After you've picked a perfect domain name for your business, you'll need to select a website hosting service. Â Think of hosting like this: when you purchase hosting, you are actually renting hard disk space on a remote computer that gives you a constant and high-speed connection to the Internet. Â After you associate your domain with your specific hosting account, anyone who types your domain into their web browser will be able to view your website (once you've published it.)
Once you begin researching hosting providers and their services, you may initially feel overwhelmed by the variety of hosting accounts available. Don't be. Below we've provided a list of questions you should consider when deciding what hosting account is right for you.
1. Which operating system do you want"Linux versus Windows?
Many people have varying opinions on the age-old debate of which operating system is better for hosting"Linux or Windows. In the end, it only matters what you need to do with your hosting account.
For instance, many open-source software developers have designed web-friendly programs that work exclusively on Linux. If you want to use these with your website, you'll need to host your site on a Linux platform. Â On the flip side, Windows hosting customers have an advantage if they choose to use Windows-specific technology such as ASP.net or Access databases.
Still unsure what type of hosting to start with? Try Linux. As you begin building your website, you may want to use some of the free open-source programs that often work solely on the Linux platform.
If you're currently a Windows user but want to try Linux hosting, have no fear. When you access the remote server that stores all of your website files and graphics, you won't see a traditional Windows or Linux interface no matter which hosting account you've selected. Rather, you'll just see a structure of folders with files in them. These folders and files appear no different whether hosted on Windows or Linux. As a result, you can easily build your website on Linux even if you're used to the Windows operating system and vice versa.
2. How many domains do you plan to host?
You may initially think this question is irrelevant, but it's more pertinent than you might imagine. While at the moment you may only need to host a single domain, this number may increase over time. For instance, you may start by hosting an online business, but decide to branch out and create a personal blog as well.
You don't have to buy a larger hosting package at the outset, but you may get a bigger discount if you do. If you anticipate hosting more than one domain, you might consider purchasing a hosting package that already allows you to host more than a single domain. While not required, you'll usually save money in the long run.
3. How much disk space and bandwidth will you need?
After the selection of an operating system, disk space and bandwidth limits are the next most important components to consider when choosing your hosting account. Â Just like the hard drive on your desktop computer, different hosting accounts provide different amounts of space for you to use. If you're running a small business and this is your first website, you should easily be able to stay within a 10GB or less disk space limit. If you're a larger business and or you're revamping your site to add a variety of media, such as photos, videos, podcasts and more, you may want to think bigger.
Also remember that if you have a high traffic website (i.e. lots of people visit your website on a regular basis), you may need to allow for greater bandwidth.
The Long and Short of It
While these questions will help you select a hosting account that meets your most critical needs, you should also consider what additional features and benefits a particular hosting provider or specific hosting account has to offer. Does the service include custom email accounts? Do they offer an easy-to-use tool to help build your first website? How are you required to pay for hosting"monthly, quarterly, annually"and is one option less expensive than another?
After you've whittled down the number of hosting options based on the top three criteria listed above, simply decide what other perks you'd most enjoy, and make your purchase.
For those who haven't used a hosting account before, or who have never hosted with a particular provider, you may consider choosing a host that lets you pay month-by-month. Treat the first 30 days as a low-cost test drive of the vendor's hosting service. If you're not satisfied, try another hosting provider. If the service fits your needs, contact the company see if you can prepay for a longer period of time"this will help you save a lot of money in the long-term.