A poor choice will leave you with limitations on how you can develop your internet presence and what functionality your website can deliver.
So choose with care and make sure you have the options you need available
There are 4 main types of hosting available: –
- Free Web Hosting Services
- Collaborative Web Hosting Services
- Shared Web Hosting Services
- Dedicated Web Hosting Services
There are a number of free web hosting services out there, some are better than others and there may actually be one or two that satisfy your requirements depending of course on what those requirements are.
Generally I would say if you are advertising your business on the internet, even if it is in a simple way such as using the website as a company brochure, then normally it would be better if you take the time to register your own domain name, see registering a domain name, and then pay for your hosting service with a reputable company that suits your current and future needs.
My reasoning behind this statement comes from the basis that you don’t really get anything for free, a “free” web hosting service almost invariably will require that you allow advertising on your site, it is likely to be very busy which may limit access to your web pages and the URL address will likely contain the name of the free hosting service before your name which could be a little confusing for your visitors.
You might also find that the technical support is a little lacking and that there is very little, if any, flexibility in what you can do should your requirements change. Email facilities are likely to suffer the same problems with potentially long and convoluted email addresses that are hard to remember and very often have to include numbers to keep them unique.
I am prepared to be proved wrong on this and if you are happy with what a free web hosting service provides then let the wind be behind you and the best of luck.
There are a number of what I call collaborative website hosting services, one of the better known and best ones is HubPages.
How these work is that they provide you with templates from which you can construct your website, the modules range from simple text modules, to modules for graphics, video, RSS feeds, advertising modules and more.
Because they maintain a significant presence on the internet they get the attention of the search engines and, providing you take the necessary steps to promote your websites (you have to do some work as well), you can establish a fairly high site ranking and search engine position relatively quickly. Still depends on producing unique content on subjects of interest however.
Again there is no such thing as a free ride and these types of website are no exception, they do take a percentage of the advertising revenue your site raises, this comes mostly from the Google adsense adverts that are placed strategically around the site but may also come from the affiliate adverts you place on your site, assuming you do, because that is an optional choice.
I use these services quite extensively myself with the main reasoning being that I can promote my own personal websites (or blogs)by linking to and from them and I also find them useful for providing supplementary information that relates to my core business activities.
There really is no limit to the subjects you can broach with these services however, providing you do not break their terms and conditions (which you should read carefully to stop yourself getting into trouble), so if you are feeling adventurous you can actually publish a website on pretty much any subject you like and potentially you can start to generate an income from your work.
Blogging sort of fits into this category as well, there are a number of organisations that provide the facilities for writing and generating blogs out there with more scope for getting your own look and feel particularly if you opt for something like the ‘WordPress’ facility which is particularly flexible.
This the cheapest option for hosting your dedicated domain name, you will not have exclusive access to your own server, you will be sharing a server with other domains but in terms of the look and feel of the domain the address will be simple and refer only to your website URL. This also applies to the email if you select the right host. You will of course have to design your own website for this option, although many of the hosting companies do offer templates and site building software to supplement their service to you and many people find this a perfectly acceptable alternative to using an independent design service, particularly if you are reasonably computer savvy.
This is the most expensive option and is really only required if you have a heavy data-driven, multimedia site or possibly a comprehensive e-commerce site. You get your own server with this choice, hence the reason it is the most expensive, and of course all the same facilities of the shared server without other domains sharing access to your server.
So what are the questions you need answered in order to make the right choice: –
- How much does the host package cost, make sure there are no added extras
- What is included in the package, space, speed of access,security features
- How long is the contract period
- How many email addresses are supplied and is there also a SMTP facility
- What technical support is available, is it free and when is it available
- What operating systems are available
- Is there database support available
- Are traffic reports/analysis included
- How often are the servers backed up, should be daily
- Is there flexibility built into the system to accommodate changing needs
- Can you conduct an e-commerce business
Clearly storage space is important, as a guide for a properly constructed website 25MB should be enough to store around 500 normal web pages with text and images. When you start to add flash, video and other multimedia data then the storage space will of course be used up more quickly.
Bandwidth equates to the number of people who visit your site each month, for normal web pages of text and images then 1GB would provide the facility for around 100,000 hits per month. But again start to put additional multimedia on the site and that number comes down because more bandwidth is used on these functions.
Operating systems are important if you are maintaining a database on your site, different databases are compatible with different operating systems for example you would need Windows servers for say a Microsoft Access database.
Upgrading is something that should be considered at the outset because you never know where the website may need to go or do as your business builds. One approach is to take a cheap option at the early stages as long as there is an upgrade path available should you need it.
For example, not all hosts support .php scripting but this is not necessarily a problem if you don’t want for instance a feedback form that works through the host server or you don’t care if RSS feeds are not search engine identifiable. On the other hand if you do require these feature then you will need some form of scripting facility and if you want to generate traffic through the search engines the script needs to be in a format that the search engines can read (this doesn’t apply to feed back forms).
Email, most web hosting comes with free email addresses, having POP3 (Post Office Protocol)or IMAP functionality allows mail clients such as Outlook to retrieve mail from the server. Likewise SMTP (simple mail transfer protocol) allows you to send email via the server using your mail client. Not all hosts provide these facilities as part of their basic package, but they may offer it as part of an upgrade path. You need to decide if you want this capability from the outset and whether you are prepared to pay a little more in order to have it.
Surprising how much is involved in selecting a host but from a website perspective the choice is up there amongst some of the most important decisions you need to make when creating and publishing your website. Hope you found this helpful.
Hosts I have used:-
I have found that Hostgator provide really good value for money, you can start with a basic package, host unlimited domains or if you are really serious you can take a re-seller option.
It’s worth noting that .php and email including SMTP come as standard with HostGator but as with most hosting companies the cost is related to a minimum contract period, if you ask for a shorter period the price per month increases.
For the bloggers out there a real benefit of HostGator is that it comes with CPanel and there is a facility within CPanal that allows you to very easily create and set up a WordPress blog, worth its weight in gold for serious bloggers.
123-reg can help you in identifying what domain names are available and registering the domain name. You can also purchase a basic web hosting which is very affordable but does have some limitations. For instance for scripting you will not have .php available and will need to use .cgi (perl) they also do not provide an SMTP option with their email which means you have to configure email to be sent by an alternative email service. However if you are not concerned by these limitations then this is a very cost effective option. Remember as well that the email comes with the hosting so you do not have to buy it separately unless you decide not to host your website initially and still want to use the domain name for your email address.