The first thing before choosing a web host is that you should be fully aware of your hosting requirements. If you are a beginner wanting to host a personal web site, then your only concern is that you get a decent amount of disk space for your web site with a host that is as cheap as $5 per month. However, if you are a developer, an online entrepreneur or an online business looking for e-commerce capabilities or advanced scripting technologies, then you can determine your requirements in the following order.
(1) Whether you need Shared Hosting or Dedicated Hosting: This depends mainly on two major requirements, the traffic your web site is expected to receive and the degree of administrative privileges you need. If you expect your web site to receive huge amounts of traffic, then you will need to have a Dedicated Server which definitely has a much greater bandwidth offering. Also you should select Dedicated server hosting if your web site requires customized options, secure information or complex applications i.e. e-commerce, dynamic content, database and multimedia applications.
(2) Whether you need Linux Hosting or Windows Hosting: If you're going to use server technologies such as ASP, JSP etc or intend to run Microsoft applications like Microsoft Access or Microsoft SQL database on your server, then you should use a Windows hosting provider. Although ASP can be run on the Linux platform using some commercial applications, there are security and reliability concerns related to it. However, if you want to use ColdFusion, it can run on both Linux and Windows platforms.
(3) What are your Space and Bandwidth requirements: Many web hosts nowadays offer generous amounts of disk space from 1 GB to 3 GB. However, if your web site mainly acts as a download resource, then your disk space requirements may be 5 to 10 times greater than this. The second consideration is how much traffic your web site is expected to receive which will let you estimate your bandwidth requirements.
(4) How many Parked domains and Subdomains do you need: Parked domains are very advantageous and can significantly increase the amount of traffic to your web site. Similarly, subdomains can help with your search engine rankings by pointing to specific directories of your web site. Parked domains and subdomains occasionally come free with certain web hosting packages. However if you need more, you will have to pay an additional price per month.
(5) FTP Accounts and Anonymous FTP Requirements: You may need more than one FTP account if you have coworkers working on your web site project at different locations. The Anonymous FTP permits the general public to access certain directories on your web server to whom they have been granted permission by you. In most cases, you will need a dedicated IP address for Anonymous FTP to function.
(6) Whether you need e-commerce Features: If you need e-commerce features, you should choose a web host that provides e-commerce functionality such as shopping carts and the ability to accept credit cards. You should also check whether their server is SSL secure.
In addition to your own hosting requirements, the following considerations must be kept in mind when looking for a quality web host.
(1) More than 99.5% uptime: Choose a web host that has an uptime greater than 99.5% and if there is an uptime guarantee, it's even better. If your web site is for business purposes, it's very crucial that your site stays online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year.
(2) Fast Servers: The level of connectivity of your web host to the Internet is very important. So you should choose a web host with at least a T3 connection to the major Internet backbone. Analysis has shown that the average web visitor waits for about 30 seconds before your web page loads. So if your web site takes more than 30 seconds to load, chances are that you will loose a lot of visitors and consequently sales.
(3) Server Backups: To make your data secure, your web host must have a power backup system and should backup the data to an external device in order to prevent the data loss due to failure. Check how frequently the web host backups the data, i.e. daily or weekly.
(4) Disk Space and Bandwidth: Choose a web host that meets your disk space and bandwidth requirements. Most web hosts offer 1 GB to 3 GB of disk space, so if your web site is not mainly a download resource, then this factor is not that important for you. However, as regards the bandwidth, it should be as much as possible because your traffic can increase in the future thereby requiring more data transfer. Also check that you have the option of buying more disk space and bandwidth when required.
(5) Unrestricted CGI, SSH, FTP access & Anonymous FTP: If you have a professional web site, you will need to run CGI scripts, have SSH (Secure Shell) access and FTP access. CGI and FTP access is provided by most web hosts whereas SSH access is provided by a few. You may also need to check if anonymous FTP access is provided.
(6) Software/Scripts: Choose a web host that has an extensive script library that you can use to add guestbooks, forms, surveys, newsletters etc to your web site.
(7) E-commerce capabilities and SSL: Choose a web host that provides you with e-commerce capabilities with shopping cart software and also merchant accounts. The web host must also have an SSL secure server for safe and risk-free transactions.
(8) Web-Based Administration: Almost all web hosts nowadays provide a control panel to access and manage web site features. Ask for a demo of their control panel if possible and check to make sure that it is simple as well as comprehensive. The control panel should provide access to FTP, e-mail, databases, e-commerce and all other functions for effective web site management. VDeck 2.0 and CPanel are the leading brands of administration control panels.
(9) Full e-mail services: Choose a web host that provides both POP3 and IMAP e-mail accounts, web-based e-mail, autoresponders, mailing lists, forwarding accounts and antivirus and spam filtering software.
(10) Moneyback Guarantee: If the Web host gives a moneyback guarantee, it's even better because it makes you absolutely risk-free.
(11) 24/7/365 Customer Support: The web host should provide as many support channels as possible including an FAQ section, a knowledgebase, video and flash tutorials, toll-free support, e-mails support, live chat support and a community forum. Try e-mailing the web host a couple of times to check how quickly they respond to your request. The customer support should be as prompt as possible and should be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and 365 days a year. This is crucial because if you run into problems and the support staff is not receptive or knowledgeable, you will be helpless.
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