Perfect Web Site Host
Mike de Sousa, Director, AbleStable
site looks great, it's a dream to use and provides
the best services and products out there, but finding
the right host for your web site will make the
between on-line success and failure. Without the
perfect host your efforts may come to nothing.
provide essential independent guidance that helps
you make the right choice.
work of a hosting company
are thousands of companies that specialise in web
site hosting. Their job is not only to ensure your
web site is constantly available on the Internet
throughout the year, but also to ensure you are
supported when things go wrong, and things will
go wrong, even with the best of hosting companies.
Web site hosting companies differ a great deal.
There are those who provide 'free hosting' which
is a fine solution if you have some news you'd like
the world to hear of about your pet dog, but not
so fine if you wish to present a professional image
on the Internet.
Hosts offer different database, scripting, and server
functionality, most are platform specific in that
they cater for PC or Mac hosting solutions, all
want your business. Your task is to seek out the
host that best suits your needs.
It may be that you are considering hosting your
web site yourself. After all, you only need a server
and some free software and a connection to the Internet.
Couldn't be that difficult.
My advice is that you do not attempt to travel
along the road of self hosting unless you have
a great team of people who are expert in the field,
and that you are willing to spend a considerable
amount of time, money, and energy in developing
server infrastructure (including the implementation
of an effective Firewall). In addition you'll have
to maintain your team's expertise with a continuous
program of retraining. Oh, and you'll also need
an always-on telecom connection with an uninterruptable
power supply that can deliver your expected traffic
requirements without a hitch (which you've already
assessed with the help of analysing your logs and
web site monitoring).
The Internet technologies
continue to be updated and develop. Hosting companies
take on the responsibility for keeping staff skills
systems up to date. The costs therefore of running
your own host can be considerable, and you will
be responsible 24 hours a day, 365 days a year
your server's performance. When server malfunctions
occur at 2.30am in the morning GMT and you start
loosing your vital link to the US Internet community,
your hosting company is there to keep a watchful
eye and resolve the problems.
By paying a hosting company, you hand over the responsibility
for server performance and maintenance to them.
You can then concentrate on a task your company
is more likely to be able to manage, the constant
web site maintenance and content generation that
defines a good site.
It's your job to be clear about your hosting needs
before you approach a hosting company, and yep,
you'll have to consider the whole list below carefully
if you want to find the perfect host. I view those
elements with exclamation marks that follow !
as essential to all professional web sites:
MIME types (short for Multipurpose Internet Mail
Extensions, a standard for encoding information
other than text so that it can be attached to an
email message and sent across the Internet)
Allocation of filespace (minimum of 5GIG and dependant
on requirements) !
All servers configured as RAID 5 for redundancy
Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) systems in case
of power outage !
Autoresponders (an autoresponder will reply to emails
for you, using predetermined messages which you
have written) !
- at least 10 GIG per month !
Bandwidth monitoring (the ability to view current
and historical reports online about the bandwidth
usage of your web site) !
CGI, SSI and PHP (for example, the provision of
a CGI-bin allows you to run CGI scripts on your
Control Panel (enables you to manage and administer
your web site) !
Components (many scripting languages require third
party extensions or additional extensions, and it's
vital you enquire whether the hosting company provides
the components that you need) !
Custom error pages (a vital component in keeping
your visitors at your site) !
Data Transfer statement (how much information can
be downloaded from your website - don't settle for
'unlimited', get a clear commitment) !
E-commerce options (to sell a service or product
Email support !
FAQ Support !
Firewalling and intrusion detection !
Full and unlimited FTP access (File transfer Protocol
is known as the Internet protocol that allows the
exchange of files. This protocol enables you to
upload your pages to our server over the Internet.
FTP is supported by all leading software) !
Filespace statement (all the space you use between
your website's files, your e-mail, and your logs.
Some hosts may say 'unlimited filespace' or 'unlimited
diskspace', there's no such thing, check the fine
Disk space check (from within a 'Control Panel')
Independent Server infrastructure (incl. network
and servers) !
mySQL database server (dependant on requirements
- the open-source standard for databases and is
ideal for web applications based on Linux Servers)
Mailing Lists (a mailing list enables you to send
emails to a group of people who have signed themselves
up to your list) !
Multiple POP Email Accounts !
ODBC databases (dependant on requirements - Windows
domains can use any ODBC compliant database such
as Microsoft Access or Microsoft Excel)
Online account history/invoices !
Password protect directories
Personal site backup manager
Phone support (at least during business hours and
at a non-premium rate) !
and hardware requirements (choose from Windows,
Apache, Cobalt, Linux®, or Unix® dependant
on your web site needs) !
Profile Management (administer your website account)
Secure Servers (dependant on requirements)
Server speed and bandwidth (dependant on requirements)
Streaming Media (dependant on requirements)
Support, Support, Support (on-line, phone and email)
Top-up filespace/data transfer
Raw and analysed logs !
Statement (minimum 99.5% uptime guarantee = half
a day lost in a hundred) !
Unlimited POP/IMAP accounts
Unlimited mail forwarding !
Web-based control panel !
Web Space Allocation !
Web Usage Statistics !
your requirements are clearly defined create a short-list
of hosting companies that meet them. Revisit their
web sites frequently and take time to try out any
demos of their services they may have on offer.
Concentrate especially on the kind of support they
provide as you will call upon it in the future.
Take your time at this stage as it is a considerable
effort to transfer a web site if you're unhappy
with your hosting solution. Make judgements about
the way your short-list acts and behaves. Do they
respond quickly to your questions by email and phone?
Test this out! Is it easy to access information
about their services? Do they provide help about
web site functionality? The answers to these questions
will provide you with a solid foundation for making
a sound judgement about the appropriateness and
professionalism of their service.
Read the fine print, especially concerning server
reliability, payments, and refunds. Make certain
you are comfortable with the language being used
and ask questions if you are not sure about a statement
they have made. Finally check their web site for
positive references, awards, and press articles.
into the future
yourself what your hosting requirements may be in
the future. It's important your hosting provider
can deliver the hosting needs you'll have tomorrow
as much as those you have for today. Ensure their
services are scalable to your web site's requirements,
and that you have an easy path to upgrade your hosting
provision as necessary.
planning and research, finding the perfect web site
host is possible. Don't go for the 'free' or cheapest
option. They're cheap for a reason, and the reason
isn't to benefit your web presence but to generate
revenue fast, usually from advertising or providing
a less than adequate service.
I've made much of emphasising the importance of
web site hosting support. A hosting company that
prides itself on providing first rate support will
ensure your site performs effortlessly, generating
the interest and recognition it deserves. Happy