I constantly encounter people that want me to design or update a website for them, and they are already signed up with a hosting company. The only problem is that many of these people should never have signed up with that particular hosting company. I'm dealing with a client now who is paying almost two and a half times more a month than she should, and the service the hosting company provides is substandard.
I run into many problems with hosting companies, including:
Prices being too high. I often see people paying $15 to $25 a month, when the average is $9 or less. The $15 to $25 fee is okay, if you are getting monthly updates, or some other service, from a website designer.
Very important features are missing, such as form handling and some e-mail features.
You can only post websites that you make using their design software. This means you must stay with them or completely redesign your website if you decide to go to another hosting company. If you can't recreate your website you will wind up paying hundreds or thousands of dollars to have someone else do it.
Terrible technical support. I have called technical support at several hosting companies to get some needed information only to be told, "We aren't going to help you with that." You usually hear this response from companies that really don't care about their clients.
The hosting company has listed themselves as the owner of the domain name. This means that they own your domain, you don't. This is considered very unethical. It can take months to have your name put on as owner, if they will do this at all. Do you own your domain name? Go to http://www.WhoIs.com and do a search for your domain. You should be listed as the registrant. If this is not the case, then you don't own your domain.
The features offered by web hosts vary widely, as do their costs. Following are the minimum features a decent hosting company should offer, in my opinion.
A minimum of 500 MB of storage space. This is equal to about 500,000 pages of text. Yes, this is more space than you will probably ever use, but quite a few web hosting services offer this amount. I have almost 150 pages on my website and over 300 graphics, but I only use 38 MB of disk space on the server.
Unlimited POP3 E-mail Accounts. This lets you have an unlimited number of e-mail accounts so you can keep e-mails separated for different departments or personnel.
6 GB (Gigabytes) of data transfer (bandwidth) per month. This is equal to about 6,000,000 pages of text. If you have a website that contains 10 pages, and each page is a MB (Megabyte) and a person goes to each of your pages, then that person would have used 10 MB of your bandwidth.
No long-term contract. You should be free to pay monthly, quarterly or annually. The longer you sign up for the less it will cost you. Also check into what happens if you want to cancel the hosting service. Will you get any unused money back?
Technical support should be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You should be able to contact technical support by phone (with a toll free number) and e-mail.
Unlimited e-mail autoresponders, so you can set up links on your site that will automatically send information via e-mail when a person clicks on the link.
A control panel or site manager so you can control all the aspects of your website, including e-mail, backups and software installation. You should also be able to check your site statistics to see how many hits each page is getting.
Mail list manager, so if you have an ezine you can manage your list of subscribers.
30-day money back guarantee. Many hosting companies don't offer this, but many do. The hosting company I use is Westhost (www.Westhost.com), and they offer all of these features, and more.
Avoid Free Hosting like the plague. These hosts don't charge a monthly fee, but they do put ads on your site. These ads may run across the top, the side or pop-up anywhere on the screen. People find these ads annoying and distracting. Using a free hosting service will put many people off and you will lose visitors. Customers will also be more reluctant to buy any products or services from you. Would you buy something from a business that couldn't afford to pay $5-$10 a month for website hosting? It will also be more difficult for people to remember you web address. Instead of www.Acme.com, your web address may well be www.TheFreeSite.com/acme.html. And if the company goes out of business, then your site is gone and all the listings you have on search engines will no longer work.
Free sites may also change the rules about what you can have on your site. You may suddenly find that one or more of your pages are banned because of their content. I started out with free hosting years ago, but soon outgrew it and had to buy my own domain name, create a new website and start all over again getting my pages listed with search engines. When my free site was removed, all the links on search engines to that site no longer worked.
Avoid a hosting company that gives you Shared or Virtual Hosting. Shared hosting means that the server, the computer where your website resides, is shared with possibly hundreds of websites who all use the same server software. The hosting company gives you a certain amount of storage space on the server's hard drive for your site, and that hard drive stores as many sites as space allows. The problem is that since all the websites are sharing the same server software, if one website is attacked by a virus or hacker and the server software is damaged, then all the websites on that server will be affected the same way that single site is affected.
Look for a host that offers a Virtual Private Server. This means that your website resides in a partitioned section of the server and has its own server software. I've used Westhost for several years with no problems. They have great tech support and constantly improve the features they offer. You can find a banner link to them at the bottom of my page at http://www.creativecauldron.com/WebsiteDesign.shtml
To look for other web hosting services try these links.
As you check out web hosting services you will encounter some words that you may not have heard before. Here's some useful terminology that will clear things up for you.
Auto Responder - An automated program that, when it receives an e-mail, sends out an e-mail with a message and/or attachment to the person who sent the e-mail. This is often used with websites that sell ebooks and other electronic information. The person clicks on an e-mail link for the ebook they want and the autoresponder sends it to them. It's a real time saver.
Bandwidth (Data Transfer) - This is the amount of data that you or others upload to your site and download from your site. A typical site uses less than 5 GB (Gigabytes) per month.
CGI Bin - the Common Gateway Interface bin is where programs are stored that let you put things on your site like a guestbook and bulletin board.
Control Panel - This is an interface that lets you control the tools, settings and utilities that your web host provides.
Disk Space - This is the amount of space you have on the server's hard drive to store your website. Unless your site is loaded with graphics, which it shouldn't be, then you don't need a lot of space.
FTP - File Transfer Protocol is a common way to upload and download your website pages and files.
Once you find a few place you like, check them out at the Better Business Bureau at http://bbb.org/ and do a search on Yahoo and Google to see if anyone has posted anything bad about them.
It can be difficult to know what to look for in a hosting company if you're new to the Internet. The best solution is to do a lot of research, talk to people you know who have websites and start trying different hosts who offer a 30-day money back guarantee. As long as you own your domain name, and you have created your own website, or had someone create it for you, then you will be fine. With these two things done, you can take your site to almost any host without any problems.
http://www.CreativeCauldron.com Jeff Colburn is a website designer and writer. His goal is to make the process of creating or updating your website easy and simple for you, while creating a website that meets all your needs and expectations. Jeff can also create all of the copy for your website.