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How to Choose Your Web Hosting company

If you are considering starting up a website, either to promote your existing offline business or to enter the world of internet marketing, it is essential that know how to choose your web host. The host provides you with the space on the World Wide Web to store the files that makes up your site, and also the application software required to run it.

There are many different web hosting services available online, each offering a range of features. Some of these features may be essential to you and some will be superfluous. In the latter case you would paying for what you will not use. Before you can make a decision, you must know what you need and don't need.

What Are Your Goals and Ambitions?

Without previous experience in operating a website, that will be a difficult decision, and involve some web hosting research. Before coming to any decision, you must first understand your personal ambitions and why you want the website. You must know your goals and what features of your website will enable you to attain these.

Many people need help with this, which is why web designers and web developers are in such demand. However, it is possible to do it yourself and many people will begin that way. It is very important that when you chose a web host, the service should meet your immediate needs but also be able to expand and adapt seamlessly as you expand your business.

At this stage price is not too important, but is not irrelevant since similar hosting services can be priced differently. You should first check out what is on offer with each option, and ensure that you are getting all you need for the type of website you want. If you don't know the type of site you want, then you need help from a third party.

Here are the main options that you should be aware of, most of which will be relevant to any good commercial website.

Bandwidth: Data Transfer Limits

The term 'bandwidth' refers to the limit placed on the amount of data you are permitted to transfer to and from your web space during a stated time period. Most web hosting services will offer unlimited bandwidth, so if yours is limited to a specific number of gigabytes you should find out why - or avoid that service.

Disk Space - Software and Data Storage Space

If the amount of disk space offered to you is limited, this in turn limits the software and files needed to run your website. That includes the content of your web pages, graphics, databases, etc. If you want to run a number of virtual websites from the one hosting account in the form of subdomains, then you should look for unlimited disk space. If not, then take the advice of your web developer.

Website Building Software

If you intend building your own website, you will need software enabling you to so. Developers use content management software and professional web design and development packages such as Dreamweaver. You will likely require a consumer software package to enable you to build your site. These are fundamentally HTML editors with a WYSIWYG interface and many web hosting packages will include one.

Analytical Software

It is essential to carry out traffic analysis on your website. You need to know how many visitors you get each day, week and month. You also need to know where these visitors came from, and which of your advertising campaigns are working for you. Other useful information is the favorite entry pages and exit pages, and how long each visitor remains on each page and on your entire website. This information enables you to optimize each page on your website to make best use of your traffic. Find a web host providing this service or at least the software that you can use yourself.

Email Options

A good web host will offer multiple email addresses, and many go as far as to provide the ability to create unlimited addresses. You won't use this because too many addresses can become unmanageable. However, you will likely need one for sales, admin, support and also personal addresses. Make sure you are not restricted below what you think you will require. Almost all will offer this.

Multiple Added Domains

If you want to run 2 or more websites from the hosted account, you will have to make sure you can use added or 'add-on' domains. These are subdomains on your account that can be used as separate websites. For example, you can use the main domain of pets.com and separate domains for cats.com, dogs.com and so on rather than pets.com/cats.html and pets.com/dogs.html. Many web hosts permit unlimited add-on domains.

Uptime Guarantee

It important that you have a guarantee on the uptime of your website and that it is not offline for any appreciable length of time. Anything less than 99.7% should be regarded as unacceptable, though 99.9% is better. It is important that your site is online to visitors for as long as possible.

Control Panel Features

Once you get your website running, you will find the need for added functionality, such as the need for databases and perhaps for blogging software. MySQL is a database system essential for most home-generated websites. A web developer might use a different database system, but if you are doing this yourself, then make sure that you web host offers a control panel such as CPanel.

CPanel provides a number of software options including unlimited email addresses, MySQL databases essential for many web-base functions, and also the ability to upload software such as Wordpress with one click so that you can run a blog from your site.

Technical Support

Above all, the web host you choose must offer good technical support 24/7. It's no good them being open only in office hours if you are located in Australia or the UK and your hosting support is based in the USA.

These are just some of the factors you should consider when choosing a web host. You must first make sure that your web hosting service offers you what you need, and then consider what extras are available that you can use. It's not always the most expensive that best meets your needs.

You can avoid all of this by using a web design and development firm to create your website for you. By taking that approach, your site will not only look exactly as you want it to look, but will include all the functionality you need to run it, attract visitors, keep them on your page and sell your products and services.

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