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Choosing a host

By David Callan

You've spent a couple months developing a really great site with pages and pages of excellent content and now all you've to do is choose which company you want to host with, beware however that choosing a host isn't usually an easy process, if the decision you make is not the right one all your hard work could be wasted.

This article will go through first what a host actually is and then go through the features and qualities most good hosts have.

Well then what is a host? A host is a company that rents you space on their server for you to store your webpages and files on. There are thousands of them on the Internet and they all differ somewhat between pricing, features and customer service.

With all the hosting companies and options out there for you it's tough to know which one is for you. The three main properties or features however which will determine a hosts quality are easily examinable. They are:

Web hosting features.
Customer service.
And of course price.

First off is web hosting features, these are the features and options which come with your hosting account. In this case the saying ''the more the merrier'' has great merits because the more features a webhost has the more advanced you can make your site.

One Common feature is access to your own cgi-bin directory. This is vital as this is the directory from where scripts are carried out. CGI scripts are the backbone of all the functionality of the web. Every time you fill out a form, buy a product, use a forum or engage in a chat room conversation you're running a script of one type or another. This feature is very important so never go with a host that doesn't provide it.

Another is the ability to FTP your webpages instead of simply having to use an online manager which takes a lot longer when transferring large amounts of data. FTP will provide you with much more flexibility when managing your website, however if your not the technical type always look out for a host that provides a good online manager too.

If you plan on selling anything on your website then your potential customers will expect nothing less than a secure server with https:// capability. If you go with a host that doesn't have this feature then visitors will never become customers because of the insecurity to their credit card number.

Any serious webmaster likes to pay close attention to his or her website logs. All good hosts will provide you with the ability to access your website logs via download, however even better hosts will have a dedicated online website log analyzer from which you can check your stats directly without having to purchase expensive website analyzer software. This feature is quite important so be on the lookout for a host that provides it.

Another feature that's very important particularly to ecommerce websites is email services. It's best to go with a host that provides lots of email services such as unlimited autoresponders, lots of pop mailboxes, email aliases etc. You need these services to stay in touch with your visitors, potential customers and indeed your past customers in the hope of back end sales.

The last of the main features of good webhosts is the amount of space they provide you, this isn't that important at the start but if your website grows bigger than allowed you'll have to move hosts which can cause a lot of problems. Always look for a host with at least 25MB of space available and one that has the option to buy more space should you use your allowed amount.

The above six features once again are:
Access to your own cgi-bin.
Ability to use FTP or online managers.
Access to a secure server.
Access to logs and log analyzers.
Access to lots of email services.
Lots of space for your website.

These features form the basis of all good webhosts, if a host you're checking out has these features then you could be on to a winner. All that's left to do now is check out the hosts customer service and pricing.

Good customer service from a hosting company is vital especially with today's availability of scripts and advanced features for websites. Good customer service usually includes lots of help pages and FAQ pages, 24-7 telephone support, 24-48 hours reply email support. Support is vital because the questions "not if problems will occur" but "when they'll occur". When they do occur you could lose lots of sales and customers if the problems aren't fixed immediately. Never go with a host that has a reputation for poor quality customer service.

Finally there's the pricing issue. What I'm about to say next is second nature to most if not all of you, but I have to say it just to make sure.

Never host with a free web host, they're simply more trouble than they're worth, they usually host thousands of sites on one server meaning that your site is always slow, what's even worse is the fact that they fill up your webpages with banners and pop-up banners making you seem very unprofessional indeed. That's just two of the problems associated with free hosts, there are plenty more so the message I'm trying to get across is avoid them at all costs.

What should you pay for quality hosting with the above and more features? Well like all services on the Internet it varies but generally it's going to cost you $20 - $30 a month to host your site with a quality host. Don't pay more than $30 unless you need very powerful features available to you because chances are you could find another webhost with the same or similar qualities for much less simply by searching on one of the major search engines or directories.

There you have it, hopefully you now know what to look for in a web host, this is vital as your host will play a big part in your success or failure as a webmaster.

About the author
Article by David Callan. David is an Internet marketing professional and webmaster of http://www.akamarketing.com/webmaster-forums/. Visit his webmaster forums for the latest discussions on search engines, website authoring and Internet marketing related issues and topics.

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