How do you go about reserving a domain name for a future website? Do you need to get a web host or do some other special thing? This article answers those questions.
What is a hosting account?
A hosting account is a service that allows you to store your files on a web server and thus make them available to the world wide web through a website.
Which web hosting company is the best for me?
Well, there are many factors that determine a good and reliable hosting company. Its important to remember that switching web hosts regularly is both costly and bad for business – theres nothing worse than going to a company’s website only to find that its offline. So making the right choice the first time round is important – so take the time to read through these points carefully…
Whether you are an individual looking to make some money or a company promoting their business you’ll want to create a professional image because a good image can make the sale. Whenever you receive an email from an established company its almost always in the form of firstname.lastname@example.org. This gives us the feeling that we are dealing with a reputable company and that we are in safe hands. You could have the best website in the world but how professional does it look when you get an e-mail from email@example.com? Not very!
So its important to make sure your hosting company offers you at least a few email addresses at your own domain. You’ll find that the better ones will offer you unlimited email addresses.
Make sure that you can access your email accounts via Webmail in the control panel. When you work for a company or even as an individual its likely you’ll want to access your email account from a
different computer at some point in time. Having to configure a program like Thunderbird on each computer you want to access your email account is very tedious so make sure that your hosting company has Webmail facilities.
Just about anyone who has an e-mail account will have experienced some kind of spam e-mail message. Spam e-mails are both time consuming and annoying to sort out. A good hosting company should offer you spam filters for your e-mail accounts.
Most companies have different teams within their organisation e.g. support team or sales team and these teams usually have auto responders setup to automatically email the customer that their e-mail has been received and it is being looked into. Auto responders are very useful and are another good indicator of a decent hosting company. Without these you may need to purchase them off another company so its definitely worth checking out.
Reliability is a huge factor in determining a good hosting company. It can really make or break your website and bank balance. For every second your website is down your losing potential sales and customers. Customers rely on your service to be there when they want it – remember that if a customer can’t access your website they’ll gladly go somewhere else.
What do we mean by reliability? While your looking on the Internet for your hosting company you’ll notice a common trend – the promise of 99.9% uptime. This refers to the percentage of time the server is accessible via the Internet. A good hosting company should provide you with real-time information about the status of your server and alert you if there are any problems or scheduled maintenance work. You”ll find some hosting companies even offer a money back guarantee if they do fail to meet the 99.9% uptime guarantee!
Bandwidth is basically the amount of data that can be downloaded from your website in a certain period of time – usually a month. This is important because if for example you run a music download site and you suddenly get a surge in downloads for a particular song you can quite quickly use up all your bandwidth. Once your download limit has been reached for that particular month your account will be suspended until the next month or you’d have to purchase more bandwidth in order to keep the site running – which is costly! Make sure when you choose a plan with your hosting company that it includes enough bandwidth.
Each hosting company offers you a certain amount of file storage space on its servers. The amount of file storage space you will need depends on what you plan to store on the server e.g. a static company website or possibly a music download site. For a static company website there isn’t going to be a great need for much space whereas a music download site with lots of songs being uploaded daily is going to need considerably more space. This file storage is where all your files will be stored now and in the future. So when you purchase a plan with a hosting company remember that although you may have enough room now – will you have enough room in a few months?
There are different types of domains that hosting companies include in their packages – make sure that yours offers them.
Subdomains are a great way of organising your site into different areas e.g. WP Istanco [http://wp.istanco.com]. As you can see from the domain name if you open the page this parts of the site is about WordPress. The majority of hosting companies should allow you to have unlimited subdomains.
Addon Domains are useful for storing your other sites on the same server e.g. your own site and any other site. You can also point the other sites to the same files as your main site so that all your sites point to the same homepage for example. Remember that although you may not need these now they might be useful for in the future. A good hosting company should offer you about 10 addon domains with the more expensive plans offering you unlimited.
Parked domains are helpful for storing your domains on your website and also reserving domains for possible future use. A good hosting company should offer you about 10 parked domains.
Just like you wouldn’t go to a dodgy car dealer to get your car fixed you shouldn’t go to a dodgy hosting provider to get a hosting account. There are rogue providers out there with crap services on offer so just remember that! Your probably wondering how you can tell if a company has a good reputation or not – well its probably easier than you think to find out. Run searches on Google for reviews and complaints e.g. ItemBidder reviews or ItemBidder complaints. Check out their own forums because thats usually where any angry customers go and complain – assuming of course the moderators don’t remove any negative feedback.
Theres no better method for finding a decent hosting company than a recommendation from a friend. So ask around first! I personally recommend Irist.
FTP is short for File Transfer Protocol and is the means for transferring files between your computer and your server. FTP is very useful for uploading large numbers of files to your server as it tends to be faster and more reliable than uploading them via the Control Panel. The vast majority of hosting companies now offer ftp support but just make sure that yours does.
If your serious about success then you’ll know just how important access to statistics about your site is. Statistics can tell you how many people visit your site, from which country, using what search terms, visiting which page, ordering which product etc. Statistics help you to tailor your site to your customers and increase potential sales. Without statistics you have no way of knowing what works and what doesn’t work. Good hosting companies should offer you access to daily, monthly and yearly statistics via the Control Panel.
A good hosting company should offer you access to maintain your site via a control panel – usually CPanel. This feature is very important and is essentially the brain of your website. From the control panel you can access files, view statistics, setup email accounts, backups etc. Without a control panel you are severely restricted in controlling your website so I wouldn’t even consider a hosting company which didn’t offer one.
This can be a big factor in determining how seriously a potential hosting company is about looking after its customers. A good hosting company should offer 24/7 support – I personally wouldn’t consider a hosting company that didn’t. Remember that your customers might not be in the same timezone as you so if your website is down at 3am you want somebody from the support team to be able to sort that out as soon as possible. Having to wait for a 9-5 support team to reply isn’t going to leave your customers with a good impression when they can’t access your site for 6 hours.
You wouldn’t gamble with your company’s bank balance so why gamble with your company’s main source of income? Backups are essential for any website no matter how small they are and I can’t stress this enough. Having a good backup procedure can make the difference between your site losing a few sales and a few hundred sales! Most good hosting companies should have an automated backup procedure in place – usually a daily and weekly backup. My hosting company performs a daily backup at 3AM and I also create my own backup through the control panel at 3pm so that if anything does go wrong I’ve lost a maximum of 12 hours of information – plan for the worst!
Range Of Services
Hosting companies offer different types of services including shared plans and dedicated servers. Shared plans cater for relatively small websites whereas dedicated servers cater for very large websites. As the name suggests with a shared plan you are sharing a server with other users – each of which have their own limits on file storage, CPU Usage and bandwidth etc. Whereas on a dedicated server you have full control of the server to yourself. Each of these services offers different types of plans e.g. a shared plan might offer a Basic plan and a Power plan whereas a dedicated server might offer different spec machines to purchase.
When choosing your hosting company make sure that it offers enough flexibility in its plans to cover your needs for both now and in the future.
One of the most important factors to a lot of people is cost. After taking into consideration all the above factors you have hopefully now reached a decision on which is the best hosting company for your needs and what specific plan would suit you best. But remember when you come across the sites offering a full years hosting for as little as one cent the old saying ‘you get what you pay for’ because its either going to be a crap service or they are tying you into a plan which means you will be paying a lot more in the second year.