Your web host is the company that actually houses your website. While it is possible to host your own website using a computer in your home or office, it is cheaper and easier for new website owners to work with an established web hosting company. When choosing your web hosting company, you should consider three issues:
Price – Generally speaking you should be able to find a good shared hosting plan for somewhere between $5 and $30 per month.
Hosting Technologies – There are different types of server technologies, and a number of “add-on” software products that some web hosting companies bundle into their offerings. Generally speaking, the more software that is included in your plan, the higher the price for your hosting services.
Support – Depending on your level of sophistication in dealing with web technologies, you may want to consider paying a bit extra for a hosting company that provides better support packages. Of course, if you have a friend or family member that has skills in this area, or you are planning to hire a custom website designer or developer, then you can probably forgo paying extra for support.
When you are starting out with a new website, your primary concern with a web hosting company is going to be price. You do not need to pay a lot of money for extra bandwidth or other frills. By the time you need extra bandwidth, you will have the income stream to pay for it.
Web Hosting Technologies
Your primary concern with web hosting technologies is to make sure that the host you select supports the software you plan to use to create and serve your web pages. You will also need to make sure that any additional functionality you wish to include in your website is supported by the hosting company.
Server Technologies - You will need to make sure that your hosting company supports whatever server technologies you will require for your site. For new site owners this is usually not an issue since your web pages will be programmed in HTML that is supported by all web-serving technologies. However, if you are hiring a contract web developer to create a database-driven web application using PHP, ASP, JSP, or ColdFusion, then you should make sure your hosting company supports whatever language your developer is using. If you have questions, you can probably have them answered by the sales or support line for your prospective hosting company.
Development Technologies - If you are using Microsoft FrontPage to develop your website, then you will need to select a web hosting company that supports FrontPage extensions. If you are unsure about whether your web host supports your development software, then the sales representative or support line should be able to answer your questions.
E-commerce/Shopping Cart System – If you plan to sell products on your website, then you will want to select a web hosting company that offers a shopping cart system. Most shopping cart systems are customizable for your website. However, you may want to hire a seasoned developer to handle implementing your system to make sure everything goes smoothly.
CGI/Perl Scripts – The most useful CGI script for new websites is for creating “email forms”. These allow you to collect information from your users via web forms and send it to yourself via email without paying the premiums required for developing a database driven website. Some hosting companies offer these scripts, while others do not. It is generally recommended to work with hosting companies that support these types of forms because collecting information from users is one of the primary purposes of most websites.
Different Ways of Hosting Your Site
It is generally recommended that you purchase web hosting from an established web hosting company. There are, however, several options for web hosting.
Shared Hosting - This is the recommended starting point for most websites. With a shared hosting plan, your site shares a server with a number of other sites. By far the cheapest way to get a site started, shared hosting is ideal for low-volume, low-bandwidth sites. Pricing for these types of plans can be anywhere from about $5 to $30 per month. You have zero involvement in maintaining the server or it’s software. All you have to worry about is your website. The negatives about Shared Hosting are that you are limited in bandwidth, and you are potentially affected by other web sites on the server. If one of the other sites on the server suddenly received a lot of traffic, your site’s performance will be affected. It should be noted, however, that this is rarely a problem for most hosts.
Dedicated Web Server – Once your site starts getting a significant volume of traffic (i.e. more than 3,000 unique visitors per day), you may want to think about moving up to a Dedicated Web Server. This is where your site is the only site on the server. The benefits of this sort of server are that you can generally specify what software is loaded onto the machine, you have access to 100% of it’s capacity and bandwidth, and you are not affected by other sites on the server. On the negative side, you will pay much more for this sort of service. Depending on the capabilities of the machine and the software that is loaded on it, you can easily spend well over $100 per month.
Rack Space – Leasing rack space provides web site owners with the maximum level of flexibility and security by allowing site owners to purchase whatever hardware and software is appropriate. On the other hand, you are responsible for purchasing, installing and maintaining your own server. If your server goes down in the middle of the night, the hosting staff will generally reboot the machine for you (for a fee), but you will be responsible for making sure everything is working correctly. Web servers can easily cost $10,000 for hardware and software, plus you will have additional fees from your hosting company for bandwidth and other services. This sort of option makes the most sense for companies getting thousands of hits per day, or for those that require highly specialized server-side applications that must be custom configured.
On-Site Hosting – By far the most expensive option, on-site hosting requires that you are very familiar with maintaining web servers and are available to fix problems 24 hours per day and 365 days per year. With this option, you are your own hosting company, and you pay not only for the server(s), software, and technical support, but also for T1 lines, DNS services and other complex issues that are generally out of reach for small start-up businesses. The most compelling reason to host your own website is for security reasons. Sites such as transaction processing companies, online banks, or other online services that need to be able to audit their security measures for one reason or another generally choose this option.
Some web-hosting companies will handle mapping your domain name to their servers, while others will instruct you on how to do it yourself.
In conclusion, you can get a website up and running for as little as $60 per year. The more bandwidth (website traffic) you require, the more you are going to pay. You will also pay more for higher levels of service, support, and software. You should make sure your web host supports your development software and any server technologies you are using. In addition, highly specialized sites, sites with large amounts of traffic, and those required to maintain certain security standards may warrant dedicated servers that cost more than shared hosting plans.
Mr. Coers specializes in helping entrepreneurs build effective web businesses. His website, www.profitchoice.com contains useful articles and "how-to" guides to help organizations build their brands and sell more effectively.