Choosing a Web Host, Get What You Need - Features
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Features can often be either necessary of frivolous. One often frivolous feature people weigh too heavily is the amount of web space available. The average website is 2 to 3 MB. Most websites will never be able to exceed the range of 5 to 10 MB in size. Although this doesn't sound like much, consider that a website can be nothing more than some text files, images, and a little flash or java code. A large website can easily be made in far less than 5 MB. Avoid paying more for large amounts of web space unless you intend to use your website for downloading or streaming media, such as videos and audio. Often, web hosts advertise that they offer 300 MB for example, while they know you will only ever use 5 MB. Do not let large amounts of space sell you; you will likely end up paying for empty space.
A factor that is more important to consider is the bandwidth that your site will need. If you are just starting your site, traffic will be low until you start getting more links and search engine listings. Once your site gets more popular, your web space provider may shut off your site (or send you an extra bill) for letting people load your site more times than your plan had included. Make sure you know how much bandwidth you have and find out if you can purchase extra bandwidth later when your site gets more traffic. As a general guide, if your site does not use streaming or downloadable media, 3 GB of bandwidth should be sufficient unless you become very popular. Also, avoid any ďunlimitedĒ bandwidth deals; the web host has to pay for that bandwidth, and nothing is free.
If you are paying for a website, you should definitely be getting email accounts and FTP access. Donít settle for a site without them. Make sure the email addresses are for your domain (i.e. email@example.com) and not at your hostís domain (i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org). Also, the host should support autoresponders. FTP access is critical is you intend to do any amount of uploading files to your server. Donít settle for web applications. Also, you will want a host that provides a user control over these two features. Itís too much hassle to get customer service to change a password or set up properties, so find one that automates this for you.
If you plan to sell things on your site, you will definitely need a server with SSL (security features), MySQL, and an included shopping cart. This will necessitate a high priced plan, but they are necessary technologies for most online businesses. Even if you donít need the immediately, you may want to add them in the future.
If you have any interest in using server side scripts, check what kind of server the host is using. If you plan to use Microsoftís ASP technologies, you will need a Windows server. However, if you have no specific plans to use those, a Linux, Unix, OpenBSD, or other open source server will probably be more flexible for you. You will also want to check if Perl, CGI, PHP, SSI and others can be used on the server. Most likely, if you plan to implement these technologies, you or somebody on staff should know what to look for. If your site is a straight forward website with nothing very fancy, donít worry about it.
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