Being online used to be quite expensive. You had to have the hardware to run a site, or pay a small fortune for hosting. These days, there are so many hosting companies it can be confusing. Different companies offer different plans, features, transfer rates and support levels, so how can you choose what's right for you?
Follow these 5 simple steps to find the right package for you.
1. Storage Space and DataTransfer.
A small information site or personal site will usually only require a few megabytes of disk space, however, data transfer depends on the size of the pages your are offering your visitors multiplied by the number of visitors. You should look at a minimum of 2 GB (2000 MB) data transfer a month. Check with the company that they can upgrade your account if your site increases it's need for storage or monthly data transfer.
2. Added Features.
Make a list of the features you want before you start your shopping. Many features such as e- commerce shopping carts and real time credit card processing will cost you a lot of money. Pre- installed scripts such as email scripts and page counters and use of a secure server (SSL) should be included for free. If you can get a browser control panel and browser mail, this allows you extra flexibility with your site. Browser based email lets you access your mail from any Internet connected computer. Be sure you know what's included in the cost of your hosting package. If in doubt, contact the company and ask.
3. Technical Support
As most hosting companies offer inclusive technical support, you shouldn't pay extra for this. If you're not offered 24 hours/7 days you should look elsewhere. The test is to contact the company and ask questions. If they don't reply within 48 hours, or don't reply at all, consider another hosting company. A good company should reply within 24-48 hours.
How reliable is a web hosting company? Most claim 99.9% uptime, but due to the nature of computers and communications equipment, outages will and do occur occasionally. You can contact a company and ask, but they will tell you they're very reliable. Instead, ask for a couple of sites they currently host, that you can check out for yourself. Not only will you see that the site is available, it gives you the opportunity to see how well they perform during peak periods too.
5. Price and Guarantee.
If the previous four steps check out, then you need to consider price and this can vary widely. You need to consider setup fees, monthly fees, plan discounts and optional extras in your calculations. Some companies offer you ridiculously low or no monthly fees, but check the fine print before agreeing to anything. Free sites almost always have popups or require space invasive banners. Cheap hosting companies often fail on steps 3 and 4, so check them out first, or you may find your site is often not available to your visitors. Setup costs vary widely too. Basically, this is the cost that a company will charge to set up an account for you. This is justified if you are getting a lot of features included (see step 2). You should not need to pay over $50. If you can get a money back guarantee, then you know the company is concerned about its customers. The longer the guarantee, the better. Seven days is not usually enough to judge if the company is suited to you.
Simply follow the steps above to find a hosting company that's right for your needs.
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