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HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT WEBHOST

By Michael Bray
Posted Friday, June 18, 2004

Choosing the right web host is the most important thing for the success of your
website. Downtime leads to losing customers. Think about this for a second.
Someone reads your advertisement in a newsletter or sees your banner on a website,
do you think if they click on it and get no response they will try again in 20 minutes?
They won't. Potential customer, down the drain.

Even something as simple as your current host not having the features you need to
run a good quality shopping cart will make you lose customers. As you can see,
choosing the right web host is very important.

But how do you choose the best web host? There are thousands of them out there.
Which is best for you? There are a few easy steps you need to think about that make
finding the perfect host much easier.

1) First, sit down and think about your needs before looking for a host. There is no
point choosing a host, only to find out that they don't support any of the features you
need, or that you are paying for things that you will never use. Ask your web
designer what features are required for your site to work.

One of the features necessary for e-commerce (that is often not included) is SSL
(Secure Sockets Layer), which is used so you can safely accept credit cards on your
site. Other features that are required are things such as CGI (Common Gateway
Interface) which allow you to run programs such as shopping carts on your site.

2) Email the companies you are interested in before signing up. Send their support
department a few emails, at different times, just to check how quickly they respond.
You should really choose a host that has 24/7 support. Call them as well and make
sure that you can talk to a human if you need to. Sometimes that is the quickest way
to resolve a problem.

Take this oppotunity to ask them about the features they offer. If there is a feature
you want that they don't have listed, ask them if they can add it. Don't forget to
measure the response time!

3) Decide wether you need a Virtual or Dedicated server. Basically, if your site is
very busy - then you need a dedicated server. Head over to
(http://www.webhostarea.com/guides/virtual-dedicated/) for more infomation about
choosing between Virtual & Dedicated servers.

Some companies offer semi-dedicated options, where you share the server with 4 or
so other people. This generally isn't a good option, and if you need that sort of
speed, look into getting a dedicated server.

4) Ask the company for some sites that are currently hosted on their servers - make
sure the site loads fast, email the owners of the site & ask them if they are happy with
the service they are getting. If the host refuses to give you any sites, move on.

5) Try to avoid NT, Mac and Cobalt servers. Web servers can come in many types,
from Unix based, to NT, Cobalt, Sun Solaris and even Macintosh. For 95% of
people, a Unix based server is the best option. Many people get scared when they
read the word "Unix"; it sounds so hard to use! In actuality however, it is easier to
use a Web sever than the other options. Feel free to contact us if you need some
help deciding what type of server you need. (http://www.web
hostarea.com/contact.php?type=Advice)

6) All beginners, and even some of the advanced web developers out there, will
benefit from having an easy to use Control Panel to handle things on their site, such
as email addresses. Always check a web host's site to make sure they have one
available before you sign up.

7) The last step is to make sure they offer some sort of an uptime guarantee. Some
companies offer a 99% uptime guarantee, and if your site is not up that much, you
get the month free. While this does not bring you back the potential clients that you
have lost, it does encourage hosts to have their servers up as much as possible.

If there is one thing I want you to understand from this article, it is this: "You get what
you pay for with web hosting." I have had hundreds of emails from people that went
cheap and their site was a disaster because of it. Don't choose a $5 a month host,
and expect to recieve quality services. You should aim to spend at least $30 a month
for a basic package, and at least $300 a month for a dedicated server.

Be careful not to be ripped off though. While I am telling you not to spend to little,
you have to be careful not to spend too much. If you are interested in a host and you
feel they might be trying to charge you a little too much, feel free to contact me and
I'll check them out for you.

Good luck finding a new web host!
About the Author
Michael Bray, webhostarea.com, a site offering free consulting about web
hosting, a directory of web hosts as well as helpful guides and a user forum. Michael
has been working on-line for 2 years now, running both his own sites and creating
sites for other people. He runs webhostarea.com so that people don't go through the
experiences he had to go through when choosing a new web host.