Breadcrumbs

Choosing a Webhost 101

Choosing a webhost is like dealing with a used cars salesman. With a very competitive market, webhosting companies can be pretty cut throat. You've been assigned with the task to choose the perfect webhosting package for your website, where do you start?

Types of Webhosting

Over the years various types of webhosting have emerged, each targeted at a separate audience:

Virtual/Shared

If you're just starting out your website then virtual hosting is the most ideal. Virtual hosting is when a webhosting company will take a server and divide it out among the customers. Each customer is assigned a small amount of server resources at an affordable rate.

Watch out for companies that cram virtual hosting packages onto one server. With hundreds of websites being hosted, the server ends up becoming sluggish, and you'll be loosing money.

Reseller

Reseller hosting packages are usual double the resources and price of virtual hosting. Reseller packages allow you to divide your own package to host multiple sites, a great way to begin your own steps into the webhosting business or if you desire to host many of your own websites. They usually come equip with private nameservers and a web hosting control system/panel.

Dedicated Server

Dedicated servers are a reasonable price, but require more technical knowledge. You lease an entire server and have complete control over it. The hosting company is responsible for the hardware, and you're responsible for the software. If you're choosing this option you'll have to configure you server using the root access granted by your hosting company.

Managed Server

This is another server leasing option, but requires less technical skills, while costing considerably more. The provider will manage the hardware and software, normally providing you with a control panel for minimal control. Managed servers are best when you just want a more powerful hosting option without the technical fuss.

Colocation

Colocation allows you to place your own server in a datacenter. The hosting company is not responsible for any aspect of the server other than to provide it with power and an Internet connection. This can be a more affordable option in the long run, but requires the most technical skills as you have complete responsibility of your server.

Virtual Private Servers

VPS is a new technology allowing a server to be divided into smaller "virtual severs". Each virtual server acts as its own dedicated server and assigned a portion of the divided server's resources. These packages are a more affordable option if you're looking for a package between a reseller and dedicated server.

Control Panels

Most webhosting companies will provide you with a webhosting control panel. These allow you to manage your hosting package through a friendly web based interface. Some webhosting companies will use custom built control panels, but most will use either cPanel (external link), Plesk (external link), or Ensim (external link).

All three control panels provide similar features, only in a different user environment. Cpanel is most popular among webhost for its extended features and integration with its sister product, WHM. Reseller packages usually use a cPanel/WHM combination, as WHM provides easy control of your sub-hosting accounts.

Each control panel serves as a complete server setup, installing everything needed for a server (Apache, PHP, MySQL, etc.). This can present an issue that we'll look at shortly.

Bandwidth and Disk Space

When browsing through hosting packages make sure to look at the bandwidth and disk space provided. Both are crucial resources that you need to run your website.

Bandwidth is the amount of data transferred between two computers at one time. Host will limit the amount of bandwidth transfer you can use monthly to keep their connection at a stable state. Every page, image, etc. downloaded by a visitor will use some of your allocated bandwidth.

You can calculate the amount of bandwidth that you'll need by looking at your average page size, making sure to include images and external files. Multiply your average page size by the amount of pages your website has. Then multiply it again by the amount of visitors that you expect monthly. This will give you a rough estimate of the bandwidth that you'll need. Make sure to leave room for a little leeway in bandwidth for higher traffic months.

Disk space is the amount of room you're allocated to store your files on the server. If you want adequate room to grow you should take the file size of all your site's file and double, if not triple, it. This will leave plenty of space for growing room.

Having a little extra bandwidth and disk space doesn't hurt and allows for a cushion of resources for your website.

Technologies That You Will Need

Depending on the coding of your website you'll need certain technologies available on your hosting account. You may need PHP, ASP, MySQL, or JSP depending on the coding that you use for your website. If you're using pre-made software you can find the requirements on their website or software packaging.

As most host use cPanel to configure their servers, the average web server will have PHP and MySQL, because it comes pre-configured with cPanel. Services such as ASP and JSP hosting can cost more and aren't as common among webhost.

Average Pricing

Pricing in the webhosting field is the main source of competition between webhost. I advise that you don't take price as the sole consideration between two hosts, as it is often misleading. You should take into consideration disk space, bandwidth, mail accounts, server scripting, databases, and hosting support.

Fast and effective support is a must for your chosen webhost. You should always check out the support methods and quality offered by a host before signing up with them. Send them an email stating your interest in a hosting account and see how fast they respond and the quality of their reply.

Virtual hosting runs anywhere between $3-$10 monthly. Average reseller packages price from $10-$50 a month. Colocation normally is $100 and up. Dedicated servers run from $99-$300 a month. Last, managed servers run usually $30-$50 more than the equivalent dedicated server.

Watch out for tricks!

With most webhost using cPanel to setup their servers comes a few deceptive advertising tricks. Cpanel automatically installs a variety of useful services. Webhost will often exaggerate cPanel features to make them seem special, when they really aren't.

The most common exaggeration on a cPanel feature is normally stated like "Over 50 Pre-installed Programs!" cPanel comes pre-equip with with a service known as Fantastico. Fantastico (external link) allows a client to easily install a variety of online applications in a few clicks. Almost every webhost using cPanel will enable this, so don't look at it as a reason for choosing one host over another.

Summary

Webhosting can be a competitive market, making it difficult to choose a webhost. Just take your time and use this 101 Guide to help you through choosing your webhost!