Web hosting resource and directory: The check list, help and faqs to find the right web site hosting company.

Web hosting resource and directory

Following is a checklist of factors to consider when shopping for a host server:

1. Size matters - It's important to host with a large, solid company that has a good reputation, site backups, responsive Help people, and server technicians working 24/7. Don't be tempted to host with a "reseller". This is usually a smaller company, often consisting of one individual or a very small staff, which has leased a big block of server space that it carves up and resells to website owners. If anything goes wrong, you can't contact the actual server owners, but are at the mercy of the reseller. He might be available -- but he may be on vacation, or may even abruptly close up shop and disappear. Even less reliable are companies that own and manage their own servers, but are understaffed or undereducated; such hosts typically experience lots of downtime.

2, Uptime -While even major hosts can be hacked and experience some downtime, this should be an extremely rare occurrence. Most sites with reliable hosts should be available upwards of 99% of the time, and there should be virtually no missing e-mail.

3. Autonomy -The host's site should include a perfectly-functioning "control panel" and online Help documentation. This allows you, or your designer, to efficiently perform routine tasks such as assigning new mail accounts, making new virtual domains, etc. With some hosts even such minor issues require the involvement of the support staff, which makes every procedure agonizingly slow and awkward.

4. Feature packages - While some hosts offer a choice of server (Unix or Windows), others specialize in a single platform. Check with your designer to determine if any of the code in your site is dependant on a particular type of server.

5. Toys - Some hosts offer a dizzying array of plug-ins and options that can be added to your site -- at a price. But before allowing these goodies to affect your decision to purchase, carefully consider whether they'll be useful to you. Not every site needs a blog, shopping cart, message board, etc.

6. Cost - Bearing in mind the preceding points, it's obvious that scrimping on hosting costs can be an example of being penny-wise but pound-foolish. You've invested time and money in building a site; make sure it's available to your target audience by choosing a host that is reliable and accountable.

Now that you know what to look for, how do you determine whether a specific host meets all your requirements? There's no foolproof answer. Certainly company size and the length of time they've been in business provide some indication. On the other hand, rock-bottom prices should make you suspicious. As with other services, the best method of choosing may be to ask for recommendations from colleagues. If they do recommend their hosts, use a few of the free tools I've listed below to examine their sites with objective feedback on server performance issues. In any case, it's best not to tie yourself to a long-term hosting package until you're certain you're satisfied. When first signing up with a new host, take the minimal plan available and then monitor carefully. If worse comes to worst, switch to a new host.


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