Every website needs a home–a place where its content and images reside, ready to be served up to visitors around the world. The provider of this home is an internet host, and there are thousands of them. Here’s how to find one that provides what you need.
Use Your Designer
The simplest way to do this is to speak with your web designer. Your designer has an idea of your specific needs, and most web designers have hosts they are familiar with and pleased by. They will be familiar with the service and will know that the host has every necessary feature for your site.
Designers may be affiliates of the host they recommend, meaning they get a fee when you sign up. As long as that is not biasing the recommendation, that’s fine.
Be wise. Ask the designer why they are recommending that particular host. Do they use the company themselves? Check out the company independently. If you are satisfied, help out your designer and use the affiliate link if they have one.
On the flip side, beware if an independent designer offers hosting. They are reselling the hosting, probably with some maintenance or other additions thrown in. It may be a great value, but it could also be a rip-off.
Ask who the real host is, and do some independent price-checking with them and other hosts. If they are charging you an extra $150 a year with their hosting over what the host would charge you directly, be sure you are getting sufficient value for that money (and the designer running a two-minute back-up each month probably doesn’t do it).
Looking for a Host
If you want to find your own host (or check out what’s available) just search for “website hosting.” You may want to try “website host reviews” or “best website hosts” to see what others have to say. When you find a host you like, look specifically for “[host name] reviews.”
Look for features such as:
- 24 hour toll-free support
- Unlimited website size
- Unlimited bandwidth
- Unlimited domains on one account
- Unlimited (or a high number) of e-mail accounts for each domain
- Cpanel as a control panel, or something else as easy to use
- A secure socket layer (SSL), if people will provide sensitiva data (such as credit card information).
- Upgrade options should you need a higher level of service in the future
- Additional software offers, depending on what you want
A few words about “unlimited”– it’s really not. Hosts that offer unlimited storage analyze your usage and make sure that it is in line with their terms of service and not excessive. As long as you aren’t storing large files unrelated to your website, you’ll be fine. Do verify what the host means by “unlimited,” and do read the terms of service.
If your site will be built on WordPress, as the Word & Web Smith recommends, you’ll want a host that:
- Supports WordPress, MySQL, and PHP.
- Provides current versions and updates them as needed.
- Does not have unreasonable restrictions on MySQL usage.
To evaluate a host, you should know what type of platform your site will use. Are your pages HTML and CSS only, or are you using a content management system (CMS), such as WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla? If you are using a CMS, you must be sure your host supports that specific software, and the related software they require, such as PHP and MySQL (that’s why these are listed above).
Also, you’ll need some idea about the size of your site and how many visitors you think you will get. Consider the number of pages, images, other media, and any special features. You don’t need to be an expert; just have some idea of the complexity and traffic. If you have a very large site, you may need more than a host’s basic offering.
Finally, before you sign up, make sure your designer will work with the host you select. Have the designer evaluate the host you are considering to see if what they provide is adequate and reasonable.
Some hosting companies provide web design services. Don’t take that as an easy way out. They may be really good, but evaluate the skills the same way you would an independent designer. Find out exactly what is offered, and for how much.
Be very cautious of free offerings. You will find companies that offer free hosting. The problem is that you may not get to use your own domain name, you will have fewer features, and you may find it difficult, if not impossible, to transfer the site intact if you ever want to change hosts.
You’ll also find companies that provide free hosting with their design services. Again, research and find out exactly what you get. Will the content actually be yours–enabling you to take it elsewhere if you want–or is it really theirs, and you get the site only as long as you pay for it? Understand exactly what you are paying for, and compare costs diligently.
Many hosts provide templates or design aids to help you built a website easily. Be leery about using a host’s templates to design your site. You may not be able to transfer your site to another host without having to rebuild it completely. If you want to build your own site, learn WordPress and use it.
The Word & Web Smith recommends HostMonster for most hosting needs. Penni found HostMonster when looking for a new host for a non-profit site. The previous host had database restrictions that prohibited the organization from doing some things they wanted. HostMonster met every need. She referred many other people to HostMonster and uses it herself, so she is now an affiliate.
HostMonster has all the features bulleted above, and their costs are very reasonable. They provide excellent 24 hour service and will work through any issues you have. Please click on one of the links in this article or use the button below if you choose HostMonster.
The Word & Web Smith has heard good things about HostGator and knows people who use that host, but has no personal experience with them and is not affiliated. Their “hatchling” plan only allows one domain to be hosted, a severe limitation. Their “baby” plan is similar to what HostMonster offers, but costs more.
Another host the Word & Web Smith has heard good things about is BlueHost. They appear to have all the required features at a comparable price. Again, WWS has no personal experience and no affiliation. Just passing along what others have said.
Download a PDF file of Choosing a Host for Your Website by right-clicking the link and selecting “Save target as.”
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—Photo of a server room by Torkild Retvedt, used under this Creative Commons license.