This note on web hosting is part 3 in a series on what I’ve learned about setting up web sites. Check the category “Internet Business” for the rest.
The host or server for your website is a computer which is always connected to the internet, ready to display your web pages when called upon. Most of us get this service from a company that specializes in web hosting and charges by the month. The common arrangement is shared hosting, which means we get a portion of a computer somewhere which is also used other customers. That usually works out okay because each customer’s account is segregated and password protected. However, if a customer uses too much bandwidth, for example their web site surges in popularity, the server may not be able to keep up. People expecting a huge volume of web traffic usually get a dedicated server — maybe more than one. For my needs, I just got shared hosting.
Key considerations when choosing a hosting arrangement are: disk space, bandwidth, software supported, ease of use, user support, and price. To know what you want for software support, you need to know what site-builder tools you plan to use and I’ll write about that in another post. I’m also not going to make a stat comparison table here because I believe that changes over time. I do have some general comments.
Disk space is exactly that — how much space you can use on the host. The numbers strike me as huge — 600 gigabytes!! If you own multiple domains, you can put multiple web sites on the same host though. As big as it sounds now, I bet I will fill it up and look back chuckling at how little space it was.
Bandwidth refers to the amount of data that can be served up at a given time. Again, the numbers seem huge and you probably don’t need to worry about it unless you’re somebody like eepybird.com serving up the next mentos and diet coke video.
To understand ease of use, it helps to know what kinds of tasks you’ll be doing to maintain your web page. Mostly, I move files up to my web host from my laptop using a newfangled graphic FTP interface called wise-ftp which I downloaded free from 1and1. Every so often I log on to check my traffic statistics. I set up mailboxes or forwarding for my active domains, although I don’t usually use the web host interfaces to check my mail, I use outlook or my Q instead. Each of the web hosts that I have tried makes these things possible without too many tears.
Now I’ll name names, with the disclosure that I get a commission if you buy from these guys by following a link from my site.
www.GoDaddy.com charged me ala carte for mail boxes and traffic analyzer. I got tangled up repeatedly trying to understand how my mail accounts and domains map to mail boxes. This resulted in several calls to customer support who were friendly, helpful, and consistently tried to upsell me. Finally, I found the default mailbox feature and learned that I could just have one email address per domain and pipe all possible email addresses for the domain to that master address. Much simpler.
1and1 also has default mailboxes and friendly customer support. I got tangled up with Frontpage support and they cheerfully sorted me out without trying to sign me up for a 2 year contract. Since I had started out with Frontpage, and not really knowing any better, I signed up for Microsoft hosting. When I started this blog, I realized I needed Linux hosting instead which I could have purchased from 1and1 also. 1and1 offers 50% off Hosting. Plans start at $3.99 month. Free domains & more included. Click Here to save 50% off hosting.
Researching shopping carts led me to buy a Linux Web hosting account for the business and blog from Host Gator. I haven’t yet had the need to call customer support. Host Gator uses cpanel which is an easy-to-use administrative access to my web sites. One disappointment is that they don’t support default mailboxes so I have to create a forward for every address I anticipate needing. The benefit that overshadows everything however is a feature called Fantastico which installs popular scripts and software at the click of a mouse. That made it very easy to get started with this blog and may be the reason I haven’t needed customer support. Click the banner below to buy from Host Gator.