How to Choose the Best Web Site Hosting
Shopping for the ideal web host can be a daunting process, with the options virtually unlimited and the number of hosts reaching into the hundreds of thousands -- if not millions. The internet is a vast place to shop for products and services, but there are a few unifying rules and standards that will assure that you pick the best host for your needs. Whether it's the right combination of disk storage and data usage, or the right combination of databases and software installations, there is a perfect hosting out there for every time of website operator.
In the United States, the average web hosting package clocks in at just under $10 per month. That gives you an average price expectation to seek out when determining if a host is overcharging, providing a great value, or finds themselves in roughly the average price range for their product.
Of course, hosting prices vary based on the type of service you require. Users hosting just one website with modest data and storage needs can find themselves paying as little as $8 per month at places like HostOtter.com. More heavy data and storage users -- or those with multiple sites -- can end up paying as much as $20 per month at those very same providers.
Before you set out to secure a web hosting provider, it's important to know your needs and your budget. This will help narrow the internet's vast options down to just a handful of respectable, high-quality providers.
Software and Databases
The best web site hosting comes from providers who know that designers and website operators need to have the latest versions of essential software. That means they've moved on to things like PHP 5 -- the successor to the ever-popular PHP 4.0 -- and have the latest versions of database software like MySQL, Microsoft SQL, or Postgre SQL.
Be sure to research their policy when it comes to upgrading their installations of server-side software. Some web hosts tend to let software languish, which can expose your installed programs and websites to security flaws inherent in an outdated programming language. Assure that their 99.9% uptime guarantee means that 0.01% of their time is dedicated to maintaining current server-side programming.
If a web host cannot commit to staying up-to-date, or if they simply don't have essential software like PHP 5 or Apache 2.0, it's time to look elsewhere. The internet is constantly evolving, and technology's rapid pace of advancement waits for no one. If your web host can't keep up, your websites will also languish -- and that'd bad for business.
Generally, the best web site hosting is powered by a Hosting Control Center with a backend management system. Some hosts, however, have elected to use the more cost-effective (but harder to use) Plesk control panel. This is an absolutely essential factor to consider when choosing a host, as the time and energy it takes to learn a system like Plesk may not be worth it in the long run.
Furthermore, if you're transferring a website from an existing host, you will want to make sure that the control panels match. This will make it easier to transfer files and data between the old and new hosts, which will using matching file systems and folder structure. Transferring between two competing systems, such as cPanel and Plesk, is often complicated, time consuming, and may result in a limited amount of data loss.
Support and Uptime
A host is only as good as its support staff and its uptime ratio. Make sure that any host you choose has a reliable server; check for uptime guarantees that are at least 99.9% and offer money back in the event of a prolonged outage. Furthermore, make sure that there is at least internet support staff -- and preferably a telephone number -- that can be called in the event of downtime, server errors, or data loss.