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What Web Hosting Features To Look For In A Web Host

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What To Look For In A Web Host?

So, you've registered your own domain name and now it's time to pick a web hosting service.

But where do you start? If you check the listings and ads, you'll see services with monthly fees ranging from $3.95 to $395. Some hosting companies even offer to host your site for free, but you'll have to let them slap ads on your page.

Most hosting companies provide a range of services, starting with low-budget packages and moving up to more advanced, expensive features. Obviously, when you pick a hosting plan, you need to make sure it provides enough disk space for your site at a price within your budget. But what else should you watch for? At the very least, consider the following points.

Usage Limitations

Most hosting plans limit how much data you can transfer to and from the servers in a month. It's also called bandwidth. Once you reach 1GB or 2GB of data transfer, most companies charge you by the megabyte for any additional traffic.

How many bandwidth, or monthly transfer, do you need? That depends. Even fairly busy sites that average more than a hundred visitors a day transfer less than 1GB a month. However, if you provide a three-minute MP3 file or a short video clip for visitors to download, your site will soon break the bandwidth barrier.

If you have some idea of your anticipated traffic, pick a plan accordingly. If not, estimate and watch your usage carefully for the first few months. Read this article for more information on calculating estimated bandwidth.

For small information sites, 50MB storage space with 3GB bandwidth should be ok. If your site applies multimedia technologies such as video, audio, mp3, flash, you have to plan something much bigger.

Note: there's no such thing as "unlimited" bandwidth. If someone claims to offer "unlimited" bandwidth or transfer, he's simply lying. Be careful.

Script And Extra Features

If your web site uses or will soon use SQL databases, CGI scripts, FrontPage extensions, SSI (Server Side Includes), ASP (Active Server Pages)... you'll need a hosting plan that supports these extras. These sorts of higher-end development tools may or may not come standard.

At the very least, make sure you have your own cgi-bin and SSI capabilities. Even if you hate technical stuff, you will need them.

Some hosting companies offer you more extra features such as mailing list management programs, autoresponders, search engine submission, sub domains, which will be very handy when  you need it.

File Transfer Options

You'll need to upload your site from your local machine to the server it lives on, look for a host that allows unlimited FTP uploads to get your site online. If you prefer using FrontPage or a web interface for uploading files, make sure your service provider supports it.

You may want people to be able to download files directly from your site. Make sure you are allowed to do that and check what file formats are allowed.

Mail Options

How much email accounts will you need for your domain? Estimate the number of mailboxes you want. You might pick one for each employee, if you have any. If you are running a one man show, you should add some for functions such as sales, info, support, feedback, besides the most important one, webmaster.

Another must-have is catch-all capability so that you won't miss any email sent to your domain. Also, look into forwarding options so that you can relay messages to an established mailbox. 

Take into account how you want to receive the emails. For example, if you want to be able to use your favorite email software, such as Microsoft Outlook, you'll want POP3 access. However, look into web based email if you want to be able to check your messages from any computer when you're not in office.

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