In this series of posts I will present you all the necessary steps you need to take in order to set up your very own website.
Every website requires at least two things: a domain name registrant and a web hosting company; ideally, you should also have another provider to handle your email service.
I could assume that everybody knows today what a domain name is, that is why I decided to start with what I consider a crucial service for your website: the hosting company.
What is hosting?
In a nutshell, a hosting company provides you with two major services: hard drive space to store your files and bandwidth to access such files.
For example, let’s assume that you are a photographer and you just signed up with a hosting company with a plan that gives you 1GB of hard drive space and 10GB of bandwidth.
You are all set up and you upload to your brand new server 10 nice high resolution images, let’s say that each image is 5MB for a total of 50MB.
In this process your remaining resources would be: 950MB of hard drive space and 4.95GB of bandwidth; yes, uploading files to your site counts towards the bandwidth limit.
Every visitor who takes a look at your 10 pictures will be using 50MB of bandwidth, and here we are not even taking into consideration any other things in your site, such as your text, font files, scripts and imagery besides those 10 initial pictures.
If 100 people visit and take a look at your 10 images you would have spent 5000MB —or almost 5GB—, half your bandwidth; so with the given specifications you would only be able to serve less than 200 visitors before you run out of bandwidth.
Thankfully, most of the sites do not require so many resources as they are mostly composed of text and small images. There is in fact no reason why you should have your visitors download high-resolution images in the first place and you should always resize your images before you upload them to your server.
How to select your hosting company?
As any service, you will have to do your homework and research possible companies for your website, but I could give you some heads up:
- In the hosting industry the old saying “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is” is the rule. Try to stay away from any unlimited anything. There are no unlimited-space hard drives nor unlimited bandwidth. There is always a catch, no exceptions.
- You get what you pay for; if you are cheap, expect cheap service. This does not mean that you have to take the most expensive, you have to find a balance between budget and quality.
- If PayPal is a payment option, use it. If anything goes wrong with your selection, you may be able to get [part or all of] your money. You have up to 45 days to file a dispute. Beware, since this product is not tangible, it might not be covered by PayPal protection, so pay attention when you are making your payment via PayPal.
- If you have questions ask and if there is any kind of live chat, use it: present your needs and ask everything about refunds and cancellation fees.
- Always read the Terms of Service; you would be amazed by the amount of things hosting companies ARE NOT responsible for (like downtimes, low speed transfers, loss of data, etc.).
- Never trust a “Top 10 hosts review” kind of a site as most of the times they are paid, maintained and/or sponsored by the big companies in the top of such lists. Focus your research in forums where you can find past/current customers opinions; they will provide you with first-hand quality information. If I could suggest a good forum to start with it would be webhostingtalk.com
- Avoid headaches and never accept “free domain” with your plan; buy your domain name from an independent domain name registrant. Failing to do so puts you in disadvantage: the hosting company could charge you whatever they want, or even retain your domain name if you decide to switch provider in the future.
- A comprehensive control panel is highly recommended; do not settle for less than cPanel, and at the very least you should have Plesk.
- Personally, I would choose Linux over Windows hosting and PHP over ASP but, as I said, that is a personal choice. If you are new to hosting, I believe that Linux/PHP is the way to go.
- Backup your site regularly, nobody else is responsible for your data but you. This will not only give you peace of mind but the freedom to switch hosts if things get ugly.
These are the basics in hosting. If your site requires more specific needs such as eCommerce, SSL Certificates, more hard drive space/bandwidth or higher speeds, among others, you will have to research a bit more since not all hosts will be able to handle these needs.
Who to avoid?
The following are hosts that you should try to avoid at all costs. Either they are unreliable, problematic or they lack the necessary customer service and/or technical support. Some of the following will try to give all sorts of free stuff so you sign up with them, some others (like GoDaddy) are not particularly bad, their prices are simply to high for what they offer. The list is sorted alphabetically.
- Immotion Hosting
- IX Webhosting
- Network Solutions
As we provide hosting to our clients, we have used the services of the hosts with an (*), the ones without have been used by our clients, that is why we have experience with them.
If you have any question about web hosting, feel free to leave a comment.