I. Overview of Topic
If you're an individual or small businessperson who's developing a website, one of your most perplexing tasks is finding affordable web hosting for your new site. Of course, you can just google the keyword phrase "affordable web hosting" and then peruse a few of the hundreds of service offerings Google tosses your way. This is, however, a lot like looking for a surgeon to take out your appendix by throwing a dart at the yellow pages - not the best idea.
Naturally, if you're new to website development it may seem at first like all those hundreds of web hosting firms are pretty much interchangable, and any site that offers plenty of disk space and bandwidth for your fledgling site should do fine. This, however, is far from true. In fact most people who develop business or informational websites soon find that a large share of their most irritating daily problems are coming from their web hosting company. All of a sudden the website is down. Or you receive an unexpected email informing you that your entire site is being moved to a new server and the hosting company expects you to complete their laundry list of technical tasks in preparation of their move. (It's all to provide you with "better service," of course.) Or you want to upgrade your site and your programmer tells you your web hosting company can't provide the software features you need.
In other words, headaches galore can come your way due to hosting company problems, especially in the "affordable web hosting" category, by which I mean hosting packages which cost $15 a month or less. The upshot: Don't just pick a hosting company and then just hope for the best - pick one that's got a good reputation for service and reliability. I'll try to steer you to a few of the better-known ones in this report.
By the way, comparing and recommending hosting companies has itself turned into a little cottage industry on the Internet. If you google the term "comparing hosting companies" you'll get almost as many hits as if you research "affordable web hosting." Hundreds of sites now exist which list hosting companies side-by-side, providing basic data for each like server (disk) space, bandwidth, monthly price, support availability, etc. But since almost all these sites receive affiliate commissions if you choose one from their listings, how much can you trust them? My guess is not much, except by comparing the recommendations of many of them, and then focusing on the affordable web hosting companies which are consistenly recommended in many review sites. Below (Part II), I've listed only those services which I've found to be strongly recommended by at least three such sites.
Web Hosting Basics
As a newbie in website development you're no doubt looking for virtual or shared hosting. Virtual or shared hosting means a company will host your site on a server which also hosts many other sites. Affordable web hosting is almost synonymous with virtual hosting - the main alternative being to own and maintain your own server, a complex and expensive undertaking.
Here's what you're looking for:
- Reliability. The company you choose should guarantee at least 99% uptime, preferably 99.9%.
- Bandwidth. Even for a small site you'll want 200 GB at a minimum.
- Disk Space. Opinions differ, but I think for most sites you'll want at least 25 GB. Most shared hosting services supply much more than this.
- Support. Your hosting company should provide 24 hour support 7 days a week. This is standard and necessary. If your site disappears from the Internet Friday at 5:30 PM you really won't want to wait until Monday morning to find out what happened.
- Cost: No more than $15.00 a month. Many are under $10.00. However you don't necessarily want to pick the cheapest offering.
- Website development software. A nice software feature, though it'll probably be too basic for use in developing a professional-looking small business site.
- Additional Server Features. If your site is being designed for you by a pro - and especially if it's intended for business use -- be sure to ask him/her what server features will be needed. Here are the ones most commonly required for functionality of order forms, tables, databases, various interactive features, etc: PHP, MySQL, CGI, Perl, FTP, Cpanel, CGI, SSL, FTP. Note that most affordable web hosting companies use Unix hosting because it's cheaper - check with your programmer to see if your planned website will require Windows hosting for any applications, such as Active Server Pages.. (Many major hosting companies offer both Unix and Windows.) Also make sure you're getting at least 25 email accounts so you can have specific functional email addresses like firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, etc.
Incidentally, "affordable web hosting" is fine but avoid "free web hosting" unless you're putting up a small personal site for entertainment purposes. Free hosting, such as that provided by most Internet Service Providers, AOL, etc. require you to use long sloppy URL's, usually display banner ads, and are not taken seriously by Google and other search engines.
Of particular importance in choosing an affordable web hosting service is access to CGI scripts. CGI (Common Gateway Interface) is a script function used in developing interactive functions in your website, such as text boxes and pull-down menus and order forms which allow visitors to enter information needed to make a purchase or request customer service. A good programmer can develop CGI scripts for you, but the easy route is to sign up with a hosting provider which offers a variety of preapproved and prewritten CGI packages.
Here are a few more things to keep in mind when shopping for an affordable web hosting service:
- - Domains. Does the provider offer a free or low-cost domain name as part of its hosting package? If so, is it portable (i.e., can you take it with you if you change providers)?
- - Audio streaming. If you'll be doing audio streaming, you'll need a lot more bandwidth.
- - Encryped passwords. These are passwords that have been camouflaged to prevent hackers from getting access to your site. This is a desirable security feature to look for.
- - Web statistics. Will you have access to web statistics showing number and type of visitors, page views, and other data? Many providers only supply log files, which you'll have to input into a web log analysis package - not difficult to do, but less conventient than readily-available statistics viewable through your web host's control panel.
To sum up, what's most important in selecting hosting for a small-business site is a reputable service offering a good, affordable package, 24/7 support, and a wide array of server features. Though there are innumerable companies out there that would love your business, surprisingly few really meet these simple criteria. Choose carefully - your online success will depend largely on your hosting company's competency and reliability in the months and years ahead.
That's it - our ten minutes are up! (OK, maybe twelve or thirteen if
you're a slow reader.) Below is a listing of Web resources to help you
continue your research on affordable web hosting.
II. For Additional Research
This Section provides reviews and recommendations of Web sites and other
The following are affordable web hosting companies I've found to be consistently recommended and highly rated by web hosting review sites and other sources. [See also our Hosting Services Comparison Table.]
- Monthly cost: 6.95
- Disk space: Unlimited
- Bandwidth: Unlimited
Other features: domain included - host unlimited domains -- 2500 POP/Imap email accounts - free domain - free site builder - 24/7 support - fee shopping cart - free blog, forum -- $50 Yahoo credit on search advertising - $50 free Google credit on search advertising
Company Comments: "Bluehost was recently awarded Best New Hosting Company and Best Customer Support by some of the leading hosting review companies."
- Monthly cost: 7.96
- Disk space: 350 GB
- Bandwidth: 3500 GB
Other features: Windows 2003 and Windows 2008 Hosting Environment - ASP.NET 2.0 with AJAX 1.0 - ASP, Perl, PHP4/PHP5 and SSI - Script Library - 99.9%+ Uptime - Full Featured Control Panel - SmarterState Web Site Statistics - eXtreme Spam and Virus Blocking - 24/7 Phone & Email Support
Company Comments: "We offer shared web hosting plans to fit any budget as well as Virtual Dedicated/Private Servers (VPS). Our state of the art Data Center and Co-location facilities boast Dell PowerEdge servers with backup and redundancy that can't be beat. Every Easy CGI hosting plan comes with 99.9% uptime and 30 Day Money Back Guarantee. All customers receive 24/7 customer support."
- Monthly cost: 6.95
- Disk space: Unlimited
- Bandwidth: Unlimited GB
Other features: unlimited domains - unlimited POP/Imap email accounts - SSH access - SSL, FTP, Stats - CGI, Ruby, Perl, PHP, MYSQL - free domain - free site builder - free support - free site promotion - 99.9% uptime guarantee - Yahoo and Google credits
Company Comments: "HostMonster provides the best overall offering and support staff to provide an unequaled experience for our customers."
- Monthly cost: 5.77
- Disk space: Unlimited
- Bandwidth: Unlimited
Other features: free domain name - unlimited mail boxes - 75 MySQL databases - host unlimited domains - Load-Balanced Technology - Shared-SSL for E-Commerce Web Sites - site builder - more than 40 free applications, including Wordpress, Mambo, phpBB, and MediaWikie- 30-day money-back guarantee
Company Comments: "Since 1999, PowWeb has offered a low-cost, feature-rich Web hosting platform that appeals to a broad spectrum of users. Our all-inclusive "One Plan" takes the hassle out of finding the perfect hosting solution. Whether customers are small business owners or are running a state-of-the-art Web 2.0 application site, PowWeb provides the uptime and features they need.
- Monthly cost: 7.95
- Disk Space: 1500 GB
- Bandwidth: 15000 GB
Other features: 2500 email accounts - host 6 domains in 1 - free set up - free domain - free site builder - free Google and Yahoo advertising credits - 24/7 customer support
Company Comments: "Month after month for the last year we have sold more web hosting accounts than any other hosting provider in the world."
1 & 1 Beginner Package
- Monthly cost: 2.00 for three months, then 3.99
- Disk Space: 10 GB
- Bandwidth: 300 GB
Other features: up to 5 free domains - FTP, site builder - 600 email accounts - spam filter - 25 subdomains - 24/7 support - host 20 external domains - firewall protection - Google/Yahoo vouchers - 90-day money-back guarantee - Home/Business/Developer hosting packages also available
Company Comments: "1 & 1 is the largest web host in the world and consistently ranks as one of the fastest growing, most reliable hosting companies internationally."
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