Before I talk about what it takes to be a cheap and good quality web host, let’s get to the fundamentals first.
What is a Web Host?
A web host is a service provider that places your web site on a computer which is connected to the internet. This ‘computer’ is called a server. A web hosting service provider will typically have a fast connection to the Internet and they may host thousands of web sites on many servers. The web host essentially rents out space to you so that you can get your website up on the world wide web. With a well-managed web host, you can free yourself from worrying the up-keep of complicated server technology and proper technical maintenance. That’s the whole purpose of the web hosting companies. You should leave the technical work to web hosting professionals while you focus on your own internet business.
The features that web hosting companies offer are getting quite standard nowadays. The following are some of the common features you’ll see in most web hosting plans:
· Control Panel
Control Panel is an interface where you can access your site on the web server, allowing you to set-up and subsequently update and customize your web site. Though cPanel is by far the most popular control panel; some hosting providers customize their own so that they can up-grade and expand it at will.
A vast majority of sites that don’t have tons of graphics, sound and video clips or downloadable files easily fit in 50 MB of disk space. You should always leave yourself some room for growth or check if the host has a bigger plan in case you need to upgrade.
Bandwidth is the amount of data transmitted or received through a unit of time. In web hosting, bandwidth is consumed when visitors make requests for files on your web site and download them to their personal computers.
· Email Account
With POP3 email accounts you can check email from Outlook, Netscape Mail, Eudora or any other Email software.
· Scripting language
As all our top 10 listings are using Unix and Linux platform, php, perl and CGI are the languages we are talking about here. It is best to choose a host that supports the latest version to maximize the latest web technologies for the fee that you pay.
If your web site is going to store a lot of data that should be dynamically accessible (like user accounts, stock prices, maps, Interactive news, message boards and forums etc.), you’ll need to look for an account that offers a database. MySQL is a powerful and most popular database program that runs on the Linux operation system. It is able to handle million of entries all at once. Its flexibility and speed allow you to also store logs and pictures. MySQL is designed to scale well under heavy traffic conditions and is ideal for database-intensive or e-commerce-enabled Web sites.
No matter if you are an expert or a novice in web hosting, you need a web host with good customer support system. What is the criteria of an excellent customer support? Let me explain.
· How big is the knowledge base?
This is particularly important for those who want to search for aquick answer without seeking direct assistance from customer support staff. Due to the huge database, normally it’s searchable. Some web hosting providers will even make your life easier by making a video tutorial guiding you step by step in setting up your new account. Very useful for beginners.
· Responsive customer service staff.
If you are too lazy to find the answer out of a big pool of database, get the direct answer from someone who knows it. Direct customer support comes in a few forms.
a. Email support
b. Phone support:
Normally, sales and technical support uses separate phone line. A good phone support staff knows what your problem is and answers with relevance.
c.Web Host like Lunarpages and Hostgator even have live chat support.
However, it’s not how many support channels that are available but how responsive it is of the staff.
Price to Disk Space / Price to Bandwidth Ratio
Are you paying too much for your Web Hosting Plan? Having done the research on hundreds of web hosting companies, in general, we’ve come to this conclusion: the more disk space and bandwidth you are getting, the more expensive is the monthly price.
A web host might have the best feature offered, unbeatable customer support and reliability in place but without an effective marketing plan, it will go bust too. Let’s face it. If a web hosting provider does not have sufficient members and steady growth of new members, it’s very difficult to survive in this highly competitive industry. We judge the popularity of a particular web hosting provider by looking at the number of awards won, the reviews of other websites and the Alexa traffic ranking. You can find out the hosting reviews and ratings of all the hosting providers on this blog.
Reliability, Speed and Uptime Guarantee
Nothing can hurt you more than this: your visitors come to your web site only to find that it’s not accessible. You lose credibility and possibly even a sale. If your web host does not guarantee at least a 99% uptime, leave the web host now!
To ensure maximum uptime, installation of redundant back-up systems is essential. Each web host has their own management systems to minimize downtime. “Redundant” means that if any of the Internet connections get interrupted, the alternate Internet connection will take over.
As for speed, even though routing, web server set up and local area networks play a part in determining the speed of a site, the main concern of how fast your site is depends very much on the types of network connections. Many hosting providers still connect to the Internet through T1, or T3 connections. This is not the case for our top 10 hosts- they are using OC (Optical Carrier) lines. A T1 line will offer data transfer rate of 1.5 Mbps (megabits per second), while a T3 line can supply data transfer rates of 43Mbps. OC-1 refers to a circuit that transmits 51.85Mbps. Higher levels are multiples of that speed. Ultra-High Speed OC3 and OC12 lines offers 155Mbps and 622Mbps respectively. Some hosting providers have connections to major internet backbones at the speed of OC48 (2488Mbps) and OC96 (4976Mbps).