Hari's Corner

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Web hosting tips revisited

Filed under: Tutorials and HOWTOs by Hari
Posted on Tue, Feb 28, 2006 at 15:30 IST (last updated: Thu, May 7, 2009 @ 21:00 IST)

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I know that I had covered ground on a similar subject earlier (choosing a web hosting solution), but recently I had been checking out a few web hosting providers and trying to get a good idea of which ones are good and which are not. On the whole, it's rather hard to find a good review of any particular host you might be interested in, since the web is full of thousands of them.

However, here are some of my suggestions while looking for a good host.


To evaluate how professional a host is, the first thing I look for is their website. If it is full of advertising and images and has the words "FREE HOSTING" splashed all over the place, I am usually suspicious. 50% of all those who claim to provide free hosting usually have a one-time setup fee of some kind and charge for certain features which are standard on good hosting plans. The remaining 50% of free providers usually plaster you with their own advertising and/or cut down on features. Unless you plan on a very basic HTML site (in which case Geocities should serve your needs), you shouldn't really be taken in by FREE offers (particularly when it's in bright, shining colours).

Among other things to look for in their site, check to see if they mention contact details including their postal address, provide a contact form and a support page. Most web hosts should have this information.

List of features

When you visit a hosting site, check to see if they have a separate page dedicated to a full list of features of all their plans laid out side by side for easy comparison. The best hosts usually do not differentiate on features across plans. That is to say that their basic plan and their premium plans usually have the same features, but the limitation might be bandwidth and storage space. And the best hosts usually do not restrict your database usage (MySQL unlimited) and provide you with subdomains, FTP access and accounts, unlimited email accounts, control panel, easy backups and all the rest. In particular check whether they allow addon domains and parked domains (hosting different sites on the same account or sharing two domain names for the same website). PHP and CGI are almost standard these days so most professional hosting providers have them on even a minimum hosting plan.

Storage space and bandwidth aren't the full deal

You can always do with 400 MB or less. Disk space doesn't mean a thing. Unless you plan to upload oodles of multimedia content (videos, images and audio) you don't need so much space. Never get impressed by the space they offer you. Almost always you'll never be using more than half that capacity. Why pay more for space you might never end up using? Start with the most basic package and you can always upgrade to a higher plan when you feel the need.

On the other hand, you should see if they specify the kind of servers they're running on and the backbone connectivity to the internet. Good hosts usually provide this information. If not, be careful and always contact them with queries on their hosting servers and technical specs. If they're vague or not forthcoming, it might be a reseller.

If their deal looks too good to be true, it might just be that their connectivity and reliability might not be as great as they claim it to be.

Linux Servers, unless you absolutely need ASP

Professional hosting is usually on Linux servers. Some hosts provide Windows servers for ASP and stuff. Unless you absolutely need things like ASP and Microsoft-specific technology to drive your website, always choose Linux hosting. Besides being cheaper, Linux servers are usually more secure than their Windows counterparts.

Read the Terms of Service

Most professional hosting providers mention their ToS clearly. You should always read this. If some conditions seem unreasonable, you should ask them why it is so. Professional hosting providers usually have some standard terms and conditions. Anything out of the ordinary or anything that appears to be unusually restrictive should be looked on with suspicion.

Payment options

The good hosting providers usually have a range of payment methods as well as option to pay monthly, quarterly, bi-annually or annually. You should also check if you can upgrade or downgrade plans at any time. Good hosts usually provide this option and also adjust the charges accordingly.

To those of you who are looking for web hosting, I hope this article helps you out. If you have any more thoughts to share, please do comment. (and if any of you are wondering, no, I'm not planning to switch hosts ;))

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4 comment(s)

  1. good, thourough (however you spell that) and readable- I'm not looking for a host, but I still read through it easily. Well written and interesting. Thanks!

    Comment by titanium_geek (visitor) on Tue, Feb 28, 2006 @ 16:51 IST #
  2. Thanks, titanium_geek. That's "thorough". ;)

    Comment by hari (blog owner) on Tue, Feb 28, 2006 @ 19:02 IST #
  3. Great article Hari, with some good advice for anyone hunting for a host - a daunting prospect, I know!

    Comment by ray (visitor) on Wed, Mar 1, 2006 @ 01:41 IST #
  4. Thanks ray! :) Yes, it is a daunting prospect because you get so few websites which actually review web hosts which you are looking for. Most of the "reviews" are nothing but generic self-promotional messages from the source in question. Very rarely do you come across a site which actually has user reviews of web hosts.It's surprising considering the kind of availability of web hosts and also the demand for hosting web sites. I know that most people like me cannot host our own sites because (a) we don't have a fast, stable internet connection (b) we cannot dedicate a machine to run as a server 24x7. there are a lot of technical expertise required to run a web server also, and you need a very fast connectivity to the internet, which is just not available in many countries. So I guess web hosting providers will be around for a fair while yet.

    Comment by hari (blog owner) on Wed, Mar 1, 2006 @ 07:20 IST #

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