Ask Your Prospective Web Host the Right Questions - “Ownership” Questions
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I won’t have room to hit on all the really technical questions here. You want to make sure you can do everything with your website that you’ll want and need to do. That means being able to do a lot of things without needing the help of the web host.
Ask the host whether you can use your own domain name, and how long it will take to either transfer or register a domain with Internic so that everyone can view it. Also, it’s a little detail, but find out if your domain name will work with or without the http://www. part attached to it.
This next question is much more important. Make sure that your domain name will belong to you, and that you will be able to transfer it to another host if necessary—even if this host registers it for you. A number of site owners have been very unpleasantly surprised to discover that domain names they thought belonged to them were in fact owned by their web hosts. Needless to say, this causes a plethora of problems when it comes time to transfer hosts.
Find out whether the host will require you to place anything on your web pages other than your own material. Many free or cheap web hosts require you to put their advertising on your site. If they do require something, find out what it is.
Will you be able to set up a mailing list for announcements? How about 24 hour FTP and Telnet access? And will you have anonymous FTP?
Find out about the email accounts; how many does the host offer for the package in which you’re interested? Can you send and receive email from and to them? Will you be able to use your own domain name as their SMTP server? Will you have an “everything else” account so that firstname.lastname@example.org will go through? Will be able to set up, change, and delete your email accounts yourself, or will you need to ask the host to do it for you? (This is very important if you’re running any kind of business).
There are many other technical questions you can and should ask; some of them depend very much on what you plan to do with your website (running CGI scripts or using certain forms of website-building software, for example). Aside from what the host can do for your website, you also need to find out about the host as a business. How long have they been in business? What are their future goals? What steps are they taking to achieve these goals?
Remember that I told you at the beginning of this article to do your research on web hosts, and find half a dozen or so that come closest to offering what you need? Go ahead and mention at this point in the email that you’ve found some other packages that seem close to giving you what you need at similar prices (you don’t need to tell them who). Then ask the host why you should choose their package over the other ones.
Wind up the email by encouraging the host to explain anything they think you might have missed, and finally, ask them to explain why they think they would be suited or unsuited for hosting your website. How the host answers this question will let you gauge their interest in your business, and could give you a good idea as to what kind of service you can expect to receive from them if you choose to host your site with them. Good luck!
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