How to choose a Web host

Host web site is available 24 hours on 24 and provides a number of services associated with the storage and the availability to the public of the Web site:
- HTTP Server for Reading pages.
- FTP for file transfer.
- Mail server.
- Statistics.
See the glossary for the definitions of terms used.

Types of hosts


Map of Web hosting in the World

Shared hosting

Accounts are shared between websites on a same server. The webmaster has few options about the the server configuration and depend on the services offered by the hosts. Buts it is obviously infinitely easier to use, as the webmaster has just to upload the content of the site to the server.

Dedicated hosting

It's always a provider that provides the hardware and storage, but the customer has its own server software that he can configure according to his needs. This type of host is appropriate when you want to host several site or a site with a very important traffic. It is also possible to have a virtual server running on a server software associated with a remote server hardware. Hosts may also furnish of service of maintenance the server software for the webmaster.
Software as Plesk provide a panel to ease to manage the server.

Personal hosting

In this case, there was no recourse to an external provider, it transforms its own computer to server using specialized software such as Apache, Windows Server, and so on. A DNS manager integrated into the operating system associate the domain name to the address of the computer. The computer should operate permanently and presence of the webmaster is required to handle overloads, breakdowns...
An ADSL connection is not sufficient in order for a large public and buying a decent bandwidth is very expensive.

Blogging

Several sites offer a blog hosting, with a pre-installed software that delivers the user of all technical aspects. See Making a first blog for more.

New forms of hosting

As we detail in the new forms of hosting section, a new service is also currently appearing, in the field of "social networking".

Criteria for choosing a shared hosting

The prices and services offered by hosts differ significantly. The pitfalls to be avoided, with a bid apparently beneficial, are a lack of services like PHP, htaccess, statistics, or limitation in traffic or in number of hits per day.
Disk space is not a problem for now, any host provides space enough even for a site with big images but not for video storage.

MySQL Database

This helps to manage user accounts, create a dynamic site with data, using a content management system (CMS). Check for the presence of MySQL, the number of bases and the maximum size for them.

CGI

You can run programs in various programming languages​​: C, Perl, PHP, etc.. Traditionally they are in a CGI or CGI-BIN directory but using modern protocols such as Ajax or WebSocket makes it useless: you can access all storage on the server.

Mail

The support of the PHP function to send mail may be important if you want to install a CMS. Some free hosts disable it.

Mails address

Hosts can associate management of email addresses with the domain name (Ex: myself@scriptol.com): plus storage, catch-all (redirect of any string associated by @ to the domain) and other features.

Maximum traffic

Expressed in mega byte or gigas is the maximum overall size of files read or downloaded from the site, including images in the pages. Multiply the size of the pages including the image by the number of page views to estimate the required bandwidth.
For a new website, 5 gigas/month is reasonable. The storage of images or videos require more actually.

Maximum number of hits

The number of hits is not only the number of access to pages, but the number of requests instead, including every item read on the site to complement the page: image, database access, and so on. For a new website, 10000 hits/day is enough.
This limitation is not longer in use.

Error 404 page

The error is displayed when you request a non-existent page on the site. It must be possible to replace the standard page by a special page or to redirect to the home page. The .htaccess file allows that.

Htaccess

Possibility to install this file interpreted by the server to handle redirecting.

PHP

PHP is a programming language that works on the server side, even if the code is inserted into HTML pages loaded by the browser. It allows to create page content from the code inserted in the page or from scripts.
Most hosts offer PHP 5, you may have to configure the directory to use the version 5 of PHP.

SSL

Secured access, useful for transactions in e-commerce.

Statistics

Most web hosts offer comprehensive statistics with Awstats Software, Webalyzer or others. Infos usually provided are the number of visitors per day, page views per visitor, the original site of the visit, and so on.

Multiple sites and multiple domains

Multiple domains do not means for multiple sites. The host may support multiple domains associated to different sub-directories, and that allows for multiple sites on the same hosting. But the host may also support multiple domains on the hosting only, and that allows only to have several domain pointing on the same content. This will cause dupplicate content problems with search engines if you do not care.

Support

This is the weakness of low cost hosting. A support by forum can solve most problem but is not enough for a serious commercial webiste. The support must be competent and present 24/7 the whole year.

Other criteria

The operating system: Windows or Linux, the server: Apache. The cost. The payment.

Somes hosts

For a dedicated or shared hosting:

New forms of hosting

They are a combination of social network and hosting, an extrapolation from hosting blog, and are able to provide a space with development tools and promtion services. The user can store and develop a Web application, or a compter creation, and share it with others.
The site is in this case a project with a storage space, and tools.

See also