Web Hosting

Your website host is the company that puts your website online. It loads your site into its computers (servers) and “serves” it up on the Internet, making it available to the world.

Your website host is not (or not necessarily) your ISP (Internet Service Provider), that is, the company that gives you access to the Internet via a dial-up phone line, or broadband connection such as cable modem or DSL.

Some ISPs are also web hosts, but not all. AOL is an ISP, but not a web host. Earthlink is both an ISP and a web host. Pair Networks is a web host, but not an ISP.

Actually, a company is not essential. You might be able to host your site on your own computer, but the headaches are so great and varied and baroque, and the cost of having professionals do it so reasonable, that few serious websites are served from home or small office computers.

What makes a good hosting service?

NOT size! Small, medium, large can all be good–or bad. Here’s what to look for:

1. Reliability: your website should be available 100% of the time, or very nearly so. If your web host has frequent server problems, you lose visitors, and thus income. Be sure to find out about reliability (“up time,” the opposite of “down time”) when you’re in the market for a web host.

2. Ease of use: is the web host’s user interface clear and intuitive or confusing? Do you find it easy to do what you want to do? Easy-to-use interfaces may be found on web hosts of any size, big or small–as can bad interfaces. If you don’t choose an easy interface, dealing with your web host is gonna drive you nuts.

3. Customer service: it should be easily available, free (or at least very cheap), responsive and knowledgeable, giving you truly helpful answers, not just boilerplate text from a database or FAQ. Email support is the minimum, email plus phone is far better–and gets your problem solved faster.

4. Price: web hosting is competitive, so prices are quite reasonable. Most web hosts have tiered pricing. Here are examples:

— Free: a small site of a few dozen pages at most, perhaps built from the company’s online templates via your web browser, offered free by ISPs to their customers. Tripod.com offers free simple websites (they put ads on your site to pay the bills). Homestead.com offers easy site-building tools, a 30-day free trial, and a low (US$6) basic monthly hosting fee. (Imagine that: being published worldwide for $6 a month!)

— Basic: a site of several hundred pages of smallish size with a low to moderate number of visitors, no technical bells-and-whistles, and technical support via email, for as low as US$10 to US$15 per month.

— Intermediate: a site approaching or exceeding 1000 pages with a moderate number of visitors, and some bells-and-whistles such as CGI scripts, statistics files, simple e-commerce, database, etc., and tech support via email and/or telephone, for US$18 to $25 per month.

— Business: several thousand pages with numerous technical refinements: shopping carts, lots of scripts, numerous databases, lots of visitors, full tech support, for about US$30 per month.

— Pro: sophisticated e-commerce site with frequently changing content, all the bells-and-whistles, and millions of visitors each month, if not each week, for about US$50 per month.

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