Web Hosting


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web hosting

Choosing a host is an important decision. You will, hopefully, have a long relationship with whatever host you choose. To make the decision you need for web hosting to first decide what you need and then visit the sites of several hosting providers and evaluate what they have to offer in the light of your requirements . If you choose wisely you should get good value for money, reliability and prompt, knowledgeable support.

Unix or NT-Windows Hosting? - ASP Hosting or Php Hosting
Whether you need to be hosted on a Unix or NT server depends largely on what you plan to do with your site. For most people starting out a Php-Unix server is a good choice but if you plan to use databases or ASP on your site then you will need NT hosting.

Active Server Pages. (This might be a little confusing because ASP also stands for 'Application Service Provider'). ASP is a Microsoft technology that runs inside Windows 2000, Windows XP or Windows 2003 Servers.

ASP.Net or "dot net" is Microsoft's next generation of the ASP language. It provides a complete environment for content management and sharing over the Internet.

Self-referentially short for PHP: Hypertext Preprocessor, an open source, server-side, HTML embedded scripting language used to create dynamic Web pages. In an HTML document, PHP script (similar syntax to that of Perl or C ) is enclosed within special PHP tags. Because PHP is embedded within tags, the author can jump between HTML and PHP (similar to ASP and Cold Fusion) instead of having to rely on heavy amounts of code to output HTML. And, because PHP is executed on the server, the client cannot view the PHP code. PHP can perform any task that any CGI program can do, but its strength lies in its compatibility with many types of databases. Also, PHP can talk across networks using IMAP, SNMP, NNTP, POP3, or HTTP. PHP was created sometime in 1994 by Rasmus Lerdorf. During mid 1997, PHP development entered the hands of other contributors. Two of them, Zeev Suraski and Andi Gutmans, rewrote the parser from scratch to create PHP version 3 (PHP3).

Free or Paid?
For a first (or practice) site or for a personal site, free hosting can be a good solution. You will almost certainly have to put up with some ads on your site, cannot expect too much in the way of support and there will usually be restrictions on using scripts, on bandwidth and on disk space. That said many free hosts have good online support or forums where you will find other users willing to help. You may also find that the servers tend to be slow at times which will affect users of your site.

For business sites free hosting is really a no-no. Partly because of the ads, over which you have little control, partly because you will have an unwieldy domain name to deal with, such as www. thefreehost.com/usersites/yoursite/, but mainly because it projects a poor image of the business. If a business cannot afford the small amount of money it costs for paid hosting, often less than $150 per year, it is difficult to expect potential customers to take them seriously.

FrontPage Extensions
If you are planning to use any of the features in FrontPage that depend on extensions then you must choose a host that provides extensions. Better again get some recommendations from existing FrontPage users, as a start try a search for 'hosting' or 'server extensions' in the Outfront Forums.

Some hosts are undoubtedly more enthusiastic than others in their provision of extensions. With the best you will have no problems, with the less than expert you will find that extensions fail or become corrupted regularly and that help may be less than forthcoming.

How much Disk Space and Bandwidth?
How much disk space you need will depend both on how large you expect your site to become and on the nature of the site itself. For example a Flash site, or one making extensive use of video, audio or large graphics would need more space than one that is mainly text based.

For most new sites the needs are relatively modest. Statistically the average website is less than 5MB and being swayed to a more expensive hosting plan because of a large disk space allocation may not be a great idea if you are paying for space you will never use. Make sure that there is a means of upgrading your plan should your needs change in the future.

Unless your site is likely to be extremely busy from the outset or you are making heavy use of Flash, video or audio you are unlikely to need more than the standard bandwidth provided with an 'off the shelf' hosting plan. In general as the disk space allocated increases so does the bandwidth.

Individual Requirements
All sites have slightly different requirements and thus there is no 'one plan fits all' solution. Make a list of those feature that are most important to you and use this when comparing hosts.

For example do you need the latest version of Perl, PHP Support, a large number of POP accounts, access to a secure server or to MySQL? Perhaps things like a toll free support number matter more, or whether there is a free shopping cart provided with your hosting. It is important to get your requirements clear so that when you compare hosts you are comparing like with like.

Who Provides Hosting?

Your ISP

Most of those companies who provide dial-up access to the Internet also provide hosting, either free, as part of your dial-up account, paid or both. However their main business is dial-up access and they may not be the best choice as hosts. Evaluate what they offer but be sure to compare it with others before jumping in.

Specialist Hosting Companies

These are the most common, and often the best, choice. Most people will need 'virtual hosting', that is a small allocation of space on a server over which they have control, and there are many providers specializing in this market.

In general specialist companies will have good expertise in dealing with small site owners and will offer a ready made range of plans to suit various types of site.

Because there are so many hosting companies out there you will find that most entry-level hosting plans are very competitively priced. Be sure that you check out the higher spec plans also in case you need them in the future and beware of opting for the cheapest available plan, it may turn out to be a very expensive one if you are endlessly hanging on the phone calling a barely existent support service.

Resellers buy a relatively large amount of space from a hosting company, partition it up and sell it on to end users. Quite often you will find that resellers, due to the deals they get on space, can offer a cheaper rate for server space than the actual host company do.

Resellers can be a good or a bad choice depending both on their choice of host in the first place and on the level of support they offer to you as an end user. Sometimes a reseller, who is likely to have fewer sites to manage than a large hosting company, can offer more personal support and assistance, particularly to beginners, than a larger company could. Others are just in it for the quick buck and provide little or no support.

Dedicated Server Hosting

If your site is very large you may wish to consider a dedicated server. In this case you buy or rent the entire server and pay for technical management and support. Some regular hosting companies offer this service; others specialize in provision of this type of service only. This is a relatively expensive option and will need careful research.

Do it Yourself Hosting

Many people are attracted by the idea of owning and managing their own server, sometimes with the idea that this will save money. Unless you have considerable expertise in server management this is usually not a great idea. Acquiring a server is only the beginning, you will need a trunk line connection to the internet if you are going to serve any more that a very few users and will probably find that maintaining the server is almost a full time job. Unless you really know what you are doing abandon this plan now!