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How to Choose a Hosting Company

By: Melanie Kanis at Synaxiom Media Group

Submitted on Mon, Nov 20th, 2006 12:00 am

When it comes to building your website, one of the most important steps is choosing a good web hosting company. Web hosting is basically defined as a service that hosts web pages on central servers making them accessible through the Internet. Depending on the type of website you have or are planning to build, you will require certain features from your hosting company. The main types of hosting are: free hosting, shared or virtual hosting, dedicated hosting (managed and unmanaged), co-location hosting and virtual private servers.

The first step is to answer a few basic questions regarding your website; how much traffic do you expect to get on your site, how important is the loading time of your site and what type of functionality will your site require (ie. high security, database). Once you have this information you are ready to proceed with examining the different types of hosting services and which one is best suited to your needs.

The first type of hosting is free hosting. This is a service offered free of charge for people wanting to build very small websites will little functionality. The companies that offer this service will often require you to place paid advertisements on your website in exchange for this free service. Unfortunately, you have no control over what ads will be placed on your site and you will most likely have ads from your competitors or ads that are of a genre that you would rather not be associated with. Finally, with free hosting, you have no guarantee that your website will not just disappear one day without notice. In either case, it is not to your advantage, and free hosting is rarely ever recommended for anyone wishing to build any type of business website.

The second and probably the most common type of hosting is shared or virtual hosting. This is a form of hosting where multiple sites are hosted on one main server. In other words, many different sites share the usage of the same server. It is very simple to implement because there is no need to worry about buying a server and running it, or the multitude of other problems and costs that are associated with doing that. This solution is very cost effective and most common amongst small and medium size businesses.

Due to the overwhelming demand for this type of hosting, there are a lot of companies competing to host your website. Therefore, how do you decide what company deserves your business. Well, here are a few guidelines to help you in this decision; try to find companies that offer: money back guarantees, different backup options, uptime guarantees, technical support via telephone and not just e-mail, redundant internet connections (therefore if one goes down, they have a backup), and the option to easily upgrade or downgrade your service if necessary. Also, it is worthwhile to see how long a company has been in business and try to get some information on some of their current clients in order to give you a better company profile.

One of the most common problems that occur with web hosting is that the hosting companies tend to oversell their server capabilities. In simpler terms, the company sells a large amount of disk space and bandwidth to each customer knowing that the customer will rarely even use 10% of what is available to them. Therefore, they oversell their disk space and bandwidth in order to increase profits, hoping the customer will never realize. Therefore, make sure that you find a reputable company that has been around for awhile and has a good reputation (resources: www.pickwebhost.com, www.hostchart.com, www.findmyhosting.com). Once you have done your research, you should be able to decide which company is giving you the best value for your dollar. Remember that cheaper is not always better, and make sure that you are getting what you pay for.

The next type of hosting is dedicated hosting. This is when one server is dedicated to you as a customer. You are the only one using this server. It is not shared with any other customer. Although this type of hosting is much more expensive than shared hosting, it gives the user a lot more control and a much higher bandwidth. Your website will run a lot faster and you are not limited to a fixed amount of databases or e-mails. Also, most companies offer the option to lease the server preventing your start-up costs from being too high. For companies requiring higher levels of security and privacy, such as financial institutions or large software companies, a dedicated server is a must. This prevents any problems that could occur with shared hosting, such as hackers being able to enter the server through another companys website or programming errors on other websites causing the server to malfunction. For companies offering web hosting, this is also a must. It is important for them to have direct access to their server and be able to optimize it to provide the best service possible. With a dedicated server, the owner has complete control over what is on the server and direct access to it. The space can be maximized to fit that users specific needs.

In terms of dedicated hosting, there are two types: managed and unmanaged. Managed dedicated hosting is when a host company is responsible for the maintenance and security of your server and the site owner only has to take care of the software. This is usually the more viable solution as most site owners do not have the knowledge or time to devote to running their own server and it can be a full time job in itself. Unmanaged dedicated hosting is when the user takes care of all server functionality. They are responsible for the maintenance and running of the server in all aspects. This is more cost effective, but much more time consuming and rarely practiced.

The next type of hosting we will discuss is co-location hosting. Not quite as common as some of the other types of hosting, this is when a company leases space at a co-location facility in which to install their server. This facility provides an optimal environment for these servers as well as higher security, bandwidth management and internet connection. This type of hosting is usually reserved for larger companies that already own their own server therefore we will not discuss this in length.

Finally, the last type of hosting is virtual private servers. Basically, they offer the same type of services as dedicated servers but at a much more reasonable price. These virtual servers are real servers that act as virtual servers and are used by many different companies. Although this server is used by more than one site, each site is allocated a certain amount of space on the server and each hosting account receives its own operating system (unlike shared hosting where they all share the same operating system). Therefore, the users share the same basic components, ie. CPU and RAM but operate independently of one another as if they were the only one on the server. This solution was developed as a more cost effective solution to dedicated servers and offers the same stability but on a smaller scale. It also has the advantage of higher security in that even if one site is hacked on the server, the hackers will not have access to any other site on the server. Another advantage is that your site will always function at the same level because you have a certain amount of space reserved for you and not shared with any other site. Due to the complexity of these servers, specialized software components are required to create these virtual machines, but this is usually taken care of by the company offering this service.

In conclusion, it is really not too difficult to decide what type of hosting you require once you are able to figure out the needs of your website. Whether you are a small start-up company or a large corporation, there is a hosting solution that will fit your requirements and your budget. When it comes to specific companies, make sure you do the research and get all the background information before choosing the right one. A good hosting company is invaluable so dont settle for the cheapest one; try to find the most reliable.

Melanie Kanis
http://www.synaxiom.com

About the Author

Melanie Kanis
Synaxiom Media Group
I grew up in Montreal Quebec and became part of a growing web consulting firm called Synaxiom Media Group. This company gave me the opportunity to explore my talents and expand my knowledge. I have done a lot of research on the internet, common search engine optimization techniques and web design. I hope that my articles will be able to guide others when making educated decision on web projects.

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