Friday 28 October 2011

What to Look for in a Web Host.

It’s tough these days to find a reliable Web host and get everything you need without breaking the bank. There are so many Web hosts out there with different advantages and ups and downs that it’s hard to pick just one that you like. I’ve put together a list of tips and things to keep in mind when choosing a place to host your Web site.

Choose a platform:

There are two platforms to choose from when hosting Web sites: Windows-based and Unix-based. Both have their unique attributes with Unix-based systems being the majority on the Web. Some of the best content management systems on the Web are built on the Unix platform, including this blog and others across the Web. Windows-based systems are great, too, and have their own unique powered architecture. You’re able to choose between both systems at most hosting sites; I personally recommend Unix-based systems (I find them easier to work with).


When choosing a Web host, be sure to look at how much storage you get for the price you pay. For anyone, a couple gigabytes is more than enough storage to host a blog with pictures and media. As a word of warning, sites that say they are “unlimited” are generally not. If you look in their Terms of Service, you’ll usually find a clause stating that if you go over “normal usage,” you can be suspended. There is no way of knowing what “normal” is, so be careful.


Bandwidth is a crucial part of your hosting; if you go over, your site may be cut off. Bandwidth is a tricky thing because it has an unknown: the popularity of your site. Use this as an example for your site: If your site has one MB of data and your monthly data cap is 10 MB, this means that you can only have 10 visitors a month, because each person visiting the site will have to download that one MB of data. Take a look at the hosting company’s terms again and decide for yourself how much you’ll use. Almost all hosts out there provide a dashboard for you to keep track of this, so you should use it (and use it often).

Domains and Subdomains:

Chances are that after you start your first site, you’re going to want to create another and another and another. It is possible to host these with subdomains (, so you don’t have to buy a domain every single time. It’s handy to have these, so be sure to check if your Web host supports it.

Email Accounts:

Many Web hosts offer free email hosting and they most likely will use a subpar tool to host it. You’ll be better off using Google Apps for hosting your domain’s email accounts. You’ll want to make sure that your host supports POP or IMAP so you can use your desktop email client.

Database Support:

Unless you are hosting a static Web site that you won’t be changing often, it is good to have some kind of database support. This can include MySQL, PostergreSQL, Oracle, SQL Server, or any other type of database management tool. These databases allow your Web site to become dynamic and pull different types of data fast without having to hard code it in for each and every instance.


Check what type of support your Web host offers. Having live chat or phone support is the best so you can get your questions answered quickly and troubleshoot your problems with a live person. It’s also great if they have a knowledge base or library with help article so you can support yourself.

Language Support:

No, I don’t mean language as in English; I mean language as in PHP, Ruby, Python, and other common scripting languages. PHP is a must for any Web host and is considered the standard for coding a Web site.


Chances are you’re going to break something on your Web site; I know, I’ve done it many times. If your host supports backups, be sure to take advantage so if something happens like your Web site gets hacked or something goes wrong, you can quickly restore.


A good question is to ask how up-to-date the hosts servers are. Having the latest frameworks and server versions ensures security around the server.


You don’t want your Web site going down, do you? Check your Web host’s uptime guarantee and see what its current servers’ uptimes are. Using a simple Google search, you can weed out the bad hosts by looking at reviews and third party uptime reports.

Free Domain and Extra Features:

While you may already have your domain name, some hosts offer a free one when you sign up. Be sure to also look through the Web host’s features list. See if there is anything that catches your eye like cron jobs or .htaccess support. These are great things to have and make maintaining your Web site a lot easier.

That’s about it for finding your first great Web host. These tips are meant to be for the first time user as a guide to finding what you should get and use. For more popular sites and seasoned users, try looking at a VPS (virtual private server) and using a CDN (content delivery network) to gain more control and save on bandwidth costs.

If you have any tips of your own, leave them in the comments below.

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