It’s a bit confusing for new websters, but registering the domain name doesn’t get your website posted onto the World Wide Web. That first step is like buying a lot. Now we have to build a house on it. Just like homebuilding, you can either build a website yourself or hire a contractor. And, just like a home, you have to pay a monthly or annual fee (mortgage or rent) to keep it. (If you paid cash for your home, that’s awesome, but you’ll still have to pay a fee for web hosting. Sorry.) That is, unless you select a free host.
What’s the difference?
There are a number of good free hosting services out there, such as Blogger and WordPress.com, for instance. And, as we talked about earlier, if the purpose of your site is a personal online journal, pick a free one. If it’s for any type of business or professional service, you’ll need to pay for hosting or you’ll come across as an amateur. Most free sites have advertising of some sort — many have annoying popup windows that drive traffic away from your site instead of to it. If you decide to use a free host (Google: free web host), visit a few sites created using their service to see how conspicuous the ads are.
How do I pick a paid hosting service?
Some offer a lot of choices, such as a site builder. This may be a helpful tool if you’ve never built a website. If you’re new to website development but want to learn and desire to have a professional-looking site, I’d suggest you get a host that offers cPanel. It’s an easy-to-understand administration panel with a lot of tools — stats, access to your site’s database, email account creation, mailing list management, and more. Having an email address with your website name included looks more professional than a Yahoo! or Hotmail account. (Note: I use a gmail account for all my online ordering, but when I hand someone my business card, my email address has my name @ my website.
The web host should have 24/7 tech support. Period. Many hosting services are run as a part-time income creator, often by college students. I have nothing against college students — I happen to have two of my own, but if your business site goes down for whatever reason, you should be able to reach someone either via their support ticket system, email or phone immediately.
- Look up the host on WHOIS and see the creation date of their domain. If it’s less than a year old, I’d suggest picking another company.
- Do a Google search with the company name followed by the word “reviews.” See what real people say about them, not just their on-site customer testimonials.
- Sometimes bigger isn’t necessarily better. If a company has the lowest prices, they have to host more sites to make a profit. Some smaller hosts with “great deals” don’t have adequate staff to quickly handle issues that arise.
- If you do a search, you’ll find a lot of hosting service comparison charts available. Be aware that many of these comparisons base their rankings on price and services offered, although some include reliability and customer satisfaction in their charts as well.
What service do you recommend?
(Note: I don’t always recommend products on my sites, and I’m not an affiliate and get no kickbacks of any kind for mentioning the following companies. I’m only listing these because I know how frustrating it is when a “dream deal” turns into a nightmare, and I hope to save my readers from such experiences.)
There are many excellent hosting services available.
I have a lot of personal websites and I also host sites for some friends, family, and even some nonprofits in our community, so I have a reseller site (more on that in another series). I use HostGator for that site and have had no problems. It is one of the largest web hosting companies and offers a variety of packages at very reasonable prices.
For my business sites, I prefer Fused Network. These guys are johnny-on-the-spot, friendly, human, and have never made me feel dumb when I’ve asked newbie questions. They have successfully transferred sites for me, helped me recover from a prior host nightmare, and now they’ve acquired a loyal customer. That said, are they the cheapest hosting service out there? No. Their lowest-priced package runs about $10/month, which offers more than adequate features for most sites.
The next post, which is a supplement to this one, will give step-by-step instructions for transferring Nameservers.