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Website Hosting 101 - Choosing The Right Website Hosting Provider

By Alessandro DeBarros
Posted Thursday, November 25, 2004

As a beginner trying to find the right web host for your website is often daunting. The jargon used by most web hosts often goes way over your head. In this article, I provide 4 lessons for anyone who wishes to learn the basics of finding a web host As a beginner trying to find the right web host for your website is often daunting. The jargon used by most web hosts often goes way over your head. In this article, I provide 4 lessons for anyone who wishes to learn the basics of finding a web host.

Lesson One: What is Web Hosting?

Web hosting is the essentially the placement of your website onto the Internet through a server. Once your site is on a server, anyone with Internet access can look at your website - from anywhere in the world, 24 hours a day.

In order to have your site hosted on the web, you need to have the following three things:

A Website - a page or set of pages that is located under the same domain name. A web page is a computer document written in a publishing language called HTML. When an Internet user types in your web address, your web server sends the content of your web page to that user.

A Domain Name - a unique text-based address used to locate a specific set of web pages. A domain name is made up of words and/or numbers plus a TLD (top level domain). The TLD for most businesses is ".com", such as (http://www.brandblast.com/); non-profit organizations use ".org"; universities and educational sites use ".edu"; and sites involved with the U.S. government use ".gov". More TLDs are available, such as .biz, .pro, .name, .info, etc.

An Account With A Web Hosting Company - or a server of your own to host your website. A server is a computer that stores information that can be accessed through the network. Servers can also be used to store website information that can be accessed by any computer with a connection to the Internet - and a browser such as Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator, the two most popular web browsers.

Web hosting is, in many ways, similar to renting property. There are plenty of companies that will rent you space on their web servers. The wide range of services start from free hosting on up to buying a server for your own personal use. It's possible to spend thousands of dollars a year on web hosting alone, though the average person or small business typically pays $10 - $50 a month, depending on how many features, web space, and data transfer they need.

Lesson Two: Do I Need a Web Host?

If you are planning to establish an internet presence, whether it be in the form of a personal homepage or a full-service e-commerce catalogue, and do not own your own personal server, you will definitely need a web host.

Finding a good web host, however, can be a rather difficult endeavor. BrandBlast’s website hosting services are a great place to start your search, our hosting plans are designed to acccomodate any website requirement and can be upgraded at any time, our plans grow with you.

Choosing a host for your website should not be taken lightly. Once committed, it becomes a real headache to move elsewhere - not to mention the damage that can be done to your business if you make the wrong choice.

This makes it very important to "get it right the first time." Find out as much as you can about your prospective host before making any decisions, and have a clear idea of the scope of your site, and the functions you wish to have prior to searching for your host.

Doing the proper planning will help you a great deal in your selection of a host, and will save you the headache of trying to change hosts later.

Lesson Three: What type of web hosting package is suitable for me - free or shared?

FREE - Free is for fun. If you want to experiment with a site or put up a small, personal site for the fun of it.

If you fall into this category, you probably need just a small amount of web space and little bandwidth: 1 to 2 MB should be plenty for your needs; and a personal, unique domain name may not even be necessary. In fact, you can get web space FREE.

A popular provider of free space is Geocities (http://www.geocities.com/). However, because it's free, you may find out later that there are many limitations - it all depends how far you want to go...

SHARED - Go "shared" if you are serious about doing some business or have a professional website that is much better off "standing on its own." Or if you simply prefer your own domain name and space.

Setting up your own web server is not the best approach for an individual or a small/medium business. You can rent space for your web site from a web hosting provider at a far lower cost.

If your web site is text-based, you won't need much web space - text takes almost no space at all! Select a provider that supports CGI and other advanced features that you think you might use in the future. Better safe than sorry! And in this category, BrandBlast offers our Bronze package for only $9.95 / month!

If you're developing a web site for a small/medium business or organization, you should carefully evaluate the possibility of further expansion in the future. It will be a bit of a hassle if you discover later that you need a database for your web site, but your provider doesn't offer it.

If you're planning to sell a product (or products) online, look for a provider who can provide you with a commercial web solution such as a Merchant Account, Shopping Cart Software and a secure online payment system certificate that is compatible with their hosting platform. Choosing a large web space with a high bandwidth allowance is a good idea in this case.

Data Transfer allowance really depends on how many visitors you're expecting and how well you promote your web site. For most sites, 3 to 5 GB should suffice, and are provided by our Platinum and Diamond plans.

With all hosting plans, there will be some features that you need and some offered that you don't need. Be sure to focus on the essentials that are required to launch your website.

You may want all the nice extras but will you use them? It's a good idea to choose a host that will allow you to expand and upgrade your plan as and when your website grows. If you want to start selling online, for example, an additional e-commerce option for an extra fee will be easier and quicker to implement than looking for and transferring to a new host.

BrandBlast's plans differ only in their web space and data transfer allowance, features such as shopping carts, website builders, technical support, and much more are available as standard options on all of our hosting plans, you can upgrade or downgrade plans at any time, and manage multiple domains from one control panel. View a demo of our control panel.

Lesson Four: Evaluate their support service?

Customer support is very important - often critical. To cover yourself from the start, take some time to look around at several providers' web sites to see what their support policies are.

Email them with a few sample questions to check the speed and quality of their responses. Nothing guarantees that they will respond at the same speed and manner if you do become a customer, but this approach is quite accurate and telling about 90% of the time.

Look at a number of providers' web sites to see how they handle support. Many providers provide lists of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and support documents on their web sites.

Closing Thoughts

Selecting a provider with many years of experience is a good decision. Look at the provider's web page for a list of its customers and check out some of their pages. Take a minute to view some of BrandBlast's current hosting and webdesign clients.

Nowadays, the web hosting market is full of resellers. Even well-known providers can be resellers of a large web hosting provider or wholesaler services. Sometimes, they are resellers of resellers. Choosing a reseller provider is not always a bad idea. The reseller may provide you with faster technical support service. They usually offer other services too, such as web design or web maintenance.

To investigate the reliability of providers, we recommend you check the contents of their web sites. Experienced providers should have a large web site containing several pages of services and support documents, plus their phone and fax numbers, as well as their physical address.

You have gained valuable knowledge in this quick lesson, we at BrandBlast wish you the best in your search for a website hosting provider, and hope that you will choose to to try BrandBlast’s Website Hosting Services for 30 Days Free!

About the Author
Alessandro DeBarros is a web marketing specialist for BrandBlast, a CT based firm whose cutting edge hosting services is quickly being recognized around the world as a leader in its field. At a current base of 5,000 clients, BrandBlast specializes in small to medium business hosting, providing small businesses with the services and support they need at affordable prices.