1. Select a Platform:
The first consideration should be the selection of a server platform. There are two platforms to pick from- Unix / Linux and Windows. Although they both have their advantages and disadvantages, only those very experienced would notice any difference in performance.
The platform you need is completely dependent on the dynamic script languages and the database used on your website. Some common dynamic script languages and databases can only be used on one of the two platforms.
While PHP, Python, and the MySQL Database normally run on Unix / Linux, there are Windows versions so they can be used on the Windows platform.
ASP is a Microsoft dynamic script language that normally runs on Windows. However, ASP can also run on the Unix / Linux platform.
However, ASP.NET, the Access Database, and the MS SQL (pronounced em - es - sea'qual) Database are Microsoft products that can ONLY be used on the Windows (Microsoft) platform.
Selecting a platform has nothing to do with the operating system of your own computer. Although you can view your website on your computer, your website IS NOT ON your computer. Your website IS ON your host server (the host computer system) at the host data center.
The most popular server platform is the Unix / Linux platform. This is so for several reasons. Unix / Linux offers better stability, scalability, and security than Windows. The security issue is the reason most large corporations only use Unix / Linux.
Unfortunately, most web designers prefer the Windows platform because it is viewed as more creative. If you want to hire a web designer, make sure they will create your website for the platform you prefer, not what they prefer.
Unless your website is already based on ASP.NET, or you have heavy use of Access or MS SQL, we strongly recommend the Unix / Linux platform. If for no other reason, it is a more secured platform.
2. Select a Host with Expandability:
Each web host plan will come with a set limit of disk space and bandwidth.
Disk Space is the amount of space allotted to you on the host's server. Disk space is used to hold your web pages. Many plans allow at least 1,000 MB (1 Gig) of disk space, Many offer more, although more is rarely necessary. For example, if a typical web page with graphics is 35k in size (that is a big file), that would mean that 1,000 MB would hold approximately 28,571 web pages.
So, for most businesses, 1,000 MB is much more than enough space. The exceptions to this rule are businesses requiring unusually large files or a vast number of files, such as businesses in graphic design, photography, video, and music.
Bandwidth is the amount of data that can be transmitted in a fixed amount of time. To give you a rough idea about the measurement of gigabytes and bandwidth, here is another example. If a page on your website is 35k, then one (1) Giga of bandwidth will convey about 28,500 single-page visits. That is for one page. Visitors usually visit more than one page on a website, so more bandwidth would be used for each new page accessed.
For a typical personal website, 10 Gig should be much more than enough. For a new small business, 40 Gig is usually much more than enough. As time goes on, you may need to upgrade to a higher plan in order to accommodate more traffic. If you think this may be the case, then make sure your web host has higher plans with more bandwidth.
3. Look for Reliability:
If you are in business, no one likes their website down even for a second. The idea is to have 100% uptime. But that is not possible. All web hosts have unexpected events that interrupts uptime. So, look for a good history of uptime, and a reasonable expectation that this high standard of uptime will continue.
4. Look for Good-Quality Customer Support:
Customer support staff should be expected to handle many technical questions, but not all. It is reasonable to expect that with some technical issues, a phone appointment with a technician might need to be arranged.
Web host companies may experience problems in supplying a high standard of customer support all the time. In our experience, this is especially so if the company is rapidly expanding. A good company will make corrections and re-establish good quality as soon as possible. Be on the lookout for current good quality standards, not complaints from a year ago.
Also, look for self help availability. A good Help database is a big plus, it is even better if it is searchable. Some web hosts now have Tutorials (a big plus), and FAQs (a big plus), or other instructional forms of help. Some web hosts also have their own members Forum (a big plus). Using a forum is an excellent way to get information and new ideas.
5. Control Panel:
The Control Panel is the interface that allows you to easily manage your website. It should be logically designed and easy to use. Most good web hosts supply good control panels. But some do not. Some web hosts have created their own control panels which are very good. Some are not. There are some control panels that are commonly used by web hosting companies. These include the CPanel, VDeck, and Plesk. Some web hosts modify these control panels. In our reports we tell you whom has what and how good it is.
6. Web Builder
A Web Builder is a software application used in the design or creation of a website. Some web hosts will supply a powerful web creation tool as a service to their customers. Those that are new to website building will appreciate a web builder program conveniently available through their control panel. If you already have a good website or you are more experienced in web building (with FrontPage, Dreamweaver, etc) then you will not need a separate web builder.
FrontPage: If you have FrontPage, note that if the web host offers a FrontPage Extension, you will be able to create web pages on your computer and upload them to the web host server.
7. Traffic Analysis:
Traffic Analysis of your raw logs is not only standard business practice, it is essential to your success. Most business hosting plans have a Stats program like Webalizer or AW Stats. These are quite acceptable. Some have Urchin Stats, which is very nice. You may need to pay an installation fee, but it is well worth it.
Raw Log Access. Some prefer to gain access to their raw logs on the host server. In this manner, raw log data can be downloaded and analyzed on their own stats program on their own company computer.
8. Other Features:
Most good web hosts will provide the following features for business websites: CGI-bin: If you may add a forum, guestbook, or other feature later, then you will want the web host to have a CGI-bin. FTP: If you upload pages to your website, then if possible you will want the use of FTP. Online managers will do the job, but they are much slower (but easier to use). Incidentally, you want the ability to have your own FTP account. Some web hosts will only offer Anonymous FTP. However, Anonymous FTP is not considered secure. We recommend you make sure your website cannot be accessed by Anonymous FTP.
Other features may be offered by web hosts. Some of these features may be interesting and worthwhile. Never pick a host because of their bundle of extras. Remain focused on the main points that I have presented in 1 through 8, above. Decide what you need, then find a dependable web host that will fill that need.
So there you have it. I hope you are now aware of what to look for in a web host. Your host will play a huge role in your success online.
To read a host review, click on the web hosts on the left navigation bar. Or, select a web host by category.
All the web hosting companies we mention have met our minimum standard for good uptime reliability, and good customer support (including technical support). If you find any of the web hosts we review has not lived up to your needs, please let us know.
If you have gone through our website and still want more advice, or should you have a question about a web host, then you can send a comment or question.