Choosing the right web hosting is a crucial internet marketing decision. Getting it wrong is not an option!
Once you've chosen your web hosting company and the hosting package, you could be stuck with it for a long time.

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What You Need To Know About Web Hosting

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By Ian Traynor, Professional Webmaster © 2006

Choosing the right web hosting is a crucial internet marketing decision. Getting it wrong is not an option!

Once you've chosen your web hosting company and the hosting package, you could be stuck with it for a long time.

Changing web hosts, with all the associated problems of transferring domain names, moving files, ensuring compatibility with the previous host, all combine to make it about as difficult as changing your bank.

Here's some of the points to look out for when choosing a new web hosting package:

  • Technical support: How good and how fast is it? Email support is fine if you are guaranteed a fast response time. But better still is a local telephone help line. You might need help quickly.
  • Technologies supported: As a minimum these days, you'd be looking for web servers which support "PHP" (a web scripting language) and "MySQL" (a web database system). It would also be useful at times to be able to set up and run "Cron Jobs" (which run programs, such as an autoresponder mailout system, at regular times).

    My advice is to avoid "Windows" web servers, and go for the more popular "Unix" / "Linux" servers. They are much more secure. Most of the hacking attempts I've detected on my web servers have been trying to exploit weaknesses in Microsoft Windows servers!
  • Ease of use: If you know how to use an "FTP" program (software which lets you upload files from your computer to your web server), you might not need any more help. But, increasingly, hosting companies are providing their customers with web-based control panels, letting you do a whole range of tasks through your browser. "cPanel" is the most popular and powerful control panel.
  • Domain names: How many domain names are you allowed to set up with your web space? Do you get a free domain name with your account? You may want to run a number of different websites on the same server space - even if some of them are simple two- or three-page sales sites.
  • Web space offered: Surprisingly, this is not as important as it used to be. Many hosting companies are offering web space in excess of 500 Mb - and you can get a lot of web pages into even 25 Mb! But, in my opinion, you can never have too much web space!
  • Web statistics provided: Knowing what is happening on your website(s) is vitally important to an internet marketer. You need to know (on a multi-page site) on which pages people are entering your site (it's not always your home page), where they came from (other websites and search engines) and a lot more. Some hosting companies give you good summary reports. Others just give you the raw log files which you have to analyse using special software.
  • Cost: I've left this to the end because it shouldn't be your most important consideration. Free web space is best left for little personal websites, but for internet marketers, "commercial-grade" web space, meeting the points I've mentioned above, is a must. Having said that, you should be able to get excellent web hosting packages for about $10 to $20 per month. Don't make cost your main consideration!

If you use these criteria to screen prospective hosting packages, you should be able to pick a good one. But before you commit yourself, just do a search for your short listed hosting companies on Google Groups and see if there are any negative comments about the hosting companies you are considering.

About the Author

Ian Traynor has been a professional webmaster since 1996 and has a multitude of websites on web servers in five countries. Apart from running the long-established Marketing Magic website, he offers commercial-grade web hosting through Hosting4Marketing, and a range of software for novice webmasters (and webmistresses!) through his Webmasters Cheat Kit brand.

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