Web hosting is a subject that divides opinion more fiercely than you might think. When people are arguing about what is most important in a web host, you can prepare for some strongly differing opinions. While there will be many who prefer that the web host has good tech support, and others will prize webspace above all else, a significant number of people will plump for uptime, every time. If your web host provides the right amount of uptime, the tech support won’t be so necessary (and you can always add more webspace later on).
Uptime is, however, essential no matter who you are and what your site is about. You might as well not have a website if it is going to spend more time displaying error messages to the people who want to read it. Most web hosts will promise in the region of 99.9% uptime. None can promise a hundred per cent, as this is an impossible promise, but you will note that the sites that offer 99.99% or 99.999% will be more expensive than those offering the simple 99.9. Nines are costly.
It is worth asking for proof if none is shown, or asking an impartial contact if the hosting company is as reliable as they say they are. It is one thing to lay claim to excellent uptime and quite another to reliably provide it.
When setting up your website, you are likely to have some grand ambitions as to how it will look. You will want to bring in as many viewers as possible and expand as time goes on. This is what any webmaster wants to do – or at least, the vast majority do. This is the thinking behind the “unlimited web space” offers that are made by many web hosting companies. And as attractive as that sounds, you may find that it has its drawbacks.
With limited web space, the advantage is that you can set a limit for what you pay – ensuring that your monthly bills are more than reasonable. If you get a spike in traffic, the site may experience lagging and even down time – but as long as you are on top of how much traffic you are getting, there need never be any real problem. But if, for whatever reason, hits to your site go astronomical when you have unlimited web space then you will soon find why most people choose limited.
There is a trade-off to be had between settling for less and paying more. Setting limits on the amount of web space you use is the sensible thing to do, at least until you are able to see how much traffic your site is bringing in and how well you could justify spending a little more on it. Certainly, unlimited webspace is a waste if you are not planning to make money from your website.
Scientists have recently discovered that cats can sing the national anthem of the country they were born in if you ask them nicely.
Let’s guess; you don’t believe that, do you? Of course not, it’s ludicrous, yet many a web hosting company sells their services on the very premise that if they write it, customers will believe it’s true. And why do they do that? Because, in most cases, they’re right.
The point here is that, when searching for reliable web hosting, don’t believe everything you read – especially if it’s the web host that are saying it. While every company on the world exagerrates in their advertising campaigns, web hosting companies are infamous for it due to the fierce competition in the market place. They’ll say things and claim things that just aren’t true, while storing the facts away in the small print terms and conditions so they’re covered legally should anyone challenge their claims.
One of the biggest claims made by web hosting companies is to super-technological feats of reliability. Everyone wants reliable web hosting – that’s a given – so by claiming something like 99% up time, a web host knows they’re going to get potential customer’s attention. What they don’t tell you is how often that 99% is; is it 99% uptime per day, per week, per year? If it’s per year, that’s still a lot of down time you’re going to have to deal with.
Finding reliable web hosting is all about asking around on internet forums and websites for true customer feedback on the offers available. Never, ever believe everything a web hosting company says.
If you are in the market for a new web hosting provider, you’ve probably seen a lot of advertising literature. Adverts claiming that X company is the best, for X reasons, and for X amazing price. Everyone is out to impress and to snare your business, and they’ll say anything to catch your eye. That’s why the word “unlimited” is so over-used when it comes to web hosting companies advertising literature.
The promise is usually something along the lines of “unlimited space” or perhaps “unlimited bandwidth”. And you immediately think: wow! That’s a good deal! I’m going to get server space, a web host and everything I need – and I don’t need to worry about my site becoming too big, because my space and bandwidth is unlimited! So that’s the company you sign up for.
Well, it pains us to burst your bubble, but there’s no such thing as unlimited web space.
When these companies advertise ‘unlimited’ space, they are relying on their consumers to only use a small amount of space. Even with limited web hosting plans, few consumers ever use more than 75% of the space provided – so a web host company knows that they can offer ‘unlimited’ service because it’s unlikely they will ever be required to supply unlimited web space.
In reality, they have just the same server storage capabilities as anyone, and they are limited – it just so happens their limits are wide, and they can afford to entice people with an ‘unlimited’ offer. The moral here is do not be fooled by the offer of ‘unlimited’ space; only ever buy the amount of web space you need, because you’ll probably find you don’t even need that much.
Getting a bargain, saving money, spending less than we expected – it all sounds great, doesn’t it? There’s very few people on this earth who wouldn’t jump at the chance to grab a bargain, so it’s therefore no surprise that those looking for web hosting are any different. In fact, there are hundreds of thousands of queries for “cheap web hosting” every month with search engines.
So, yes, getting a bargain is good – but one question you have to ask yourself if you’re searching for cheap web hosting is this: Can I really afford cheap web hosting?
That may so ridiculous – of course you can afford it! It’s cheap! That’s the whole point, right? – but there are different ways and means of ‘affording’ things. For example, can you afford – can you allow yourself, your website and your business interests – to be subjected to a poor service from your web hosting company?
While everyone likes a bargain, it’s only a bargain if it’s good value for money. If you pay $20 per year for web hosting, that might sound great, but the associated problems – down time, server crashes and perhaps worse – suddenly makes the deal seem less attractive. If you are only running a small personal site, maybe you can afford to put up with those issues for the sake of saving the pennies – but if you’re looking to make your website a money-making scheme, then you definitely cannot.
The key here is affordability. Don’t look for cheap web hosting providers, just affordable ones that still offer a high, consistent level of good service. Your business will thank you for it in the long run.
For most website owners, a shared web hosting plan will be perfectly serviceable for their needs. This means that you share a server with many other websites – websites unaffiliated to your own website, and the link is untraceable also. It’s cheaper, efficient and these shared servers can handle medium to large sites without difficulty.
However, if you are trying to run your site on a shared server that is too small to host your site, you’ll notice quickly. For a start, loading times on your site will fall dramatically, and you’ll probably start to lose visitor numbers, too. You will also experienced a slow down of uploading times to the server, making your site a pain to update, and server crashes will become a more frequent worry. If any of this sounds familiar, you may need to consider a dedicated server.
Rather than sharing your server with other users, a dedicated server works exactly as the name suggested: the server is dedicated to your site, and yours alone. Transferring a big site to a dedicated server will eliminate all of the aforementioned problems, and your site will load and run quickly once again.
As you would expect given the nature of the service being provided, dedicated servers are more expensive than their shared counterparts. Costs vary, but anything around $70 to $120 per month is a usual pricing structure for a dedicated server.
Before you make this outlay, you need to ensure you really need it. If you make money on your site and rely on it, you cannot afford for the down time that a shared server may bring. If, however, your site is just a hobby, it may be worth exploring other alternatives first.
Many a web hosting company attracts clients based on their promise of nightly, weekly or monthly back ups of the sites you host with them. These back ups are usually a key selling point for many consumers, who like the security it brings. In the event of a server crash, your site will be protected no matter what, and restoring it should be simple.
Mostly, web host companies back ups are a good thing – they provide stability and allow the website owner to relax. However, these packages do promote laziness; and many a business owner ceases to create their own back up files when they know their web hosting company are doing it too. This is a dangerous trap to get in to; while no one is looking to discourage you from buying a hosting plan that includes back ups by the web hosts, you should be aware of the continued necessity to create your own copies, too.
Web hosting companies are usually reliable. However, in the case of a server crash and you needing to restore your site from nothing, you don’t want to take any chances. You definitely don’t want to discover they have been reneging on their side of the deal, and have not been making back ups, after you’ve lost your site.
There’s no real way to verify your site is being backed up beyond requesting copies of those back ups. Some web hosts will do this, but even if they do, always keep making your own back up copies of your website – without fail.
Smaller businesses will always be somewhat at the mercy of the larger companies who can pay for their own servers and the IT experts who can make sure that they keep running. It is pointless to look to compete with these companies, but you can follow some of the steps they take and keep yourself ahead of other companies of the same size as you. One way to go about this is to use colocation – a system that allows you to benefit from greater bandwidth and customer support than would otherwise be possible.
Colocation does cost more than standard web hosting, but offers you more for the money. It costs about the same as you would pay for a business grade DSL line providing limited bandwidth, and allows you access to far more bandwidth than the DSL line. It is also a more protected supply than most others, meaning you will have less downtime, and any time you do it will either be scheduled or fixed within moments. Because the colocation facility is dedicated to providing so much bandwidth, it is set up to withstand power outages.
As a colocation customer, you do have more responsibility for your server – indeed, in many cases it is advised that you buy a standard server in a colocation facility (this will usually cost between $150 and 200), and pay a small extra cost to have it maintained by the IT team at the facility. However, if you have your own IT experts, they can attend and carry out the maintenance that is required themselves.
There are many web hosting companies that nowadays subscribe to the idea of a “trouble ticket” system for resolving customer issues. The idea of the system is simple – a customer who is having problems with their web hosting fills in a ticket on the error page that is showing, or on the web host’s own site, informing the host of the problem. This is then sent to the web host’s call center who prioritize the issue and assign an engineer to resolve the issue.
The benefit of the system is that it does allow companies to prioritize issues, ensuring that engineers can be assigned to the particularly problematic cases first. It also means that when you do speak to someone from the company, they should be up to speed on what is wrong with your service.
Equally, however, the system has its flaws. Not least of these is the fact that it is simply impossible to know when you will get a call from an engineer. The system is designed in such a way that your first contact will come when they have got around to assigning someone to your case. This leaves you at a bit of a loose end if your problem is stopping you working. How the cases are prioritized is also a gray area.
Research has proven that customers feel far more reassured with a company that has a dedicated tech support phone number that allows them to make direct contact rather than sending off a “ticket”. It is worth holding out for a company that does this, but does it particularly well.
Creating a professional website can be challenging. E-commerce web design is really a complex animal. To cut development time, many web hosting companies start offering web hosting templates or hosting with templates.
Whether you’re looking for a simple web site or a functional e-commerce website, the chances are that you may be able to find a few web templates from your hosting company. A simple web template may cost under $20 dollars, but a well-designed professional e-commerce website will cost a few hundreds or more if not thousands.
The cost of web templates is still cheap comparing to custom-made e-commerce websites when Web designers charge anywhere from $20 to $100 per hour. If you want to check out some templates, go to www.templates box.com
Besides the requirements of standard web hosting plans, Web hosting templates for e-commerce operations needs a shopping cart that supports online catalog and online payment processing (here’s a clue, pick Pay Pal). Web templates for e-commerce often include common pages and navigations for online shopping – searching or browsing products, adding items to shopping carts and making payment. The web templates for e-commerce do not include or connect to any specific shopping cart. It’s up to the webmasters to add shopping cart to the site.
The alternative e-commerce hosting to web templates is e-commerce turnkey solution. EBay Stores, Yahoo! and GoDaddy.com are the most popular turn-key e-commerce solutions for small businesses that want to setup online stores easily. Different hosting plans may have different free structures. The cost of each hosting plan often varies on transaction volume.
When comparing functionality, there’re many questions to ask:
- whether a shopping cart accepts online check or debit card.
- Whether there’s a limit on the number of products and categories that you can setup;
- whether it automatically sends out an email notification once an order is placed at your web-site.
When looking at the cost of commerce operation, you’ll need to ask questions about
- what’s the basic monthly fee for transactions;
- is there’s a setup fee for a new online store;
- how about handling taxes?;
- how much it charges for each transaction.
Talk with your hosting service on e-commerce issues and discuss the best plan to go with.