Any search at Google for web hosting will present you with literally thousands of alternatives, so how do you know what you really NEED? How can you sort through all these offerings to determine which web host will suit you?
In my search for a hosting company, here are the things I look for…
cPanel as “Backend” Software
cPanel is very easy to use and allows you to simply do the things you need to do – i.e. set up email accounts; aliases/forwarders; check mail using web mail; manage subdomains, parked domains and add-on domains; backup files; and view statistics (I recommend using AWStats) among other things.
Most cPanel hosts also have Fantastico De Luxe installed. Fantastico is a suite of free software applications you can choose to use on your server. This includes WordPress, which is practically my “default” CMS (Content Management System) as I now use it on almost all sites I work on, including this one!
Hard Disk Space
Any hosting plan offering under 250MB-500MB of hard disk space should be seriously questioned! With the cost of hard drives plummeting, there is NO reason to accept teeny space allocations any more… something which can quickly fill up if you use web based email, or your log files get too big.
Most small business web sites would probably not use much more than 250MB of bandwidth in a month… (unless you’ve got a lot of video and/or audio which you offer for your visitors, in which case you’d probably be looking at some different – i.e. NOT shared – hosting better designed for that purpose).
However, the busier your site gets, the more bandwidth it will need – e.g. last month one of my “busier” sites (with just over 2000 unique visitors) used around 500MB of bandwidth.
For the same month, one of my “super” busy sites (with almost 50k unique visitors) used 9.4 GB of bandwidth – 5.7 GB for public traffic, and another 3.7 GB for search engine bots and the like.
So when hosting companies promise specific bandwidth allowances… make sure they are not too LOW. Any bandwidth under 1GB could cause you a problem, even with a couple of small sites…
Please also don’t be misled by hosts who offer “unlimited” space, “unlimited” bandwidth or an “unlimited” number of sites.
Careful checking of the “terms of service” of most web companies will reveal there ARE limits that are strictly enforced… they limit the total number of files you are allowed, or restrict services offered to larger accounts, or even suspend your site (turn your site off) if it uses too many system resources for any period of time.
Shared Hosting Has Its Limitations
The reality with most hosting companies is that they operate shared servers at the lower price points – i.e. there’s you and probably several HUNDRED other people all using the same physical computer! Is there any way in the world that ALL of you can have an “unlimited” number of anything, without bringing that server to its knees??? Not likely!
As you progress UP the price scale (to reseller plans and beyond) you would hope that the resources (RAM, CPU power etc) allocated to your shared server would improve, and the number of other users would decrease.
However, unless you start looking at the more expensive Virtual Private Servers (VPS) or even dedicated servers, chances are you will be sharing your server with quite a few other people. So keep your fingers crossed that none of them start playing silly games and bring your server down!
Can you get quick support – it needn’t necessarily be 24/7… just quick – i.e. you get a response to the questions you actually asked, in a reasonable time frame?
You should also look for a hosting account which allows you to host multiple domains as part of the package, either as separate domains/accounts, or as “add-on” domains (which are NOT parked domains as some companies seem to think!!!)
Why? Because you WILL end up with more than one web site – that’s just a fact of doing business online – so you might as well get hosting which will accommodate a few additional domains right from the start!
More Than One Web Host?
You will probably ALSO use more than one web host. I currently use four hosting companies (for a variety of reasons) but the main one is that if any one goes down for any extended period of time – or at worst, goes out of business altogether – I am able to “relocate” those sites to a new server fairly quickly.
It helps if you make regular BACKUPS of your data by the way! Just thought I’d mention that again… for added emphasis!
What Hosting Companies Can I Recommend?
Well… I’ve had more than I can remember since coming online way back in 1995… but I seem to have settled on three main hosting companies for the last couple of years.
And even though I have had some issues with each of them over that time, I can recommend the following companies to you…
Shared hosting with essential online marketing services included!
This is extremely economical shared web hosting (at under US$20/mth) where you can host up to 20 “add-on” domains, and ALSO packs a hefty punch with the Ultimate Marketing Package included…
Not only do you get great cPanel hosting, but you ALSO get a Complete Suite of Online Marketing Services which provide a thorough marketing solution for your small businesses, including:
unlimited auto-responders, pro mailing list manager, affiliate program, ad tracking, membership manager, customer support system, and more!!!
(These marketing services are also available separately from just US$29.95/mth)
• Reseller Hosting
This allows you to host multiple domains on one hosting account from around US$10mth (and up to $100/mth depending on the size of the account required).
This type of hosting is generally suited for smaller, low traffic web sites – i.e. a “typical” small business site – with a cPanel backend for simple server management.
Reseller plans have the flexibility of separate login and admin for each domain hosted on your server, making them ideal for developing separate sites for sale (ease of moving), and/or providing web hosting to others.
• Shared Hosting
If you don’t need this flexibility, then a shared hosting package with add-on domains might be a more economical proposition (around US$7.95+/mth).
• VPS Hosting (hosting on a Virtual Private Server)
A VPS allows you to host multiple domains on a computer which is far more powerful than those that drive shared hosting and reseller servers, and able to allocate more server resources to your web sites. At US$45+/mth, it’s a lot cheaper than having a “dedicated” server (@ $170+)
You WILL need a VPS for busier sites, or for sites which place more demands on servers than shared/reseller hosting allows. Again, your VPS comes with easy cPanel management, and 24/7 support to quickly fix any issues with your server.
I personally use ALL of the services recommended above, so I know how useful each one can be for your needs.
To discuss any of these hosting options, please contact me.