When you decide that the time is right to get a website online, one of the first things you will require is a web hosting company. Alongside the design and marketing aspect, your web host is probably the most important factor to consider. Of course if you are just wishing to host a small, fun website, dedicated to telling the world a little about yourself, then a free web hosting company would suffice. If, on the other hand, you are interested in a more serious aspect, you will have a multitude of web hosting companies to choose from, all offering different items in their packages, that may well overwhelm you and at the least, confuse you!
All set hosting plans come with details of what you will be getting for your money. These will include things like bandwidth, which is a measure of how much 'information' is sent and received between the server, where your website will be hosted, and the viewer or visitor. This is measured in Megabytes (MB) or Gigabytes (GB). Basically, the more your website has on it, like photographs and graphics, the more bandwidth is used to show the web site to the visitor.
You will also be told how much space you will be allocated on the server for storing your website files. Again this will vary from the average of 500MB up to some quite large numbers. If you only wish to have a few small pages online, then 500MB would be more than enough space. A shop or ecommerce solution website would require far more.
Another factor to consider will be email addresses and whether you will get domain email addresses. These are addresses you can use such as email@example.com. a great plus if you are setting up a business as it gives a far more professional look to your enterprise. If your new hosting plan allows unlimited web or domain email addresses you can give every member of your staff their own private email address, and make it easier for a customer or prospective customer, to contact the right person, directly. The other benefit of web or domain email accounts is that it can be accessed via a POP3 mail client such as Outlook, Outlook Express, Thunderbird etc.
One very important thing you should consider, is whether there is FTP (File Transfer Protocol), and how it is implemented. You may be only able to access your web space to transfer files via the control panel after logging into it through your web browser or you may be able to use any third party FTP client software. The latter is the preferred method as you have more control over the files and folders and can do more advanced things like CHMODing the files if files like CGI scripts are going to be used.
Subdomains are another item to look out for. Subdomains allow you to create a 'mini site' but using your original domain name in the title. You can use it for a specific area of your main website. for example, a website about do it yourself, called http://www.doityourself.com, could have 'mini sites' called wallpaper, painting and flooring, which would be on the sub domains http://wallpaper.doityourself.com, http://painting.doityourself.com and http://flooring.doityourself.com. As you can see, subdomains create attractive, new mini sites using the main domain name and can be a lot easier to remember the some obscure page on your main site.
MySQL databases often get included in a web hosting plan, These are required for some more advanced scripts. If you know about installing scripts, you will know if you need these or not and if you are going to have enough! If you are getting another person or company to install a script for you, then they will advise on whether you require databases or not.
All these things only barely touch on what a web host can offer you. the easiest method for choosing a web host is to take advantage of their support system. This should be free and accessible to all users and prospective clients as well. ASK the web host what they recommend and WHY they recommend that. EXPLAIN to the web host what your plans for your website is, whether you plan to expand or not and ask the host if they are flexible enough to add items as you require them, like extra room, bandwidth etc. A good web host will gladly take the time to answer you and assist you in your choice, after all a web host wants their customer to be happy!
About the Author
Samantha Savine is a website designer, owner of DesignaSite and works closely with HostCheckout for all her projects.