Web Hosting 101
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Microsoft recently released a statement that verified what we’ve all known to be true: the Web is the future of commerce, education, and communication. The commerce portion of that statement is of the utmost importance for those who are running a business during this difficult financial time. If you’re running a small, fledgling business that has - or hopes to have - any kind of online presence, choosing a web hosting service is literally one of the most crucial decisions you will ever make.
Essentially, a web hosting service is a type of Internet hosting service that allows individuals and organizations to make their own website accessible through the World Wide Web. Web hosts are companies that provide space on a server they own for the use of their clients; they also provide Internet connectivity, typically in a data server. Web hosts can also provide data center space and connectivity to the Internet for servers they do not own to be located in their data center, this is called collocation.
Choosing the Right Host
Admittedly, choosing the right host can be overwhelming. A simple Googling of the term “web host providers” gets 108 million hits, which is a lot of information to get through. Even more confusing is the fact that every host you encounter will pretty much be offering the same services as their competitor, only at a drastically different price. Some hosts charge $4.99 a month, while others charge $100. Some hosts are completely free, while others have a number of requirements your site must meet before they take you on as a client.
Of course, many of the specifics of the web host’s agreement and pricing will pertain to the type of site you have and its purpose, but it’s important to keep in mind that this is your business, your money, and your hard work. The web hosting company you choose will literally control your company’s connection to its customers, and that should not be taken lightly.
When turning to the Internet to find a web hosting service that’s right for you, you will undoubtedly come across countless sites that attempt to lure you in by making it seem as if they’re providing honest side-by-side comparisons of various hosting sites. Though they seem legit, be wary: many of them are affiliated with hosting companies and their supposed “reviews” are nothing more than a glorified paid advertisement.
Even if the web host you choose is relatively cheap, you should treat the process of finding one as if you’re looking to drop a lot of money on something. In other words, shop around as you would for any major investment, like a car. Use a wide variety of sources to get multiple opinions; even go as far as conducting your own fact-check with the host itself.
Surely you can find sources online with which you feel comfortable, but just in case, here are some reliable sites that have proven themselves as honest providers of web hosting information.
Top Ten Reviews is an incredibly well-known, ad-supported ranking site for about a hundred different consumer technology categories. Despite the dangers of side-by-side comparisons you were just warned of, this is truly one of the dependable sites where these kinds of comparisons are honest and have nothing to do with advertisements.
Web hosts review offers a side-by-side features comparison for an assortment of major hosting companies.
Top 10 Web Hosting is another ranking site that offers a rundown similar to the one you'll find at Top Ten Reviews. Aside from being updated daily, the site is run by Eli Herskovitz, a hosting specialist who has ranked sites for seven years and has published numerous articles on the topic. Some hosting companies contribute financially to Herskovitz's site, but Top 10 Web Hosting's review process is editorially independent.
After you’ve narrowed your search down and identified a legitimate resource (or two) for comparing hosts, the next step is to identify the features that you, the small business owner, find most important and necessary.
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