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Choosing a Web Host

This guide assumes you are choosing a Web Host for the first time.

What are you looking for?

Before you start looking for a host you need to know want from your host, what options you need, how much server space etc. Here are some of the questions you may want to ask yourself:

To begin with, server space: how large is your site going to be? Is it just a personal home page which may probably only be 10 pages? Or a business site where you want to sell products/services? Will 10mb be enough or will you need 50mb? Don't choose a host because they offer 500mb at a cheap price, especially when your site may never reach 5mb!

Do you need many email accounts? No reason why you would need more than 5 anyway, but many offer much more. Do you need to be able to access your mail accounts on the web or will you have to use a mail client such as Outlook Express? How about a mailing list, do you need one?

What about server side scripts? Do you need a cgi-bin or ability to run scripts such as formmail, voting scripts, site search, content management systems?

Do you need the ability to use Server Side Includes or password protect directories with .htaccess?

Will you have a control panel to manage your site? Will you have FTP or how can you upload files to your site?

What about a database? Will your site required that you have MySQL as backup?

How much are you prepared to pay?

This is not a major issue as most web hosts are very reasonably priced these days. In my opinion you should get all you need for approximately US$10 per month. Many European web hosts are more expensive than this, but may offer some better options. Shop around!


Once you know what you want you can start looking at web hosts. Do a search on the net, check sites like www.tophosts.com or webhostinggeeks.com

Compile a list of the best hosts you can find. Start to narrow this list down to a manageable figure like 4-5 by checking their options and eliminating those who either don't offer what you need or are way too costly for what they offer, compare one host against the other.

Apart from the options there's a few things you should check for:

  1. Server uptime: should be at least 99%.
  2. Support section/knowledge base: make sure they have a good knowledge base. I personally hate this idea of just a FAQ, sometimes they cover very little. Starting off it will help you if your host has some detailed guides to assist you.
  3. Contactable support: you need to be able to contact your support personnel fast if there is a problem with your site. There should be at least email addresses and a feedback form available to you but it's also preferable if they have telephone support. And support must be 24hrs per day!
  4. Response time: this isn't exactly accurate but you can gauge your hosts response time by emailing them. You should definitely receive a response from them within 12 hours or even less. This might give an indication of what you can expect from their support team.
  5. Attitude: I am a firm believer in attitude, you host must have a friendly, approachable attitude! Sometimes this can be reflected in their web site, and definitely in any communication you have with them.
  6. Willingness to answer questions: you have a right to ask as many questions as you want and can expect to get them answered! This ties in with attitude, if you get an impatient response mark 'em off your list!

Once you have narrowed down the list of potential hosts then comes final selection! Start mailing the hosts.

Compile a list of questions! Was their something in their web site you were unsure of? Something not mentioned on their site that you need to know? Something else you need confirmation on?

Make a nice list of questions and send it to each host. Gauge their response time, their willingness to answer your questions, how well they answer your questions, their attitude and so on.

Hopefully after you have received their responses you will have an idea of who you want to host with! If not you can mail them again with more questions or search again and compile a new list.


Choosing a host is really trial and error, the best thing is just to get started! Choose as best you can, select a host and go for it. You should have 30 days to try them out and even after 30 days you can still cancel your account if you are not happy!

Hope that helps!

Summary check list.

In not particular order. What's important to you?

Required Desirable
  1. Server space - 10mb min?
  2. Monthly transfer rate - sufficient 1Gb?
  3. Cgi-Bin
  4. 99% Server uptime
  5. Good knowledge base
  6. Fast response time
  7. Friendly and professional attitude
  8. Email accounts - 5 min?
  9. FTP
  10. Site Backup - AT LEAST weekly
  1. Web based email
  2. Server Side Includes
  3. Password protected directories (.htaccess)
  4. Control panel
  5. Mailing list
  6. Free scripts
  7. Custom error pages
  8. Sub-domains
  9. Anonymous FTP
  10. Secure Server?
  11. Database - MySQL?
  12. Spam filter
  13. Stats package

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