What a web hosting company provides
- Special software:
To host a website, a company must set up website servers, so called because they "serve" pages to the web. They also have nameservers, whose sole purpose is to translate your domain name into a number, the IP address, so that all websites looking for www.mysite.org are directed to the correct address. And finally, if you have a WordPress site, they have database software to store your pages.
Web hosting companies are close to the "on ramp" of the internet superhighway. They also have wide bandwidth, meaning they can send out a lot of data quickly.
There are people watching the web servers at your hosting company 24 hours a day. If something goes wrong, they will fix it ASAP. Most leading hosting companies offer 99% plus uptime.
Webhosting: a buyer's market
Web hosting has become a big, competitive business. There are many good companies available, and each offers slightly dfferent features. Make sure your host has the features you need. There are websites that give detailed reviews on hosting companies, for example,
Web Hosting Reviews
lists several hosting companies and gives detailed reviews of their reliability, speed and support. Here's an example
of their comprehensive review of one company.
Here are a few hosting companies with the features they offer:
If you want unlimited space, GoDaddy Pro - Join for free today!
offers unlimited space for about $8 a month. (Usually they have a sale going on so you can get the first year for less.)
Some hosts, likeFatCow
offer shopping cart software as part of their plan;
many do not.
Others have different plan levels. For instance,
starts with a "free" web page for the price of a domain name registration, but offers larger plans for a full website and a range of ecommerce plans.
Another thing to consider is how mission critical your information is and how important security is.
offer daily backup as part of their basic plan. Some offer it at an additional cost.
An important thing to check is their customer service.
This is hard to gauge, because you may not find out their service is good
until you're stuck on something and they don't know any of the answers.
See what kind of support they offer. Do they have online chat as well as
a support ticket system? Can you call them? Sometimes, a small company
like Next Millenium, will give more
personalized service from a knowledgeable generalist, and you won't have to
go through a telephone thicket to get to a human. On the other hand, www.GoDaddy.com
is a very large company but provides excellent chat and telephone support, usually with almost no "on hold" wait.
You can check the hosting company's "uptime", meaning the percentage of time their servers have been running properly for the last two or three months. For example, web host reviews of iPage shows that they have a minimum uptime rate of 99.5%, or 3 hours of downtime per month. Therefore they have reliable uptime connection. Since all computers are machines, eventually, they'll have problems. The important thing is to find a competent company who respond quickly in an emergency.
Sometimes, despite good reviews and glowing sales pitches, you
won't know till after you sign up how good the company is. Their servers
may be slow, or their support poor. So, if you're not sure, sign up for the shortest term they
offer, usually one month, just to make sure you like them. You can always
switch to their cheaper, more long term plan later. Some companies will work with you if you're unhappy. I've called www.GoDaddy.com when a service plan did not meet my needs and gotten a refund several weeks after signing up.
Consider is the company's "carbon footprint".
buys wind energy credits to offset their energy consumption. At $4.95 a month, they offer a free domain name and site builder.
Free hosting (see this page for more)
There are actually companies who will host your site for free. The drawbacks of free hosting are that you usually don't get your own domain name (which can be death for people wanting to have high search engine recognition), and the host will put ads on your site.
lets you build and host a website from templates. The site is free, but to get your own domain name (e.g. www.mywebsite.com), you have to pay about $4 a month. Still a good deal.
If you only need one page, you can just register your domain name with GoDaddy.com
They throw in a free starter page with registration of domain name and they are a very large and reliable company with excellent phone support.