TECHNOLOGY: Finding the right host for your Web site

The most important element to the overall success of your Web site is your hosting service. Your hosting service cannot guarantee your site will succeed, but it can surely devastate it.

No matter what applications you use (streaming video, audio, discussion forums, etc.) or plug-ins (Flash and Shockwave), if your visitors can’t load your site within a few seconds, you’re finished. Recent studies have shown that you only have 20 seconds to grab your visitor’s attention. The longer it takes your site to go from download-to-live, the less time you have to retain your visitors. The best way to choose a Web hosting company is to ask these questions:

How much disk storage space and monthly data transfer does your site require?

Disk storage space refers to the amount of server space allocated to your account. The files that make up your Web site are stored in your storage space. These files include your html files, audio/video, graphics, etc. The data transfer is how much data your site transmits each month.

Generally, data transfer includes any outbound traffic from your site, with the exception of e-mails. In general, an average hit is about 10K. This would mean that a monthly data transfer account of 2 GB would allow approximately 200,000 hits. Remember, if your data transfer rate is higher than the amount allocated by your hosting company, you will have to pay for any extra data transfer.

How should you host?

There are three different ways to host your site: shared hosting, dedicated hosting and collocated hosting. Shared hosting means your site is positioned among other Web sites on a single machine. This type is usually adequate for the majority of “text-n-gif” sites. A “text-n-gif” site is defined as a Web site that has low to medium traffic volume and is not using much bandwidth.

Dedicated hosting refers to your own dedicated machine. Your hosting company would allocate a machine specifically to your site. As you add more interactive elements to your site, you may want to consider a dedicated host. The final is a collocated server. Your host will place your server in their facility. You chose the bandwidth and your host provides the access.

What about the domain name?

Make sure the administration and technical contacts of your domain remains in your name. Some hosting companies place their name in the Administration and Technical Support of the domain registration. Query the Whois.net database (whois.net) to ensure your name is recorded in these positions.

If the hosting company is listed in these two positions they will usually receive any correspondence and domain name renewal information, not you. If they are listed in both of these positions, ask them to input your contact information. If they refuse, transfer your business to another hosting company.

How much technical support do you need?

Do you need 24/7 live technical support or do you only work on your Web site during business hours? If you only work on your site during business hours, you probably don’t need 24/7 technical support, so why pay for it? However, you need to determine how much on-demand support you need.

What features are included?

Does your hosting package support e-commerce, multi-media, database, etc? These types of features should be included in even the most basic packages. If these are not, look elsewhere.

What is the attitude of the employees?

Is the telephone answered in a friendly and courteous manner? Is the technical support department helpful? These are the people you will be dealing with for many years to come. Make sure it is a pleasurable experience.

Remember, the Web is global. Just because you live in a certain city, doesn’t mean you should automatically host your site with a local company.

If a local hosting company doesn’t provide quality customer service, high-quality hosting and competitive pricing, it is very simple to locate a company that does provide exactly what you need.

Andrew LaPointe is president of Your Online Business.com, which provides 50MB of web hosting for $9.95 per month, $19.95 domain names and a free Internet marketing consultation. Download his free Internet starter kit at www.youronlinebusiness.com. BN

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