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How to Choose a Web Host – Web Hosting Guide

Choosing the right Web Host matters

Whether you’re putting up a personal website or a commercial one, you should wisely choose your web hosting provider. The reason is that you will most definitely want your website to be seen by the largest number of people. Therefore, it is essential to take a little time to go over certain basic but crucial factors to ensure more visibility for your site.
Points to consider when choosing a web hosting
There are so many web hosting providers and packages on offer today. Each one of them has its unique advantages and weaknesses. So how would one decide which one to choose?
Even after you zone in on a particular provider, you still need to choose the hosting package that will suit you. Every web hosting site offers many different types of packages to choose from. The most popular type is the ‘Unlimited Bandwidth’ package.
The following points should make your task of choosing a web hosting simple and clear.

1. Server Uptime & Customer Support:

The essential thing for a website to be found on the internet depends on whether the server where the files are stored is online, i.e., up and running at any given time. This is called Server Uptime. You will find that most of the web hosting providers will claim a 99.99% server uptime. Some even claimed 100%.
If you have time, search for comments by users of the provider on internet forums or elsewhere online. Or go for the larger, more established hosting companies who have built a trusted reputation. Most good hosting companies have multiple server data and power backups. A few also promised 100%, and they do that by guaranteeing a refund of fees in the eventuality that any downtime might happen.
Another essential feature of good web hosting is Customer Support. They should provide customers with 24/7 phone and internet support. They should have a good collection of tutorials and FAQs readily on their site if you needed help. Make no mistake; you will contact your hosting support more often than you think, especially if you are serious about your website.

2. Pricing & included features

The range of pricing and features included in web hosting packages is pretty broad. You want to find a fair balance of features and quality that will suit your needs. As with any other product, cheap usually gets less quality. On the other hand, some pricing can be high without any particular value.
The prices of hosting packages are usually dependent on the set of features included in the package. These include data storage and bandwidth limits, number of allowed addon domains and subdomains, number of email and FTP accounts hosted, shared or virtual or dedicated server plans, programming languages and databases, site tools, shopping carts, etc., and the list goes on. One can be easily confused with these numerous choices, especially if you are not familiar with them. Don’t worry; we will cover the essential ones below.
Pricing for a fair value shared hosting packages usually starts around 6-8 US$ per month.
Virtual Private/Dedicated Server around US$ 30-50 pm and Dedicated Servers at US$ 60-80 pm.
Pricing tip: If you have not acquired a domain name or want to add another, then some packages include a free domain with hosting. They can be a good bargain.

3. Data Storage and Bandwidth limits

If you are new to putting up websites, you might have very little idea about how much data storage space and bandwidth your site will need. First off, don’t worry too much about this. Even most professional people will have issues answering these questions because your needs will grow as the number of visitors to your website increases. You will know all about it as you go along.

Data Storage Space

Unless you intend to host many video/movie clips or a massive number of big resolution pictures, most hosting packages will do for you. Regular websites rarely occupy beyond 40-50 MB (megabytes of storage space). The basic shared hosting package for the top registrar costing $4.99 pm includes 10 GB(1000 MB) of storage space.

Bandwidth Limits

The bandwidth limit is the amount of data transfers your hosting permits per month. This depends on how many visitors your site has and the type of files you serve, i.e., basic web pages, pictures or video clips, etc. Here too, not that much to worry about for regular websites. Most hosting providers will offer “Unlimited Bandwidth” even on their value shared hosting packages.
However, one word of caution for those planning to host many video/movie clips or high-resolution pictures. Do not be fooled by Unlimited Bandwidth Shared Hosting packages. Go through the “Terms of Use” and “Common Usage Policy” for most shared hosting packages. They will undoubtedly have a section where it says that you are not permitted or will be charged extra for “abnormally high data bandwidth usage.” Advice is you will probably be better off choosing VPS or dedicated server or Cloud hosting or high bandwidth packages.

4. Shared Hosting vs. Virtual Private Server vs. Dedicated Server vs. Cloud Hosting

How to choose between these types of hosting? Putting it simply, you should select by how busy or popular you think your site will be, starting with Shared – VPS – Dedicated – Cloud, in that order.

Shared Hosting

The majority of websites on the internet are on Shared hosting. It is suitable for personal and small websites. They are the most price attractive of hosting packages. In shared hosting, several hosting accounts, usually 10-100, are hosted on a single physical server. They share the same server storage and broadband connection.
Shared hosting is particularly recommended for starters and small to medium personal and commercial websites that do not host picture/movie/video downloads. They can cost between $5-$15 per month.

Virtual Private Servers

This hosting is usually used by medium websites with medium storage and bandwidth requirements. Virtual Private Servers are hosted on unique IP addresses (e.g., 192.170.1.8). They are virtually like a dedicated physical stand-alone server, but with a lower price tag than a dedicated physical server. The way it works is that multiple accounts, say 3-10, are hosted on a single physical server. Each account with its own unique host id or IP address, data storage, and bandwidth is separated from another account by special software.
VPS hosting can cost between $30 to $150 per month depending on the number of features for a 1-year contract.
Note: All hosting packages price decrease as you increase the number of months/years of the contract.

Dedicated Server

They are usually used by the medium to big websites that need storage and bandwidth scalable to their requirements. They are hosted on separate physical servers. In other words, the server is rented out to a customer. The customer has full control over the server with its unique address, hard disk, ram, and bandwidth.
The price of renting a dedicated server depends on the server’s physical components, the hard disk capacity, the processor version, the amount of ram, and the broadband connection. Prices can vary between $65 to $200 and beyond per month.

Cloud Hosting

A relatively new thing in the world of web hosting, Cloud hosting is the next generation type of hosting. Cloud Hosting means that instead of having one physical server, cloud hosting uses several servers located in different physical locations but connected to each other.
The main advantages of Cloud Hosting are the scalability factor and cost-efficiency. For big websites, cloud hosting offers substantial benefits. As a website grows larger than its current capability, adding another server to join the servers’ networked group is needed. This can be done quickly and cost-efficiently with Cloud Hosting.
Cloud hosting packages can be priced anywhere from $100 to $550 and beyond, depending on the storage and bandwidth requirements.

5. Addon Domains & Sub Domains

Addon Domains are the domain names, i.e., websites, e.g. “http://www.yoursite1.com”, “http://www.yoursite2.com” that you want to host with your hosting provider. If you intend to host more than one website, you need to choose a package that allows it. Most of the cheapest web hosting packages will allow only one website.
Sub Domains: They are the different directories that you may want to create, e.g., “http://directory1.yoursite.com” or “http://directory2.yoursite.com”. The number of Sub Domains allowed may vary within different packages. Do not confuse this with folders, e.g., “http://www.yoursite.com/folder1” or “http://www.yoursite.com/folder2”. There is no limit on folders.

6. Email and FTP accounts

Email Accounts: These are unique email accounts for your website/s, e.g., “name@yoursite.com.” You can set these up and give them to anyone, your friends, visitors, customers. No worries here cause most of the hosting packages will provide you with plenty of e-mail accounts.
FTP Accounts: FTP stands for “File Transfer Protocol.” FTP accounts are used to access your hosting files from web software. They are of tremendous help to webmasters in that they allow you to update, delete, or create new files and folders in your host directly from web design software and FTP software. No worries here, too, as most packages will give you more than 10 accounts. You can allocate this to your designers and co-workers as you like.

7. Programming Languages & Databases

Frontpage Server Extension, PHP5, Custom PHP.ini, Perl w/FASTCGI, Python CGI, Java, Ruby CGI, Ruby on Rails w/FASTCGI, ColdFusion, MySQL(Unix), MsAccess, MySQL(Win), etc.
These are programming software and databases used by your hosting server. They are used for the more advanced web features like automated content management, user management, running scripts and programs, etc. If you don’t understand them, you don’t need to because most packages include the popular languages and databases you might need when you want to use them.

8. Content Management, Blogs, Forums: Drupal, Joomla, Mambo, Nucleas, Moodle, WordPress, Geeklog, Lifetype, Serendipity, phpBB, SMF, Vanilla Forum, etc.

These are ready-made tools for setting up blogs, forums, and content management to enhance websites. Most packages have enough choices here too.

9. Website Tools, Marketing Tools, Shopping Cart Website ToolsWebsite Builder, Web Analytics Tools, FrontPage Extensions, Google Custom Search, Google Webmaster Tools, etc.

These are basic tools that help build websites, gauging website popularity and statistics, and site enhancements included in most hosting packages.
Marketing ToolsGoogle AdWords Credit – $50, Yahoo! Search Marketing Credit – $25, Facebook Ads Credit – $50, etc.
These are ad credits for advertising your website. They are great bargains when included.
Shopping Cart – For those wishing to sell products online, this tool is essential. Most hosting packages include it.

10. Web hosting tips for good SEO

One of the things that improve Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and you should consider when choosing a web host is the server’s location. Experience shows that search engines favor locally hosted websites when a search is done. Big search engines like Google are known to give preference to locally hosted sites. This means that to rank higher in the UK, it helps to have a web hosting server located within the UK. Another thing that also is known to help SEO in local search rankings is regional TLDs or domain names. So for the UK, the domains.co.uk or.org.uk are given preference.
Another point to note is that shared hosting can hurt your website’s SEO rankings. Experts believe that if you have a site that shares the same server and IP address as a Google penalized site, your site also suffers as a result. The obvious way to avoid this is to host your site or sites on a separate IP address, meaning a Dedicated Server or a Virtual Private Server.
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