I get so many people asking me where they should host their web site. Should they go with a local Internet Service Provider? Should they go with one of the biggies like Earthlink? Or should they use a popular discount provider like GoDaddy? Or what about the hosting services offered by their domain registrar such as Network Solutions or Register.com?
There are so many variables to deciding the best place to host your Web site. I’ve tried to distill these issues into a nice concise checklist, and then I’ve included some recommendations of Web hosts I’ve used in the past with good results. None of this advice is cut and dry, but hopefully it gives you some food for thought on how to proceed with a Web host relationship.
Web Hosting issues
1. Budget - How much can your budget handle? You’ve probably already thought about this issue when you were looking to get your site built. The costs of Web hosting, like Web development, can run the gamut - usually starting at around $10/month up to $150/month and higher. A typical small business site with some interactive features may cost between $20-50/month. Some companies give a discount for paying in six months or a year in advance. If you are sure about the host, a year’s contract could get you a nicer price, but don’t make a long-term commitment without having some certainty that you are working with the right company.
2. Type of site - What kind of site are you looking to build or have hosted? A small site with 25 pages or less? Or a much larger site with a lot of interactivity? Is it a marketing site or an online catalog? Most hosts will charge more for commercial sites but are fine with a small business that is just marketing their products or services to fall under “personal” site.
3. Site features - The more interactive your site, the more likely you may have to have an upgraded hosting account. If your site uses CGI scripts, this could cause an issue for some hosts. If you are drawing site from a database, hosting the database may be an extra cost. Having a shopping cart could make hosting more expensive. Find a host that bundles the services and capabilities that you need into a tidy and affordable price.
4. Behind the scenes programming - Some sites are developed using Cold Fusion or .ASP to facilitate interactivity and dynamic content generation from databases. If your site is using a proprietary programming language in addition to HTML, know that not every host will support a Cold Fusion site, for example. Your Web developer should be able to recommend a host based on their experience with building sites in a particular programming language.
5. Amount of traffic - Beware of the ISP that charges you based on bandwidth. This is the hidden whammy of Web hosting - when you think you are paying a small monthly hosting fee but because your site gets a lot of traffic or you have video or other large files that are downloaded as part of your site, you get hit with additional fees turning $20/month into $120/month in a jiffy. Read the fine print, and avoid the bandwidth bandits. A good Web host will offer packages with a fixed fee to accommodate any bandwidth requirement. Go for the fixed fees.
6. Security considerations - If security is a major issue for you - beyond the standard security measures, then you may have to upgrade from a shared server hosting package to a single server or a co-location situation. A shared server is where your site resides on the same server with many other sites but technically you cannot access each other’s sites. This is cheaper for you and the most common basic hosting arrangement you can get. A single or private server can be rented at a premium and guarantees that your site is the only one on the server, however, co-location is where you actually purchase a server that is hosting your site and often this is more cost effective in the long run. Your Web host then locates your server at their server farm and all their services and security measures are in place for your peace of mind.
Quick Host Reviews
1. Earthlink - I started using Mindspring back in 1995, and they were eventually bought by Earthlink. Over the years, their customer service has sunk due to outsourcing to countries where English is not their first language and frustration ensues. I’ve been wanting to transfer all my stuff away from them because there are better deals out there and smaller companies with better customer service, but I stay out of habit and out of avoidance of the hassles of migrating. They aren’t terrible and they’ve been around a long time which is a plus, but I probably wouldn’t put clients here anymore unless they were already subscribers.
2. Register.com - I tried out their templated Web hosting service early on and thought it was too primitive and inflexible for my purposes. As a domain registrar, I have been using them for years even though they charge $35/year. I pay the extra (while other registrars charge $10-15/year) because I have never had a problem with them. But for hosting, not for me.
3. GoDaddy - I have several clients using them as a domain registrar and host. Their site is confusing to navigate but as a host they are fine. I know their low, low registration prices and hosting prices seem attractive, but the truth is by the time you add on all the basic things you need, you’ve paid as much or more than registering with Register.com. Their customer service is responsive - by email. Still, I have not had a problem with them. For basic to sales-oriented sites.
4. DirectNic - I learned about this one from a client. They have good customer service like GoDaddy, similar pricing model. Their site is a little confusing, also like GoDaddy’s. But hosting services are fine and functional for basic sites to sales-oriented sites.
5. CrystalTech - I work with a programmer who does his sites in Cold Fusion (yes, pros and cons about this but I’ve experienced way more pros than cons). CrystalTech hosts Cold Fusion sites and have fast, responsive email and telephone customer service. Good experiences so far.
There are so many Web hosts out there and many more scammers out there so always make sure to get references or to get recommendations from people you know and trust.
Who hosts your business Web site and what do you like/not like about them?