How to choose a web hosting company

I started this website with the simple intent of having a place to put my photographs. My criteria were simple - I needed lots of disk space.

Being cheap, I simply chose a free site which offered lots of disk space. This introduced me to a couple of new ideas: one, the idea that I might not want other people's ads or logos appearing on my web site. And two, the concepts of uptime and response time.

One free site after another went bust with my content, which taught me another important lesson, about backups. This is worth noting, because many of the new free services offer a GUI web page maker. However, if there's no FTP access, you may find backing up your site quite difficult.

As time went on, I started getting more creative, and wanted to add scripts to my site. This of course presented another set of challenges, as most hosts at that time didn't allow a cgi-bin directory. For the most part this is no longer the case, but you will probably still want to verify that you will have access to php or perl, and these days a lot of programs want a database as well, so checking is a good idea.

Another couple years passed, and the site became more widely used. Not enough to claim any sort of fan base or anything like that, but enough that certain of my photos became popular on chat boards and the like.

This introduced me to the concept of bandwidth. I had assumed when I started that 1GB of bandwidth would be enough to last me a lifetime. But as the site started getting used, the bandwidth went away. Moral of the story - when choosing a host, check how much extra bandwidth will cost. One of my providers charged more for an additional GB of bandwidth than for my hosting package!

When choosing a new hosting provider, my first stop is Find My Hosting. This is a great site for getting a quick overview of what is available. The front page has a large number of search options, which allow you to narrow your search considerably.

Once you have gotten a list of possible hosts, there are reliablity statistics and reviews from users. This is relatively important. Hosts know there is a significant investment in moving your site from one place to another. Therefore, they don't have to offer great customer service, because many people will stay because it's too much of a hassle to move. Therefore check the stats before you buy.


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