Laughing Cat Studios - Web Design and eCommerce

8 Considerations when Selecting a Web Hosting Service

Web HostingWeb Host: A service provider that places your web site on a computer which is connected to the internet. This gives internet users a way to access your website. The computer that the web hosting company uses is typically just like the computer you have at home, the only difference being that it is set up to serve up web sites and is therefore called a “server”.
Server Platform: This is the type of server software that is running on the server. Windows, Linux and Unix are common server types. If you have a basic website then the server type does not matter. If you have a more complex website that has database functions and serves up dynamic pages, then the server type will be more important.

1) Disk Space

Disk space is synonymous with the amount of storage.  The amount of disk space required to host your website will depend on the number of images, audio files and video files you plan to have on your website.  Typically 100MB to 500MB is sufficient.  However, if you are developing an eCommerce site with thousands of products and accompanying images, we recommend at lease 2GB of disk space to accommodate your inventory.

2) Data Transfer (Traffic Bandwidth)

Bandwidth handles the amount of traffic and data flowing to and from your website.  The average site required less than 2GB of bandwidth.  In this category, consider the amount of traffic you expect on your website and whether or not site users will be uploading or downloading data to or from your website.

Note:  With more and more websites moving away from static pages to dynamically generated pages, the biggest limit that you will face is not your bandwidth or disk space, but what many web hosts classify as resource usage. For those not familiar with the terminology, static pages are simple HTML web pages where the web server merely displays what the pages contain with little extra work. Dynamically generated pages are what you get when you use blogging scripts like WordPress or content management systems like Drupal. The scripts assemble your web page from a variety of sources, such as your database and your templates, every time someone visits it.  If your site has the potential to be resource intensive, ask specific questions regarding limitations on CPU and RAM usage.

3) Reliability

A web hosting service should guarantee the amount of uptime (time the servers are functional).  A reasonable expectation of reliability from a hosting service is 99.5% of uptime guaranteed.  Be leery of free and/or cheap web hosting services.  Before investing, determine the longevity of the company, read reviews and search the internet for potential bad press. 

4) Dedicated IP and Private SSL

If you plan on providing a shopping cart on your business site or if personal information will be passed through your website, you will want a dedicated IP address and private SSL.  Your domain name, such as “laughingcatstudios.com,” is actually linked to an IP address that points to a specific computer. With a dedicated IP address, your site will be linked to a single machine which hosts only your website.  When somebody enters your domain name into their browser’s address field, the IP address is located and Web site is loaded from your Web host.  SSL (Secure Socket Layer) acts as a secure layer between your visitors and your website, encrypting personal information.

5) Features

You want to make sure that your hosting service supports your web developers programming and scripting languages, the CMS (content management system) that will be used to develop your site as well as any shopping cart software your developers plan to use.  In addition, it is important that your hosting service stays current with the latest released versions of these features.  The following is a list of some basic features that should be available with your hosting service:  FTP, SSL,  PHP, Perl, .htaccess, telnet, SSH, MySQL, CGI, Ruby on Rails (RoR)

6) Technical Support

We all know that customer support is not what it once was.  It is important to find a hosting company who has technical support available 24/7.  We prefer knowledgeable support that is not outsourced.  Read the customer reviews and ratings of the hosting service to get an idea of the quality of support you can expect to receive.   In addition, consider the avenues available for support such as toll-free number, online chat, email and form submission.

7) POP and IMAP Email Accounts

Typically a hosting service will provide you with a number of limited email accounts or unlimited email accounts.  This will allow you to establish professional email accounts such as info@domainname.com.  You should look for a host who enables you to forward your email to another email address, who provides an auto-responder for mail that goes to a specific email address and one who offers a spam filter script. 

8) Price

The final consideration for a web hosting service is price, remembering that sometimes “you get what you pay for”.  Discover all that you can about the reputation of a web hosting company by reading online reviews.

June 14, 2009   No Comments