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Web Hosting: What Do You Need?

Advertisements for web hosting are ubiquitous. Everything from free web hosting to full packages for $9.99 are in your face wherever you browse. Itís easy to fall for this type of advertising and find yourself in an agreement with insufficient space, bandwidth or features.

As with anything, watch out for all the cheap tricks businesses play to try and get your business. Just like a $1.99 oil change for someone who knows about cars, you realize that thereís got to be a catch. But, cost of web hosting has decreased quite a bit due to inexpensive hardware and good old American competition. Hereís what you need to consider:

1) What exactly are you getting? Is it low-cost because they run advertisements on your site? You probably donít want random ads if youíre in business. Do you have a ďcontrol panelĒ or do you have to go through a website to upload your pages? Do you have FTP (file transfer protocol)? Does it include email (with both POP3 and SMTP)? Are you planning on building the site or hiring someone? If you hire someone you will usually get a better deal letting them handle it.

2) How much space do you need? Most websites donít need a ton of space. Where space issues come in a lot of time is with email (and this is something most folks donít consider). What happens if you go over? Do emails just bounce? Do they automatically charge you an overage (like cell phone companies)? As far as video, audio and high resolution pictures are concerned, bandwidth will be more of an issue than space. But you do want to make sure you have enough space for your videos, your images, site, and emails.

3) BandwidthÖthis is the BIG issue. A lot of sites offer great prices on web hosting, but then they put a bunch of website on one actual physical server. The result is a bottle neck and your site loads at a snailís pace (frustrating many customers). Another issue is that while the space they sell you may be sufficient, they donít offer you enough bandwidth and your site and email are either temporarily disabled, or bounced. Either way, thatís not good. You want enough bandwidth to give you all the wiggle room you need and no fear of your site going down (beyond regular routine maintenance which is acceptable for most small businesses (you can always pay the big bucks for redundancy if itís not)).

Say you get a 100 MB site with 1000 MB (1 GB) of bandwidth. Say youíve got 5 video clips that are 10 MB a piece. Your website is 2 MB, so that leaves you with 48 for growth and email. If no one were to ever view your site, just your videos, and no one ever sent you an email nor did you send an email to anyone, your bandwidth would only allow your video clips to be viewed 20 times in one month. Obviously, that wouldnít be good for business, and not very realistic. So determine how big of videos you want to use first and then find sufficient bandwidth.

Another factor already mentioned, but certainly worth elaborating on, is email hosting. Youíll want email service with your hosting that provides both incoming (POP3) and outgoing servers (SMTP). Youíll probably also want to ensure that you have access to your email through the web so you can check your mail from wherever you are. Email space is usually part of the overall hosting package as is bandwidth. If youíre going to be sending and receiving emails with large attachments, factor that in to your space and bandwidth needs.

Site statistics are valuable for businesses who want to know how many people are visiting their site, where they came from and how they got there. Having a visible counter is not considered very professional, so opt for an invisible one. You can pay for web statistic services, but many hosting companies offer this as part of their package. These statistics can show the country and IP address of each visitor as well as what search term they used to arrive at the site or if they made a direct access. Web statistics will also help you keep an eye on your bandwidth.

Beyond researching the features of a web host, another good investigative move is to check some of the other sites they host. Do they load with ease or do they appear sluggish?

Finally, with the ever-growing problem of SPAM, it may be good to check if the host has any blacklisted IP addresses. Even if you follow all the laws set forth for SPAM, if the host allows another customer to use the same server or IP address to send SPAM, yours could get blacklisted as well. Youíll end up with emails never reaching your clients, and you may not even know until itís too late.

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