What are some of the things you should look for when choosing a web host? The criteria for choosing a free web host and a commercial web hosting solution are slightly different although they do overlap.
Here is some advice for you if you want to pick a free web space hosting:
Most free web hosts impose advertising on your website. This is done to cover the costs of providing your site the free web space and associated services. Some hosts require you to place a banner on your pages, others display a window that pops up every time a page on your site loads, while still others impose an advertising frame on your site. There is really no hard and fast rule which is to be preferred: some people hate a pop-up window, other webmasters dislike having to stuff banner codes into their pages, and many people cannot stand an advertising frame (which may cause problems when you submit your website to search engines). Whichever method is used, check that you’re comfortable with the method.
Note that free web hosts without forced advertisements aren’t necessarily good news. Without viable means to recover the costs of running their server, such hosts close with alarming frequency.
2. Amount of space
Does it have enough space for your needs? If you envisage that you will expand your site eventually, you might want to anticipate future expansion. Most sites use less than 5MB of web space. Indeed, at one time, one of my other web sites, thefreecountry.com, used less than 5MB of space although it had about 150 pages on the site. Your needs will vary, depending on how many pictures your pages use, whether you need sound files, video clips, etc.
3. FTP Access
FTP is the most common method used by people to transfer their web pages and other files from their computer to their web host’s computer, so that it can be viewed by anyone in the world.
Some free hosting providers only allow you to design your page with their online site builder. While this is useful for beginners, do you have the option to expand later when you become experienced and their online page builder does not have the facility you need? Online site builders also have significant disadvantages if you want to expand more.
FTP access, or at the very least, the ability to upload your pages by email or browser, is needed.
4. File type and size restrictions
Watch out for these. Some free hosts impose a maximum size on each of the files you upload (including one with a low of 200KB). Other sites restrict the file types you can upload to HTML and GIF/JPG files. If your needs are different, eg, if you want to distribute your own programs on your pages, you will have to look elsewhere.
5. Speed and up-time
This is extremely important. A site that is frequently down will lose a lot of visitors. If someone finds your site from the search engines, and he/she tries to access it but find that it is down, he/she will simply go to another site. Slow access is also very frustrating for visitors (and for you too, when you upload your site). How do you know if a host is reliable or fast? If you can’t get feedback from anyone, one way is to try it out yourself over a period of time, both during peak as well as off-peak hours. After all, it is free, so you can always experiment with it.
6. Bandwidth allotment
Nowadays, many free web hosts impose a limit on the amount of traffic your website can use per day and per month. This means that if the pages (and graphic images) on your site is loaded by visitors beyond a certain number of times per day (or per month), the web host will disable your web site (or perhaps send you a bill). It is difficult to recommend a specific minimum amount of bandwidth, since it depends on how you design your site, your target audience, and the number of visitors you’re able to attract to your site. In general, 100MB traffic per month is too little for anything other than your personal home page and 1-3GB traffic per month is usually adequate for a simple site just starting out. Your mileage, however, will vary.
Now, let´s spare some words on those commercial ones who demand money for their services. What to look after:
1. Reliability and speed of access
Not only should the web host be reliable and fast, it should guarantee its uptime (the time when it is functional). Look for a minimum uptime of 99%. In fact, even 99% is actually too low — it really should be 99.5% or higher. The host should provide some sort of refund (eg prorated refund or discount) if it falls below that figure. Note though that guarantees are often hard to enforce from your end — especially if the host denies there was any downtime. However, without that guarantee, the web host will have little incentive to ensure that its servers are running all the time.
2. Data Transfer (Traffic/Bandwidth)
Data transfer (sometimes loosely referred to as “traffic” or “bandwidth”) is the amount of bytes transferred from your site to visitors when they browse your site.
Don’t believe any commercial web host that advertises “unlimited bandwidth”. The host has to pay for the bandwidth, and if you consume a lot of it, they will not silently bear your costs. Many high bandwidth websites have found this out the hard way when they suddenly receive an exorbitant bill for having “exceeded” the “unlimited bandwidth”. Always look for details on how much traffic the package allows.
To give you a rough idea of the typical traffic requirements of a website, most new sites that don’t provide video or music on their site use less than 3 GB of bandwidth per month. Your traffic requirements will grow over time, as your site becomes more well-known, so you will need to also check their policy when you exceed your data transfer limit: is there a published charge per GB over the allowed bandwidth? Is the charge made according to actual usage or are you expected to pre-pay for a potential overage? It is better not to go for hosts that expect you to prepay for overages, since it is very hard to forsee when your site will exceed its bandwidth and by how much
3. Disk space
For the same reason as bandwidth, watch out also for those “unlimited disk space” schemes. Many new sites (that don’t host videos or music) need less than 20 MB of web space, so even if you are provided with a host that tempts you with 100 GB (or “unlimited space”), be aware that you are unlikely to use that space, so don’t let the 100 GB space be too big a factor in your consideration when comparing with other web hosts. The hosting company is also aware of that, which is why they feel free to offer you that as a means of enticing you to host there.
4. Tech support
Does its technical support function 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (often abbreviated 24/7), all year around? Note that I will not accept a host which does not have staff working on weekends or public holidays. You will be surprised at how often things go wrong at the most inconvenient of times. Incidentally, just because a host advertises that it has 24/7 support does not necessarily mean that it really has that kind of support. Test them out by emailing at midnight and on Saturday nights, Sunday mornings, etc. Check out how long they take to respond. Besides speed of responses, check to see if they are technically competent. You wouldn’t want to sign up with a host that is run by a bunch of salesmen who only know how to sell and not fix problems.
5. FTP, PHP, Perl, SSI, .htaccess, SSH, MySQL, crontabs
If you are paying for a web hosting account, you really should make sure you have all of these.
Note that some commercial hosts do not allow you to install PHP or Perl scripts without their approval. This is not desirable since it means that you have to wait for them before you can implement a feature on your site. The ability to create or modify “.htaccess” files is needed if you are to do things like customize your error pages (pages that display when, say, a user requests for a non-existent page on your site) or to protect your site in various ways (such as to prevent bandwidth theft and hotlinking, password-protect a directory (folder), etc).
SSH access is useful for certain things, including testing certain scripts (programs), maintaining databases, etc. MySQL is needed if you want to run a blog or a content management system. Cron is a type of program scheduler that lets you run programs at certain times of the day (eg, once a day). Check to see if these facilities are provided.
6. Control Panel
This is called various names by different hosts, but essentially, they all allow you to manage different aspects of your web account yourself. Typically, and at the very minimum, it should allow you to do things like add, delete, and manage your email addresses, and change passwords for your account. I will not sign up with a host where I have to go through their technical support each time I want to change a password or add/delete an email account. Such tasks are common maintenance chores that every webmaster performs time and time again, and it would be a great hassle if you had to wait for their technical support to make the changes for you.
7. Multiple Domain Hosting and Subdomains
For those who are thinking of selling web space or having multiple domains or subdomains hosted in your account, you should look to see if they provide this, and the amount that they charge for it (and whether it is a one-time or monthly charge, etc).
8. Web Server and Operating System
In general, most people will want to sign up for a web host offering a Unix-based system (like Linux, FreeBSD or OpenBSD) and running the Apache web server. Most web-based software assume your website is running on such a system, and you will usually experience fewer compatibility issues with it. There are also a lot of guides available on the Internet on configuring such systems, so finding help when you need it is easier as well.
The only time when you will want to use a Windows server is if you’re running Windows-specific programs, like ASP scripts. But even then, you’ll probably be better off looking for a PHP-equivalent, and using a Unix-based system.
I was actually hesitant to list this, but I guess it’s futile not to. However, I would caution that while price is always a factor, you should realise (“realize” in US English) that you often get what you pay for, although it’s not necessarily true that the most expensive hosts are the best.
At this point, i want to thank http://www.thesitewizard.com/ for this wonderful text, which saved me a huge amount of time 🙂
Well, those are some points you should take a good look at before choosing the right option. You can easily create and maintain a clan without spending a cent at all for it´s whole lifetime. If you are planning to do something like tw-clanzone.com, be sure to set some cash aside to finance it. Don´t spend money if you don´t plan to get something out of it.
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Thanks for reading this HUGE post 😀