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
- HTTP Server for Reading pages.
- FTP for file transfer.
- Mail server.
See the glossary for the definitions of terms used.
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.
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.
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,
An ADSL connection is not sufficient in order for a large public and buying a decent bandwidth is very expensive.
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".
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
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.
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.
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.
The support of the PHP function to send mail may be important if you want to install a CMS. Some free hosts disable it.
Hosts can associate management of email addresses with the domain name (Ex: firstname.lastname@example.org): plus storage, catch-all (redirect of any string associated by @ to the domain) and other features.
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.
Possibility to install this file interpreted by the server to handle redirecting.
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.
Secured access, useful for transactions in e-commerce.
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 one.
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.
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.
The operating system: Windows or Linux, the server: Apache. The cost. The payment.
For a dedicated or shared hosting:
- Bluehost. Do not know where the price is displayed. Free search engine submission is another thing I do not trust.
- Dreamhost. From 10 $ / m.
- Dynadot. Registrar and hosting.
- GoDaddy. Domain and hosting.
- Hostgator. Unlimited sites from $9 / m.
- Westhost. From 4$ / m.
- Hostmonster. All is unlimited.
- Nearly Free Speech. From $ 1 per GB.
- Amazon S3. Price depending of content stored. Now for static sites.
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.
- Facebook, hosts blog and wiki.
- Hosting of programming projects exists at sourceforge.net for a while, but the new hosting service is much more general and also for non programmers.
- Projects may be hosted on github too. In fact you can host everything you want on GitHub, blogs, Node.js sites, docs, 3D models (they are displayed in 3D) and even maps, they will be displayed as Google Map!
- Tumblr.com and Wordpress.com are two bloggin service. You may use your own domain name.
- Google App Engine is another service from Mountain View for a more advanced hosting.
- Sites from Google again, to build websites with online tools.
- BluWiki. Wiki hosting. Your wiki open to contributors in subdomain of bluwiki.com.
- Github.io. You can associate a domain name with a hosting pages on GitHub. There is no CMS but a generator of static pages, Jekyll (written in Ruby).