What To Look For When Looking For Web Hosting
Looking for web hosting can be a confusing if you are not an IT person. In this article I will give you some guidelines on the things you need to consider to make a good decision.
The first thing you need to look for is a system that is compatible with whatever you want to deploy in your website. This shouldn't be an issue if you are just loading static pages and configuring e-mail accounts. But if you have a content management system, scripts or databases you need to check the operating system (Windows or Linux), database (MySQL, PostGRE, MS SQL, etc.), and languages (ASP.NET, PHP, Perl, ColdFussion, Java, etc.).
- Shared Hosting - The most basic and economical hosting option. In this type multiple websites are hosted in a single machine, all sharing the processor and memory capacity. The advantage is the low price. The disadvantage is that if one of the sites has a high load it can monopolize the processor and memory and affect the rest of the sites make them all slow.
- Virtual Private Server (VPS) - In this type also several sites are on the same machine but they have are "virtual machines" with dedicated portion of processor and memory, with the option to get more if the resource is available at a given time. Each instance has its own operating system which provides the experience of a private machine. The advantage is that no matter what happens in the other instances your instance will not be affected.
- Dedicated Server - In this case you have your own machine, you do with it whatever you want. The advantage is flexibility and freedom in using your machine as you wish. The disadvantage is the high cost.
- Cloud Computing - You may have heard about this one. In simple terms cloud computing is like a VPS but your resources are not provided by a single machine but a "cloud" of several machines. The virtualization software that enables the cloud computing is able the share resources across several machines, allowing for very easy scalability and high tolerance to hardware failures.
Don't be impressed by offers of gazillions of gigabytes of storage and bandwidth. They are very cheap these days. The truth is that even the most modest plans with tens of gigabytes of hard disk space provide more than enough capacity for your website, database and e-mails. As much as you need to compare the capacities of the plans, don't make it your main decision criteria.
So far you can check those aspects from the service descriptions. For the following you may need to check reviews or even get a 30-day free trial period that the vast majority of hosting services provide.
This is critical for Shared Hosting: you want to make sure that the server is able to handle all the sites hosted in it. In the case of VPS and Cloud if you are having performance issues it could be that your applications are too great for the processing capacity that you are paying for, and you may need to upgrade.
They will all tell you "99% of uptime". But what does that mean? Usually they mean the network connectivity. The reality is that ALL servers have downtime, either for failures or maintenance work. Even a giant like Google can have issues; they just had a 2-hour outage on their Gmail service the other day. So the question is how much downtime can you tolerate? If you are ok if you website and email goes down for 15 minutes a few times a month then your requirements are in the bottom of the reliability scale. However, if you cannot live without your e-mail for 1 minute then you need some serious high-reliability service.
Support Service Responsiveness
Given that ALL services are going to have some issue at some point, you need to understand how your provide will handle an outage when it occurs. Once you setup your trial account go ahead and send support requests via e-mail and by phone and evaluate how fast and friendly was the response.
I hope these tips are useful in your quest for web hosting. At the end remember: "You get what you pay for".