Web hosting is a service which allocates space for customers on computer servers that are connected to the Internet 24/7.
A web-host or a web-hosting company is a company who provides web-hosting services usually for a fee. Most web-hosts also provide email address, scripts and one click install to useful software.
Every website needs to be on the internet 24/7 so that anybody from any part of the world can find it whenever they want to. You can’t achieve this if your website in sitting in your personal computer. You need to rent a space with a web-host and place all the files associated with your website in that space. That way, your website will be available to the world.
You can also buy your own server and host your website on it; but that’s just too complicated and expensive for a beginner.
Free Web Hosting
Like I mentioned in domain name tips, there is a difference between free websites and free web hosting. In the case of free websites, you get both the domain name and web hosting for free while in free web hosting, you can host a paid domain name in a web hosting company for free.
For the purpose of this write-up; there are two types of web hosting companies: The free web host and the paid web host.
Paid web host: all their packages are paid for
Free web host: they have both free and paid packages
There is no such thing as a free lunch. All web hosting companies offering free web hosting usually use this to lure you to their paid services. How? Good question. They tell you to sign up for free; good; everybody likes free stuff. You’re so happy about this then you sign up.
After learning how to use their control panel; creating 50% of your website and generally feeling at home with the web hosting company, you realize that you are restricted in every way; bandwidth, disk space even customer support. So you say to yourself: since it can be such a pain in the guts to move from one web host to another and by the way I already know how to use their platform, why don’t I just upgrade to their paid service that has little or no restrictions. Ah ha, they got you. That was their plan all along.
Why should you be worried about moving to a paid plan with a free web host? Web hosting companies offering free web hosting usually use the money generated from their paid services to foot the bills of their free services. They have lots of cost to cover with so little income, so some of them pack a lot of their free users on the same server with their paid users. These free users use a lot of resources that could lead to more server downtime.
A funny story; I visited the website of a free web host provider and saw Google adverts on it. What does that tell you; they are trying to generate income by any means possible; anything to keep the free service running.
My advice: If there is any chance that you are going to upgrade from free to paid service on a free web host, then just start with a paid web host; your life will be a lot easier. If you really need to start with a free web hosting service because of money issues, then it will be a good idea to move to a paid web host when you want to upgrade…. but; you used their services and resources for free, if you have to leave, then for God’s sake give something back.
Since we’ve trashed the free web-hosting issue, let’s talk about the paid web-hosts.
There are hundreds of paid web-hosts out there offering juicy deals here and there. So you can just pick anyone right? Wrong.
Hopping from one web-host to another is a big time killer and money burner. Not only will you spend hours or days transferring your files, ensuring accuracy and correctness; you must also spend days learning how to use the platform of your new web-host. Other issues may arise from your transfer. You will spend from two days to a week transferring your website and making yourself and your website comfortable in your new web-host. Think of all the money you would lose in a day or a week. This is why most people stick with a web-host for years or even for life. This is why you should choose your web-host wisely.
Let’s talk about some of the things you should look out for, while choosing a web-host:
Website uptime simply means the time during which your website remains up and running on the web. That is, anybody can visit your site without any server or network issue.
Ideally, you would want your web-host to offer a 100% uptime guarantee because the more your website is up and running, the more money you make right? Well; this is not possible. I really don’t believe that any human can guarantee 100% of anything; something must come up. In this case, virus attack, hardware and software defect, hardware aging and so on. The servers will require occasional reboot for maintenance reasons or for hardware and software upgrade.
So your website cannot be up and running every second of every minute of every day, it’s just not possible. That does not mean you should settle for a 50% uptime guarantee. No. A 99.7% to 99.9% is very good. This means that your site could be down for some minutes in a month (not every month). Please don’t go below that.
How will you know how many percent uptime they guarantee? Some web-hosts are bold enough to put it in their home page, some not so bold web-host place it in some other page.
Another thing you should watch out for while deciding on the web-host to work with is it’s avenues for support. A good web-host should have multiple avenues for support such as live chats, emails and phone support operating 24/7 though out the year. That way you can get solution easily and fast even if you want help at 3AM.
Do they need to have all three? It depends on you. Ideally, they need to have at least two. E-mail support is not good for emergencies because you’ll have to wait for their response with no guarantee when they will respond.
Phone and live chat support are for emergencies. If you are the type who likes to talk and have someone talk back and you don’t like typing, then you can settle for a web-host with email and phone support. If you are the shy type that can express yourself better with words, then email and live chat is best for you.
The best web-hosting companies will usually have all three support systems to meet the needs of different types of people from different countries.
How will you know they have all three? If they do, they will be so proud of it, it has to be in their home page. If you visit the home page of any web-host and you don’t see any of the three above named support, they don’t have it. Remember, a good support system has to be 24/7 though out the year.
Good Control Panel
The control panel of your website is simply a platform where you control your website. Here you can manage your files, customize your website, configure your hosting account etc.
Whether you like it or not, you’re going to spend a lot of time in your control panel (if you’re creating your website yourself). That’s why a control panel has to be user friendly.
Since the only way to know if a web host’s control panel is friendly is to purchase the web-hosting plan and I know you don’t want to do that, am going to give you a tip. Look for a web-host that uses c-panel. C-panel is the number one control panel platform in the web hosting industry today. C-panel is very user friendly, fast and organized.
How will you know if a web hosting company uses c-panel? Most web hosting company will write it on their home page, some put up a demo of their control panel, so you can tell from there or you can simply call or live chat with the customer support and ask them.
HostGator and JustHost are some of the best web hosting companies in the world; they are very affordable too. They have all the important features I pointed out above. Check them out, go through their plans, features and pricing, decide which is best for you then sign up for the hosting plan of choice.
*Make good use of your money back guarantee period (usually 30 days). Check out all their services. Try working with their control panel and seek customer support via all the available ways. If they screw up or you simply don’t connect with them, you can back out within 30days with a full refund.
Linux and Windows Hosting; What’s the Difference?
Let me start by saying that the operating system on your personal computer has nothing to do with the type of web hosting plan you should purchase. You can have windows on your personal computer and still use linux web hosting and vice versa.
Technically speaking, windows and linux web hosting do not really differ much in their performance but there are some key differences you should note.
Windows Hosting Cost More than Linux Hosting
Windows servers tend to cost higher, that’s because Microsoft owns and develops windows operating system whereas linux is an open source operating system that is generally free. Web hosting companies use up more resources to maintain windows servers so they charge a higher fee for windows hosting.
Windows operating system takes up more resources by running more processes, you can expect more issues to occur and thus require more reboots to get its services back to normal. So if you’re planning to host your website on a windows server, be prepared for slightly more downtime as compared to a more stable linux platform.
So; Why Windows Hosting?
Windows hosting is more for websites that use specific applications like MSSQL, Plesk, Front Page, others. If you don’t know what they mean, chances are you don’t need them. Most normal website owners including me use linux hosting.
Which Web Hosting Plan Should You Go For?
There are basically three types of web hosting plans available to the world. If you’ve visited any web hosting company website, you must have seen them in their home page. But which should you go for? Well; it depends on what you need. Let’s take a look at each of them.
In shared hosting, multiple websites are hosted on a single server. You have very little control over your own application, that’s why it’s cheaper than the others. If you’re running a small business website or a content website like this one, then you won’t need much control anyway; so this is the best option for you; especially if you’re on a budget.
Shared hosting itself can carry 3 or 4 hosting packages depending on the web hosting company. The first and usually the cheapest will restrict you to register just one domain with the package; that is; you can only host one website. This is Ok if all you want is just one business website. The second option (which is usually more expensive that the first) will allow you to host unlimited domains (depending on the web host). This is the best option if you want more than one website and you’re on a budget. The third and fourth varies with the web host. You can go for them if you have specific needs that are not present in the first and second option.
Virtual Private Servers (VPS)
With this technology, you are allocated a private server space for your own applications, so you have more control. This is still shared hosting in a way because you’re sharing the server with other VPS account holders but you have more privacy and control over certain resources than in the shared hosting plan.
If your website does not need special applications, you really don’t need this.
Dedicated Server Hosting
In this plan, you are the owner of the entire server… Well, not really. The server will be remotely managed by the web hosting company but you own all its preinstalled hardware and software resources. Big websites like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and others use dedicated servers.
Should You Pay Monthly or Yearly?
Most web host will encourage you to pay yearly or more by slashing the prices. Yes it favors them but does it favor you? Yes and no. Of course it favors you because you pay less when you pay for one year or more but what if after paying for 3 years you decide to change web host after 1 year because of bad service on their part. Well; you just lost 2 years’ worth of hosting.
So should you pay monthly? The only disadvantage of monthly payment cycles is that it’s a little bit more expensive. Most webmasters will advise you to go for it.
For some reason some web host offer only yearly hosting packages. Some people believe its because they lack confidence in their own service, some believe its because of the stress involved in monthly circles like reminder, billing and stuffs like that. Whatever the reason, people trust a web hosting company that offer monthly payment cycles more than those who do not. I think you should follow this trend.
I hate it when money leaves my account on a monthly basis. If you’re like me; then paying for six months or one year maximum will be your best bet. Do you trust them enough to pay for a six months? This is where your 30 days money back guarantee comes in. Use it wisely. If you’re still not convinced, then pay for an additional month to try it out more. If they don’t have any issue for 2 months, chances are they won’t have any serious issue for six months.
Ok, that’s it for web hosting, but let’s do a small recap of all we’ve been talking about.
• Free web hosting is a no no, if you want a very smooth operation of your website in the world wide web. Paid web hosting is best for you whether you’re running a small business website or even a blog, but you have to choose wisely.
• There are millions of paid web hosting companies out there wanting to deceive you (with price slashes, freebies and others) into buying their hosting plans. Look before you leap, most of them have horrible services.
• HostGator and JustHost are among the best web hosting companies in the world; they are very affordable too. They have all the qualities of a good web host that (mentioned above) and they have a monthly payment cycle.
• Most webmasters without special windows needs websites use linux web hosting platform, it’s cheaper and more stable.
• Shared web hosting plan is very ok for you if you don’t need to install your own scripts and your own applications. Dedicated servers hosting is usually used by big websites like facebook, twitter etc.
• If you trust the web-host you are about to sign up for them pay one year. I won’t advice you to pay for more than that because I just can’t trust a company that much.
Congrats; you have a domain name and a web host. Your website is now available to the world. Now you need to design the site and add content to it.