to choose a good small business web hosting
service and avoid nightmares!
By Moto Gel
years ago, I started my grand campaign to profit from
the Internet gold mine. I was buoyed by the statistics
of increasing online spending, and was convinced that
some of those trillions circling the globe should come
my way. So the perfect way to start, I reasoned, was
to build an online store stocked with the right products.
Now the trick was to find out how on earth to get "on"
of the first things I had to do was to find a small business web hosting service. The Web expands every
day, and so do our choices. Just how do you find a small business web hosting company to meet your business needs?
There are literally tens of thousands, each one with
a different focus and services designed for a specific
segment of the market. As you study your different small
web hosting, you might consider the following tips from
a battle scarred entrepreneur:
How much should you spend on small business web hosting?
When I started out I (like most persons) was initially
mesmerized by the "free" small business web hosting services. After all, why pay for small business web hosting when you can get it "free". I
realized in time that this was a very poor move on my
part. I'll tell you why:
Strike 1: Free small business web hosting
services are quite suitable for personal, family or
hobby activities. However, if you are looking to establish
an online business or become an affiliate and earn commissions,
free sites often limit your flexibility in terms of
real time credit card processing, choice of shopping
cart, and use of customized scripts (for order forms
or other interactive data gathering from users).
Strike 2: Many affiliate programs will
not accept persons who are hosted on a free small business web hosting service. Additionally the constant barrage
of advertising by the free service, will lure your customers
away and eventually hurt the sales-effectiveness of
Strike 3: Free sites don't get treated
with much respect by the Search Engine spiders, and
your site is almost certainly not going to be listed.
Here's what Danny Sullivan, the most well-known Search
Engine guru on the Net, had to say about free hosts
in the August 18, 2000 issue of THE SEARCH ENGINE UPDATE...
get your own site, under your own domain, rather than
doing it within Tripod.com or any place offering "free"
home pages. Sites offering free home pages are often
looked upon with suspicion by search engines, because
search engine spammers also make use of them. It's like
sharing a house with bad roommates. Move out, get your
own house, and you'll probably do better with search
have all seen those Internet hosting advertisements
that offer massive amounts of data storage for truly
ridiculously low prices. Always remember that you get
what you pay for. Data storage is generally cheap and
easy to supply, however it is much more difficult to
provide customers with uninterrupted high-speed access,
quality customer care, technical expertise, and guaranteed
is important to make sure of exactly what you need,
and what you are getting, before you jump at a bargain.
Choose a provider offering prices commensurate with
the range and quality of its services. In general, the
typical hosting package for most small companies requirements
will cost about US$25 per month. A small price to pay
for your online store monthly rental.
What operating system is best for your web site?
operating system or "platform," such as Microsoft's
Windows NT or DOS is the basic set of commands that
tell your computer how to open applications and store
files. In the early days of Internet activity, most
servers operated on a UNIX platform, an extremely powerful
and flexible system that requires considerable technical
expertise to administrate. UNIX is still as popular
as ever, but today you have a choice: Windows NT and
UNIX variations such as Sun Microsystems Solaris, Silicon
Graphics' Irix, and Berkeley's BSD.
offer significantly different opinions as to which platform
works best for web sites. In the end, the choice depends
largely on what you want to do with your site. UNIX
servers are compatible with certain Microsoft extensions
and applications, for example, MS SQL (a database program)
or Microsoft Front Page (a web authoring tool). You
might however, be more comfortable operating your site
on a Windows NT platform, as most persons using a PC
are familiar with the windows interface. On the other
hand, many engineers prefer the flexibility, security,
and control of UNIX servers. UNIX also allows for more
web sites per server, lowering the cost of hosting per
your site grows in size and complexity, in all likelihood
you'll decide that a particular platform is desirable.
It's best to anticipate this contingency and choose
a web host that offers different operating systems which
are scalable and backs them up with technical expertise.
Eight attributes you should expect from your
web sitehosting provider.
Your Own Domain Name
most hosting packages you will have to purchase your
domain name separately, however, your host should have
the capability of searching and registering your domain
name. A domain name e.g. www.mycompany.com gives your
site instant credibility. New customers will have a
good first impression, and returning visitors don't
have to remember where your site is hosted in order
to reach you. It's like having a direct phone number
rather than an extension.
Data Storage (Disk Space)
order to have your web files served to the world, you
need to have a generous amount of disk space on servers
where you can upload your pages, images, sound clips,
etc. and store them. As a general guide, a 100 page
site will easily be accommodated on 50 Megabytes of
Bandwidth (Data Transfer)
is the amount of data transmitted or received through
a unit of time. In web hosting, bandwidth is consumed
when visitors make requests for files on your web site
and download them to their personal computers. When
you add up the total of all files downloaded off of
your site in a particular month, your total should be
lower than the amount of bandwidth allotted with your
hosting plan. If it is not, your file sizes may be too
large or you may be generating a lot of hits - in which
case you may need to upgrade to a larger hosting plan
or to a dedicated hosting server. Plan to use at least
50 Megabytes of bandwidth for every 1000 visitors per
POP3 E-mail Accounts and Auto-Responders
should be able to send and receive mail through Post
Office Protocol 3 (POP3) accounts, so that your e-mail
addresses end in your web site's unique domain name.
Additionally, e-mail aliases and forwarding arrangements
allow you to set up email@example.com that forward
to a POP3 e-mail account that you may already have (from
your ISP). This allows you to check multiple aliases
by downloading mail from one e-mail account. Auto responders
are also a great feature with hosting accounts since
you can automatically respond to customer e-mail's sent
to a particular address with a standard message, like
"Thank you for contacting our Support team. We
will be have a technician responding to your queries
within 24 hours."
you are a newbie or veteran on the Internet, you will
want your hosting provider to have great technical support
online. This way, when you have a question or concern
you can find the help you need in a timely manner and
have the ability to find the information in the format
you wish to receive it.
is a term bandied about in the hosting industry. Essentially,
no matter how excellent the equipment, or the expertise
of the engineers, technology fails occasionally. A web
host with multiple servers, high speed connections,
and UPS systems with backup generators can provide consistent,
high-speed access and guarantee at least 99% uptime.
takes many layers of Internet security, from password
protection to fire wall barriers, to prevent determined
hackers from wreaking havoc with your Web data. Make
sure the hosting company you choose has enough security
measures in place to ensure that your data is completely
hosting companies typically connect to the Internet
through T (Transmission), OC (Optical Carrier), and
DS (Digital Signal) lines. Many smaller web hosting
providers still use T1's to connect your site to the
world at a rate of 1.544 megabits per second (Mbps).
The best hosting companies use redundant lines to ensure
that customers' sites remain responsive even if their
primary Internet connections are temporarily unavailable.
It's a good idea to determine which providers offer
backup connections fast enough to maintain your site's
performance in the event of a primary line failure.
addition to offering the fastest network connections,
a host should provision its lines and circuits to use
less than 50% of available bandwidth. Overburdened network
connections will inevitably result in poor site performance.
In fact, a lightly used T1 line will transfer data faster
than an overused T3 connection.
to find good hosts
OK, so now you know what to look for. Where can you
find a good host with all the above qualities. Two very
comprehensive sites are available: www.zoneindex.com
and www.phphostsearch.com. These allow you to enter
your own requirements for a web host.
Alternatively, you can choose from their list of top
25 hosting companies. These lists are derived from a
combination of account features, technical support,
and customer feedback. Good luck in your search!