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Choosing the Right Web Host

The first step in determining the right web host is usually dictated by your specific technology needs. Different web hosts offer different types of servers, and usually support only a limited number of technologies. For example, some web hosts offer LINUX servers that natively support the PHP programming language and MySQL database... while others offer Windows servers that natively support Active Server Pages with a Microsoft SQL Server database instead. Generally speaking, you choose the programming language and database first, then you select a web host that meets or exceeds all of the needs dictated by those first two decisions.

For more information on choosing a programming language, see Choosing the Best Programming Language for Your Website. For more information on choosing the right database, see Choosing the Type of Database for Your Website.

Choosing a good web host is absolutely critical to the process of developing a workable business website. The web host that you choose must provide an operating environment that can physically support the programming code that runs your website, as well as the database. It is possible to have your programming code supported in one location, and your database in another, but there are some potentially negative consequences, including possible degradation in terms of speed, and the possibility that your website visitor will have configured their web browser to disallow that particular combination.

In addition, the web host must offer the various small, but essential capabilities that your website requires. Some of the most common among these are small "shareware" (free) programs that have been installed on the web hostís server, which, for example, enable your site to programmatically generate outgoing emails, upload graphics, and so forth.

The programmer creating your site will also need reasonable access to certain other capabilities, such as the ability to change the "permissions" associated with the various files that make up your site. It is exceedingly time-consuming for a programmer to try to develop custom code in an environment where only the web host can make the needed technical changes to the server.

The web host must also be technically competent, and physically responsive 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. I strongly recommend that you choose a web host that is physically located in your home country. Trying to obtain high quality, timely technical support from a web host in any other country is tantamount to having your dentist located overseas... the results are usually far less than desirable. The language barriers, perceptions of acceptable usability, scheduling challenges, and other tangible limitations usually make this type of arrangement quite impossible to negotiate.

Last, but of no less importance, is the quality of technical support available from the web host. It is absolutely essential that the web host provide live telephone and email support. There is nothing quite like the experience of having a web host that will not answer their telephone and will not respond to your emails when your website is down or has been compromised. Make certain that the web hostís technical support department is knowledgeable and that they actually read the full contents of your emails, rather than sending you an automated response that may or may not provide the needed assistance. A technical support department that throws your initial inquiries over the fence is a very poor choice. Likewise, a technical support department staffed with people who do not understand programming or database-centric questions is not the right choice to support a complex website. A web host that primarily caters to Microsoft Front Page websites, for example, will likely not have the expertise needed to respond appropriately to any questions of a more technical nature.

The very last item that should be considered when making this decision is the monthly or annual cost of the web hosting plan. That consideration needs to run a very distant second to the technical environment, physical location, and quality technical support required for your website.

I am frequently asked for a recommendation in this area, and I wholeheartedly recommend Webmasters.com for LINUX hosting. I have been a customer of theirs for about 6 years, and am constantly delighted by their top-notch technical support, and amazing assortment of useful free shareware plugins. They charge $119.40 per year, and they offer a 30-day money back guarantee.

This material is Copyrighted. All rights reserved. Linda C. Uranga-Norton, President and Founder, Urangatang Web Design. To obtain reprint permission or engage the author for speaking engagements, please contact the author at . All reprints must include a link to the author's website at www.urangatang.com.

If you have an idea for an educational or informative article that you believe would be of interest to others as well, please email us at or call us at 1-888-872-6428 ext. 707 to discuss your idea.


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