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The 14 Point Web Hosting Checklist
By Ed Zivkovic (c) 2004
How To Select A Web Hostīng Company
When starting out, it is easy to overlook some of the most important
factors when selecting a web host while paying too much attention on great
features which you may not need at the start.
For example, most new webmasters judge a web host by the amount of disk
space they offer. The thinking is generally, the more the better. There
are many other factors to take into consideration. Each factor can be
weighed up according to the features each specific web hostīng company
offers. Each company may also offer several different plans. The features
from plan to plan may also differ.
Some deals may look good at first but if one feature that is important
according to your needs is missing, then that deal may not be so good in
your opinion. This does not cast a value judgment on any particular web
host. The deal in and of itself may be good for me for example but not for
you. So do your research and compare different companies and plans until
you weigh up all the factors that are important to *your* needs.
What Factors Do I Weigh Up?
Tech Support - I don't know about you, but I like the feeling of
knowing that support is available when I need it. Test different companies
before you sign up by sending them an email with a question or two. If
they respond quickly, this is a good sign.
Uptime - The more uptime they guarantee, the better. 99% uptime is
the minimum acceptable standard. I look for 99% plus guaranteed uptime.
Disk Space - Decide how much disk space you will require. A web
page with one logo does not take up much web space at all. Calculate how
big your web site is in relation to the disk space allotted.
Bandwidth - This factor is usually overlooked until the bandwidth
limit is reached. If you go over your allotted bandwidth, you will get a
hefty bill. If you are running a site with lots of downloads, or a site
with lots of images such at a photo post site, your bandwidth will be a
lot higher than a site with mainly text.
CGI Bin - This is currently standard with good hostīng companies.
If you do not have access to your own CGI Bin, you cannot install scripts
Perl - If you do not have Perl, you cannot run Perl programs. Many
good scripts that you buy or get for frëe are written in Perl. In my
opinion, it would be a limitation not to have the latest version of Perl
SSL - If you intend to accept credīt card orders directly from your
website, you will need Secure Socket Layer included in your plan. This is
one of those easily overlooked features. You might sign up for a plan that
looks attractive for whatever reason, then down the track, you might
discover that you need this feature. If it is not included in your plan,
you might be gob-smacked if the extra monthly charge is $10.00. To use
this feature you need a merchant account. There is no need to make this a
priority if you have no merchant account because you can use a third party
credīt card processor.
SSI - Server Side Includes are great if you want to spend minimal
time updating your site. Here's how it works. My site contains SSI's. The
left and right nav menus and the little search engine in the left nav menu
are "included" with an SSI command in the master page template. If I need
to update one of the nav links, there is no need to edit all the pages
that contain the menus. I just edit one file which contains the menu html
and upload it to my site. It's awsome.
MySQL - What scripts are you going to run? Some programs require a
MySQL database to run. I had this problem with a particular web host. They
wanted to charge me $10.00 per month for a MySQL database. Wow. I just
took out a new plan with another hostīng company for under 10 bucks a
month and 5 MySQL Databases are included in the price. Say no more.
PHP - Many new scripts and programs require PHP support. Again,
this feature can be a $10 extra but most good hosts offer it standard.
Imagine if you do not have PHP support but the latest new frëe Toplist,
Blogging scrīpt or Shopping Cart requires PHP. Again, this feature is
almost standard these days.
CubeCart is an example of a frëe Shopping Cart Scrīpt that requires PHP
Domain Name - What's the point in buying web space if you cannot
point your own domain name to the site? Some companies will help you
register a domain name but you should compare prices and learn how to
register your domain yourself. This way you are in control of your domain
name if you ever change hosts.
FTP Access - Unlīmited and unrestricted FTP access to your site is
essential. You will need an FTP program to transfer files.
Control Panel - Not all control panels are the same. Some are
easier to use than others. With some control panels the learning curve is
steep while others are easy. If you select a plan where you cannot prevīew
your control panel before you buy, you can always use the 30 day monëy
back guarantëe to get out if you are not happy. If they are not offering a
working demo of the control panel, maybe they are not proud of it. In my
experience, I have always been disappointed with the quality of the
control panel when a demo was not available.
Statistics Program - A good stats program is handy if you want to
keep an eye on how many visitors you are getting, where they are coming
from, referrers, top entry and exit pages and so on. Some companies offer
excellent stats programs as standard while others offer basic stats but
you have to pay extra for advanced statistics. If you find a good hostīng
deal but the stats program is a bit basic, why not email the company and
ask if they can install AWStats before you sign up. AWStats is an
excellent frëe advanced statistics program.
About The Author
The author, Ed Zivkovic is a self taught webmaster. His website contains
articles with all sorts of tips for 'work-at-home' webmasters. Visit Ed's
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