How to Pick a Web Hosting Service Provider and Web Hosting Provider Review
You're confused about picking a web hosting service provider. With literally thousands of web hosts competing for your business, it's a hard decision to make.
You only want to pay for what you really need. Prices are dropping, but don't sacrifice quality for a bargain basement web host either. After all, it's your website…and probably your business too.
We're here to help you pick the right web hosting service provider; with a tutorial, a guide and a web hosting provider review. We'll give you tips and on how to pick a web hosting company based on the different levels of services and your needs. Then we'll give you our review of our preferred web hosting company.
How to pick web hosting… Three common web hosting questions
Whenever the subject of how to pick web hosting is discussed, most people want to know three basic things about web hosting.
- What do I need?
- How much of it do I need?
- How much will it cost?
How to pick web hosting for very small and large websites
Small static websites - Will your website be an online brochure or business card, a one page sales letter with no e-commerce or shopping cart software? Maybe up to 5 pages with some product or service information, a lead capture or contact form with an autoresponder? What we're describing is a "static" website.
We've got good news for you. You're pretty safe going with an "el cheapo" web hosting provider package. You don't need a lot of disk space, you're probably not going to get much traffic so bandwidth is not an issue and you just don't need most of the other features that drive up your monthly costs. Plus, if your web hosting needs suddenly increase, don't panic…
Most web hosts will migrate your website to another package for a nominal fee. There's no need shop around for another company, especially if you're satisfied with the service and performance of your current web host. Just make sure they can accommodate upgrading your account.
Price and disk space are usually the deciding factors for small static websites. Don't sacrifice going with a reputable web hosting provider with good tech support over another company just to save a few dollars a month. There usually isn't that much of a price difference anyway. Even 5 bucks more a month for a reliable web host only adds up to $60 for the year.
If you want to start comparing hosts and prices now, check out the listings in our hosting directory. If you want to take our word for it then give Thinkhost a look, they can get you in for a measly $4.95.
Dedicated hosting for large high traffic websites - Let's go to straight to the "big kahuna" website option for now, so we can finish up with the web hosting needs of the small to medium size business. We'll tell you why they need special attention later.
Large companies, the ones with mega-sites that rely on peak performance and the highest levels of firewall security usually opt for dedicated hosting. Their websites are an extension of their day to day business operations. In addition to their size, bandwidth and security requirements, these sites often use large databases and intranets for 24/7 access to vital information.
Large websites need lots of server space, but more importantly, they need tons of bandwidth. Their high traffic websites need access to the highest levels of bandwidth capacity and load balancing to handle occasional spikes in usage. Large high traffic sites can't afford to lose business due to slow server response or excessive downtime.
Shared server space just doesn't provide the level of attention and performance required for the hosting needs of these websites. If your business hosting needs require the highest levels of size, performance and security, with no regards to cost, then fully managed dedicated hosting is for you. Dedicated hosting is very expensive, but worth the cost to maintain optimum performance.
How to pick web hosting for small and medium sized businesses
Web hosting for small to medium sized businesses - This is the category that most websites fall into. Their needs vary from startup, but their goals are very similar. One category is already successful offline brick and mortar companies that realize the need for the Internet as an additional marketing channel to expand or streamline their businesses.
Another category is the small to medium sized business that makes its debut online selling products or services or the Internet entrepreneur marketing with affiliate programs.
They both have one thing in common. They will most likely seek aggressive growth in traffic and sales which will pass along a corresponding need for more hosting resources like disk space, bandwidth and other features.
These companies and entrepreneurs must estimate their startup requirements and their expected growth rates by initially choosing reliable, feature laden web hosting with expandability at an affordable cost.
It sounds like I'm describing every web hosting provider on the Internet. It may look that way, but you could find out the easy way or the hard way, that service, reliability and reputation are more important than disk space and bandwidth capacity.
Estimate disk/storage requirements - Look at a minimum of 50 Meg of storage space to start. Make sure your potential host can and will allow you to upgrade your disk space requirements if necessary and get it in writing. Success breeds expansion. You can eat up tons of storage space fairly rapidly. Deciding to add menswear to your women's wear retail website could find you rapidly doubling your disk space needs.
Estimate your bandwidth requirements - This sounds impossible to estimate and I'll admit it could vary wildly. You'll have lots of room to play with though as even small and medium sized businesses can usually start off with 1 Gig of bandwidth per month. Again, make sure you can upgrade your package if necessary and at least know the charges for monthly overages. Get it in writing.
If a company offers unlimited bandwidth at ultra low prices, be wary as the web hosting company themselves is limited to the bandwidth of their own connection.
Think of it this way. If a cup holds 8 ounces and you want to add another ounce, you have to pour out 1 ounce before you can add another ounce in.
Here's a quick formula to estimate monthly bandwidth usage
Obviously you can't know the success or traffic to a website until it's online, optimized and your promotional channels have been set in place. After you've gotten some steady traffic, you can estimate your monthly bandwidth or data transfer usage with the following formula:
*Average Daily visitors x Average daily page views x Average page size x 31*
The visitor and page view figures come from your traffic logs, while your average page size can be easily calculated based the size of your website. 31 represents the days in a month. It's a good idea to double whatever number you come up with as your estimate can vary wildly.
What else should small and medium websites look for in a web host?
Technical Support - No web host on the planet is up 100% of the time. All servers have to be taken down from time to time for routine maintenance or major equipment upgrades. These outages are normally pre-scheduled and with professionally run web hosting providers, their clients are often notified about downtime for scheduled maintenance and upgrades beforehand.
Actual downtime, due to equipment problems experienced by the web hosting service provider are when a solid tech support system becomes important. At minimum, the host should employ some type of downtime notification system and a support ticket system to handle individual client issues. Some of the better run technically supported web hosting providers employ online system monitoring information.
Domain based email - Aside from a hit counter on your website, nothing screams amateur website louder than a contact email address like so and so @AOL.com. Make sure domain based email is included and at least 20 mailboxes too.
Multiple domain support - It's not uncommon for website owners to operate more than one website or business at the same time. Multi-site or domain support can save you a lot of money as opposed to setting up hosting accounts for each separate website. Sub-domains should be also included, find out how many.
Website statistics reporting - To accurately test your website marketing and promotion, detailed website traffic statistics are a must. There are many third party stat companies, but your hosting company should include some form of website statistic with your hosting package. The more detailed the better.
CGI - You'll need access to your CGI-Bin to run scripts on your website that will interact with your server. A good example would be a third party website stat report. Make sure you hosting provider allows cgi access.
Front Page Extensions - Maybe FrontPage isn't the darling of web developers, but it's still very versatile even for large websites, easy to use and popular. If you use Microsoft FrontPage, then you'll need special software called FrontPage extensions installed on the server. Better hosts offer this for free.
Linux or Windows - What software does the server support? Linux is open source and works with PERL and PHP, while ASP is for windows. You can't host an ASP coded website on a Linux server.
Other web hosting features to consider
- Autoresponders - Essential tool for marketing and e-commerce.
- SPAM filtering - You know why.
- Control panel - You want one that's user friendly with easy access.
- Databases - MYSQL
Conclusion on picking a web hosting service provider
Of course we haven't covered every aspect, but hopefully you've gotten enough out of the information we've given you to get you started. Deciding where your business sits in the food chain and where you want to be in the future is a good basis for comparison.
Web hosting service provider review: Thinkhost
For this review, we've tried to be as unbiased as possible and that's why we'll also point out issues that might be important to certain webmasters in making their decision on choosing a web hosting company.
Thinkhost Technical Support
There are few things in life that are perfect, so we'd like to point out two things that prevent Thinkhost from being perfect. The first is lack of phone support and the second is the web mail. The web mail is a little slow and lacks some features, but the recent upgrade in their web mail software has made this much less of an issue.
Phone support would be a welcome feature, but a good ticket support system like the one Thinkhost uses has benefits too. It gives both parties a written "hard copy" record that they could go back to in case of any discrepancies.
We've got to admit that every issue we've put in front of the Thinkhost Support Team has been expedited without a hitch. Having a good bedside manor during a crisis doesn't hurt either. The people at Thinkhost are always friendly, courteous and helpful.
One of the best features in their support area is the Thinkhost System Status Reports. You can check on any system related problems 24/7 from any web browser. Take a peek at Thinkhost's current system status right here.
What can Thinkhost do for me?
A growing website can quickly chew up disk space and bandwidth and what the heck, that's what you want right? devNIC has doubled its disk space usage in less than nine months and our traffic is up 1600%.
Thinkhost has recently tripled the available disk space on their hosting packages and the upgrades couldn't have come at a better time. Disk space for their Smart Essentials package went from 100 Meg to 315 Meg, bandwidth is a beefy 15 Gig and with 55 mailboxes, you could easily run three decent sized websites from one hosting account for $14.95 a month. All the packages received similar upgrades.
Thinkhost provides some excellent value for disk space and bandwidth capacity in all their hosting packages. The recent increases have made them much more competitive with the larger web hosts in this area.
Let's talk features and benefits
It's time to fess up. Everybody likes to know they're getting the most "bang for their buck"…Features and benefits are great, but we're all the same; we want extra "goodies" to make us feel like we've won that never ending financial battle that goes on in our heads. We'll talk a little about the $400 in free goodies in a minute, but first…
We wanted to mention some of the other benefits at Thinkhost. The autoresponders, anti-virus and spam filtering and MYSQL databases are all very important features that are included with most of the hosting packages, but…
They've just introduced a free site migration service that removes the worry over transferring your website from one host to another. There's no need be held hostage by your current web host just because you fear your site will disappear into cyberspace. Thinkhost's support staff will be with you every step of the way.
There's also a hidden benefit at Thinkhost
This hidden benefit is a guy. His name is Michael Bloch and he's the business manager at Thinkhost. He's the mild mannered "Clarke Kent" of the online world. You won't find a big "S" tattooed on his chest, but he's the Superman of this beast we call the Internet. Michael Bloch has forgotten what most web gurus never learned in the first place.
So why is this guy a hidden benefit?...Because he writes the Thinkhost newsletter. He keeps the Thinkhost community up to speed on everything Internet, technology and marketing from A to Z. You'll get a peek into the mind of this walking Internet dictionary in the newsletter and on the Thinkhost forum. There's plenty of good stuff on the forum, even if you're just browsin'.
Instead of loading up on a bunch of useless software and e-books, Thinkhost's bonuses are just what the doctor ordered to market, maintain and promote your website, especially for the newbies. The short list includes:
Oops…Almost forgot about the free goodies
- Free Web templates. The kind you won't be embarrassed to use.
- Site promotion software like Web CEO.
- Armand Morin's Pop-Up Generator. Make pop-ups in minutes
- Instant Site Maker software that turns out complete websites easily.
- NVU Web Page Editor turns word documents into web pages even if you don't know a lick about HTML.
- Free copy of Scientific Advertising. One of the most important marketing books ever written.
- The list of bonuses goes on and on. Too much to list here.
Click on the link in the resource box below for even more information
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