Choosing a Web Host

Establishing a website, especially for a business may seem daunting at first. However in this technology driven economy thousands of customers can be found online or in the case of an individual blog millions of potential followers leading to almost overnight stardom. There are many options when choosing a hosting provider and it may be hard for a beginner to know what to look out for. This article aims to provide an overview of what you need to get started and certain features to look for when choosing a reliable, quality web hosting service which meets your needs.

When starting a website you need two main things which do cost a little money – a domain name and web hosting. A domain name is the name of your website and costs around £5 – £10 per year. Domain names come in many forms, depending on your location and websites purpose. The most common type of domain name is the .com domain name ending or ‘domain extension’ referring to commercial. This is the general domain name ending most businesses and even individuals use however there are many more available such as .org, .info, and .us. Sometimes when you attempt to register a domain name, the name will already be taken. If that is the case try and be creative and think of another name or slightly different variant thereof or see if it is available under another domain name extension. For example might be taken, however could be available for registration. Choosing a domain name that is available and which suits your website’s purpose is extremely important in order for potential clients, customers, followers or readers to find your website online amongst a plethora of competing websites in the same niche all attempting to attract a finite pool of visitors.

The next component of a website is web hosting and this is where the focus of the discussion will take place. There are thousands of web hosts available online each with different price points and offerings. It is important you choose a reliable host that provides a quality service and offers all the features you need to run a smooth, stable website whilst remaining within your budget. The first aspect you want to look at is support, since most interaction with your hosting provider will inevitably be when something has gone wrong or not working the way in which you expect. Some hosts are much better than others in this regard with some of the larger hosts even providing tutorials, tips, tricks and assistance when it comes to developing your website and using some of the systems available for that beyond just providing support for the hosting service itself.

This can be a huge advantage, especially to those who are knew to web hosting and the online world in general in which a little helping hand can save time and money if you run into any issues when creating your website and content. In terms of hosting support though, most hosts will usually offer a basic level of support via email or a support ticket system as standard. If your host doesn’t offer any support whatsoever, or lacks a well structured support policy then you should really find somewhere else. Hosts might also offer support extras such as priority email support, phone support and live chat as standard or as an available feature in a more premium package for a higher monthly fee.

Some common hosts which have solid, comprehensive support systems in place include GoDaddy, Hostgator and Bluehost all of whom offer standard ticket based support along with extras such as live chat and phone to either all or specific customers depending on your plan. If you are a beginner for example and prefer to be walked through steps live in order to change or fix an issue it may be wise to look at a plan and service which offers phone or live chat assistance. Conversely, if you are a little more competent or prefer email based communication, standard ticket systems may be all that is required.

Next, hosts will usually differentiate their various plans and offerings by the amount of disk space and bandwidth offered. This jargon may be confusing at first yet actually it is fairly straightforward especially if you are familiar about how to use a computer. Disk space is the amount of storage space the host is letting you use on their servers. The more disk space offered by the host the larger and more elaborate your website can be. For example, a simple few page small business website with just a handful of images and a logo will take up extremely little disk space and a few hundred megabytes would be plenty. However, a large website with thousands of photos or hours of video content and hundreds of pages would require much more disk space into the tens or hundreds of gigabytes (1 gigabyte = 1024 megabytes). Thus, disk space will heavily influence which plan and provider you choose which ultimately is determined by the nature of the site you wish to host. Most hosts offer a few gigabytes as standard which is plenty for most small business and individual sites although this really does vary depending on the provider. Conversely, bandwidth is the amount of data transfer your host is allocating to your website each month. This is especially important as more bandwidth means that more visitors will be able to access your website in a given month since each visitor uses a small amount of bandwidth. This factor really depends on the amount of traffic you are expecting to your website. To start you might only need a small amount of bandwidth but as your site grows your bandwidth needs will increase. If you have a disk space intensive website containing extensive video and photo content, your bandwidth needs will also increase as every time a visitor views a 100 megabyte video on your website that is 100 megabytes of bandwidth utilised in just a couple of minutes. Your bandwidth allowance normally renews monthly and most hosts allow you to upgrade your bandwidth at any time for just a small fee to ensure your site remains online. Be careful of hosting providers who offer plans with ‘unlimited’ disk space and bandwidth for an extremely low price per month. These plans normally do have limits hidden in the terms and conditions containing clauses allowing the host to suspend you if your website is deemed to be utilising to much of the server resources. Therefore never assume an unlimited plan is truly that with plans that specify specific allowances a normally a better option. This allows you to effectively manage your resource use and upgrade as necessary without the potential threat of being suddenly suspended from your host based on very dynamic and often poorly disclosed criteria.

Therefore, web hosting can seem like a daunting task however it is an extremely important and often overlooked step in the website management chain. It is imperative that you know what to look for when choosing a hosting provider and some of the tips and tricks of the industry to ensure you get the best deal possible which meets your needs without oversubscribing to an unnecessary, overpriced nefarious operator.

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