Choosing a Hosting Service: A Checklist for Business Owners
For a website to appear on the Internet, you require a “server” that is usually provided by a web hosting company. Hosting companies are paid monthly, quarterly or yearly. Some companies come with guarantees, too. Recommendations from other business owners and web designers are excellent ways to find a good hosting service.
One of the primary features I recommend is that the hosting companies can grow with you. If they only offer one package, and you need more, your web site maybe down for up to 2 days and/or you may have to change the code on any forms you use to match the new “server settings”.
Don’t be afraid to read a hosting service’s subscriber information, FAQs (frequently asked questions), note areas or bulletin boards on their sites.
A good hosting company offers as many of these basics as possible:
- This is a hosting company I can easily afford.
- They offer a Money Back Guarantee.
- They have information on their site about server uptime/downtime.
- The company contacts me, at my primary email address, when/if there are any server problems. (Could be problems when they’re updating their server, hurricanes, etc.)
- They offer your own IP address http://postmaster.aol.com/info/ipexpl.html
- They provide at least 5 POP email accounts (example firstname.lastname@example.org) Your email accounts should include Alias Accounts, which look like a POP account to the person sending you an email; however, the address is actually an “alias” that's forwarded to any other email account you choose. And when you send an email back to the original sender, it is the forwarding email account, NOT the email@example.com that the sender receives.
- There is a Web-based Email system (a place for you to read your email online). If not, my favorite is www.e-mol.com
- An easy system for email forwarding (and vacation notice) capability.
- 24-hour customer service, by phone, even if it’s a long distance call, is best!
- 50 mg space (the space you need for a 100 page website with each page being approx. 8x11)
- 2 Gig Data Transfer/month (this will be enough for quite a while!)
- Front Page Extensions – only necessary if you create a web site with MS Front Page
- Cgi/PHP/MySQL (or asp availability). Check with your designer to see what you’ll require for forms to be created).
- Easy Control Panel: This feature is especially important if you want to maintain your site or have someone else easily maintain it. It's the one place to visit when making changes to your site, add addresses, etc
- Statistics - Does your hosting companies plan include monthly and yearly statistics on each of your web pages? Will you know how someone found each of your web pages?
- Secure server, Shopping cart (and other things you’ll need to set up a merchant account system)
- Server type: The type of server a hosting company you choose, should take into consideration the programs you will run for things like your shopping cart, affiliate program, web site pages, etc. If you're using ASP, JSP, PHP, CGI, PL, or CSS, these programs will influence the choice of a server and vice-versa. Your hosting service may use Windows (which for example accepts ASP but not PHP), Linux or Unix-based (Apache/FreeBSD/etc.) servers.
- Password Protection – If you have plans to create a membership are or client’s only area of your site, this is something to consider.
- Newsletter or announcement list
- Auto-responders (not usually available on very low cost hosting packages)
Special thanks to wise-women.org and HTML-on-the-WEB@yahoogroups.com for some assistance with this list.
© 2004 Maria Marsala, Business Builder and former Wall Street Trader. "Powering-UP service busine$$es and their owners". Providing articles, tips, classes, and resources for owners of service businesses. Learn more at http://www.ElevatingYourBusiness.com.