to fine tune your marketing it is outstanding.

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