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How to Choose a Reliable Web Host ?

By Maria
Posted Tuesday, June 15, 2004

The first thing you should do before beginning your search for a reliable web host, is to make a list of your specific web hosting needs. How much space will you need? How much transfer allowance? How many emails? Will you need a database? Will you need a shopping cart? Will you need a merchant account? Are you going to set up a forum or chat feature with your web site?....etc After all, A Reliable Web host should first be a web host that meets your specific needs. But there are some things that every web host should have in order for you to consider using there services, and they are listed below.

Up Time and Reliability
You'll want to make sure that your web site is accessible. Ask your web host whether he quarantees a certain percentage of uptime. Many web hosts will guarantee your web site to be available 99.5% of the time. Ask about the hardware used, the connection, and what safequards are in place to minimize downtimes.

Reasonable Price
Your web hosting company should offer you a reasonable price for services and flexibility in payment methods and schedules. Look for hidden costs when comparing prices. You will find that some web hosts charge a setup fee. Don't rule out a web hosting company just because of this expense. Some of the best companies charge a setup fee to help in covering the cost of having high quality technical support available.

Bandwidth
Some services give you a small limit on the amount of material that can be downloaded from your site each month and charge you large amounts when that limit is exceeded. Some offer huge traffic allowances for the same price. You may not need more than a hundred MB a month now, but why put yourself in a position where you have to move when your traffic takes off? Plan ahead and allow for growth. Make sure you have at least 1 GB of data transfer. Always stay away from web hosts that say that they offer Unlimited Bandwidth Because there is NO SUCH thing called unlimited bandwidth

Disk Storage Space
Look for a web host that offers sites of 100 MB or more. This may sound like a lot, but will give you room to grow. Some web hosts offer 20 to 50 MB of space and charge as much as hosts offering 100 MB or more. They then charge you $5 to $10 more a month for every 10 MB you add on when you discover you need more space. This doesn't necessarily make them a bad web hosting service, but it is something to consider when comparing prices.

Server Speed
You want a server that is reliable and fast. There is a free tool available that allows you to evaluate this before making a decision. Net Mechanic will measure the speed of access for all facets of access (network speed, DNS lookup, connect time, download time, and absence of timeouts). The download time statistic is the most important single item to compare. Collect your list of candidate hosting services and run side-by-side tests of all the candidates. Sample during peak and non-peak times for optimal comparison.

Basic Features
Lots of features is another measure of a good web host. Some web web hosts will offer only minimal features and then charge a monthly fee to add on any new features.

Multiple Domain Names
If you have more than one domain name,You can host them using one web hosting account.Some web hosting companies may charge you extra cash for this kind of service.Others will not charge you. You only need this, if you have more than one domain name.

Mail Forwarding Accounts And Email Autoresponders
Make sure the Web hosting company allows you to set up mail forwarding -- the ability to forward you email somewhere else. I have several web sites and have all my email forwarded to my ISP service so I can read it all at once. It would take me a long time to downloard all my mail from each of my accounts. It's a great time-saver.As for autoresponder,its a program that automatically sends your pre-written message to people who email you. An example: If someone sends an e-mail to WebhostsResource@yahoo.com, a message from me will automatically be sent to them. This is a very useful tool in marketing your business as people are sent information immediately and without you doing a thing.

Mailing Lists
A mailing list is a discussion group that is email-based. They are useful as a promotional tool. You can also use a mailing-list program to distribute your ezine.

FTP (File Transfer Protocol)
It allows you to transfer files to and from your Web site quickly and easily. This service should be provided. Only some free web hosting services don't offer FTP. I would be really be worried if a web hosting service doesn't offer this basic service.

Anonymous FTP Accounts
This function allows you to set up an FTP site that people can access to download files. If you are distributing software or giving away free ebooks, this is a great tool. You can also have files transfered directly from your Web site, but it's sometimes handy to have an FTP site as well. FTP sites can resume interrupted downloads. If someone is transfering a file, and their ISP or phone company cuts them off half way through, they can come back and continue the transfer where they left of. This works great for large downloads.

A Secure Server - Referred To As SSL Server
This is a must if you plan to take orders online or transfer sensitive information. The secure server allows redit-card information typed into a form to be encrypted before being sent from the user's Web browser to the server. You may have to pay an additional fee to use the secure server. You don't have to have a secure server to take orders online, but you may lose a lot of orders if you don't provide this for your customers.

CGI Scripts
You can use CGI to take information from a form and send it to your email account and some shopping cart programs use it as well. A good Web hosting service will have a library of CGI scripts you can use. Find out if you can add your own CGI scripts. Don't get a service that won't allow you to do this. You may regret it in the future even if you don't use them now.

Advanced Features
Does The Web Host Provide Advanced Features Such As Database Access, Java Applets, RealAudio/Video, PHP,Password Protection...etc If You Need Them !?

Backups
A good web host will backup your web directory daily. This is pretty standard throughout the industry. If a web host doesn't provide this service, don't even consider using them. Some web hosts will even do redundant backups to insure your web site is not lost.

A Guarantee
With so many web hosting services out there, make sure you choose one that offers a guarantee. Services that offer a moneyback guarantee are confident that you'll be satisfied with their service. Look for at least a basic 30 day money back guarantee.

Flexibility
The ideal web hosting service will have lots of options and upgrades to accomodate future growth of your web site. You may need to add ecommerce to your web site (shopping cart, storefront, merchant account), or more web space, a forum, or you might just need to have your own dedicated server. A good web hosting company will have all these resources available to you if you need them.

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