Step 2 - Choose a Host for your Web Site
A web site host stores the files that make up your web site; performs any required processing and makes the web site available
to the entire Internet. Basically a host is a server or computer on the Internet. In fact, in theory since your computer is on
the Internet, your computer could be the host. But I strongly warn against this! A Hosting company has (hopefully if you choose
right) high speed & redundant links (several times your broadband connection); a number of security protections; regular backups;
manages the server's software updates; and many other features too numerous to list. But PLEASE! read all of this step as not all
hosting companies are created equally.
Each hosting company is different and provides different features. The hosting service we provides has a graphical management
interface; unlimited email accounts; unlimited subdomains; large disk space; web site statistics; full use of current versions of
PHP, CGI, Ruby on Rails, Perl, Python, Curl, Image Magick and others. Many other hosting companies also priovide these but some
do not. You need to make sure your choice supplies the featires needed for your web site. I have had clients trying to install
PHP scripts to a host that does not offer PHP or has an outdated version. That won't work!
Also some hosting companies provide you the interface to create the web pages. Usually you access their web authoring
program with your browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, etc.) and create the pages on-line. This might be sufficeint
for a very basic web site. I do not consider these real hosting companies. Most have limited ability to upload seperate web
pages or allow you to use the features just mentioned. When you want to add functionality, add a web application or
extended scripting you will need to look for another hosting company and move everything. godaddy.com, yahoo and others
are not real hosting companies and are limited in ability.
Besides features the most important quality for choosing a host is technical support. Some have no real support.
Others will help only if the server itself has issues. Some will help in detail but the technical level of the staff may
be at any level from less than yours to experts. Some give support during business hours and others are 24/7. There are
many aspects beyond this when it comes to support. A few large hosting companies post a technical support phone number
but actually is only voice mail and rarely return calls! Some state 24/7 support but only for larger clients or just for
show. So how do us professionals find out if they really offer the support they claim? We call them! Before signing up,
try calling at 3 in the morning and see if you get a real support person. I have done this for clients even when someone
else tells me they have used their support. If your site is a personal site with several pages made in your word processor
or just html then support probably is not much of a concern. But for larger sites or if you will be attracting outside
visitors you will want some level of support.
Nearly all hosting companies have different hosting plans. A too common mistake here is people buying into the
most expensive plan or a dedicated server. Yes I know your web site is going to be as busy as myspace or ebay real soon,
but right now you have NO users. Except yourself! It may be months, years or never when you will need those larger hosting
plans. Right now you probably need the cheapest plan. You first must make sure the hosting company & plan has the support
and features that meet your web site's requirements. If you will be using a blog application like Wordpress for example
your hosting plan must include support for PHP & MySQL or Wordpress will not work. There are other blog software such
as Cutenews (I will get into applications later) which do not require MySQL but it does require PHP. You need to know
what you need.
So even though this is Step 2 you will need to complete Step 3 before making a final decision on hosting. The
reason I talk about it here is to help you with figuring what hosting will cost you before you design the site. As in
the example above, you may decide you do not want to spend the money on a hosting plan that includes PHP & MySQL suport.
Maybe just doing basic html pages (hey, they can look as good!) instead of an application will save you some money and
still allow you to have the kind of web site you need.
Prices for a "basic" hosting plan range from $5-20/month. The features, server performance, disk space, bandwidth
allowed and other items will increase with the cost. Nearly all new web sites and no offense but if you are reading this
it applies to YOU, only need the basic plan offered.
Let me explain a few things mentioned. Server performance has a lot to do with the "computer's performance." Ever
notice sometimes your home PC sometimes is slow or takes some time to do a task? And that is with only one user! A web
site server may have hundreds, thousands or maybe tens of thousand users at one time! Hosting plans can be for a dedicated
server or for a shared hosting account. A dedicated server is just that. One server dedicated only to you and your web
site. But You Do Not need this! You need a Shared Hosting Account. A shared account means that for your $5 per month the
server is not only hosting your website but hundreds or thousands of other websites. That is usually fine. Most web sites
are just sitting there waiting for visitors so the server is doing nothing during those times.
Bandwidth is the amount of traffic, that is, data being transferred to and from your web site. If you download a
1 MB file from your web site that is 1MB of bandwidth. If you have a hundred site visitors downloading that same file
it is 1MB x 100 =100MB of bandwidth usage. Now most web page files that make up a web site are a fraction of that. What
is important to understand is some hosting plans have limit on bandwidth usage. Above that limit and (depending on the
hosting company) either they add charges or normally abruptly disconnect your site without notice. Be aware of the policy
that applies to you and as your site gets busier be sure to monitor your bandwidth traffic. A big mistake is posting
pictures or music files that are very large. They take too long to download from your web site and are the biggest
eaters of your bandwidth. And on the Internet a picture that is 55kb looks as good as one that is from your camera at 5mb.
The last decision with hosting is the operating system. Windows or Linux/UNIX? You will not be sitting at the
computer and will never see the desktop. I ONLY use Linux/UNIX servers. You do not need to know Linux or UNIX. Just know
that they are a hundred times more secure and much higher performance. Also there are more web applications made
for Linux/UNIX than windows.
Paramount Network Systems