Choosing a Web Hosting Company

When we mention “hosting company”, a large number of clients will look at us with a blank expression on their face, so this article should help you, as a client or potential client, gain an understanding on what’s involved in choosing a hosting company and what a hosting company actually does for you.

What is hosting?

Hosting companies HOST your website.

Each website has a domain name (see Choosing your Domain Name for more info) and ultimately the aim is for you to have visitors type in your website address and your website to miraculously appear on their browser. This is where Hosting companies come into play.

Each website address /domain name has an IP address allocated to it. The IP address is like your ID number – it’s something unique and “special” and is allocated to your domain name at the hosting company you choose to use.

When your web developers / web agency (see Choosing your Web Agency for more info) have completed your website, they will need to upload the website files to the hosting company of choice. Once these files are uploaded to a dedicated location at the hosting company, you are able to browse your website on the World Wide Web (WWW).

It really isn’t something complicated and although this may sounds a little “hairy”, hosting companies take care of everything for you. Typically the process of organizing you hosting is as follows:

  1. Contact the hosting company and determine the most suitable hosting package for your requirement. Bear in mind that you WILL need to consult your website company to assist you in choosing the appropriate hosting package.
  2. Register or sign up with the hosting company.
  3. The hosting company will “do their thing” and you will be provided information that includes FTP details.
  4. You would send the FTP information to your website company.
  5. The website would use the FTP information to upload the files to your hosting company’s dedicated space for your website.
  6. Your website will then be able to be viewed via an internet browser such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, Opera, Safari, etc

FTP what?

This is a question we are often faced with. And, although you don’t need to understand it in too much depth, we will give a quick rundown.

FTP = File Transfer Protocol

When a web agency receives the FTP information to the client’s hosting account, the FTP details allow them to connect to the hosting company’s server and, as the name states, transfer the files from their web agency’s local server to the hosting company’s server.

How to choose the best hosting company?

There’s no real answer for this as every hosting company offers different services, packages and offers. Your website company has more than likely worked with a few hosting companies and will often guide you in the right direction.

The best suggestion would be to look around and search online. Read testimonials and compare prices.
An important thing worth keeping an eye on is the load time or the speed that websites take to open in your browser. You need a reliable company who has good machines and fast connectivity.

Can I host a website myself?

Yes, BUT, you do need to know how. You do need some technical experience especially if the website is slow to load as well as if the server / machine where you host your website goes down.

We suggest you use a company who specializes in hosting to ensure peace of mind, support when you need it and basically have people dealing with your hosting issues who know best when it comes to hosting.

How do I choose the best hosting package?

As mentioned above, you website agency will be able to assist you with this especially when it relates to the technologies being used to develop your website. For example: you don’t want to host your website at a company that offers Windows based hosting when your website has been built for a Linux hosting company.

If your website is very simple and doesn’t have any fancy coding, then generally you would opt for the cheaper hosting package. Other things that you do need to check when you are looking at hosting packages include:

  • Number of mailboxes available – if you have a website and would like 10 people to have email addresses, but the hosting company only offers 5 for a particular package, you need to find out the costs for extra mail boxes or alternatively a better hosting solution to meet your mail account needs.
  • Bandwidth allowances – make sure the company offers you sufficient hosting options. If you are expecting high volumes of traffic, then bandwidth may be an issue for you. Make sure of the following:
    • Total bandwidth included in the hosting packages
    • What happens if you exceed your bandwidth? Does your website get suspended? Do you get charged extra? Do you get warned of the excessive bandwidth being used?
  • Website Statistics – make sure the hosting company provides some form of stats. The Mammoth Solutions favorite is AWStats.
  • Support- How, when, where? You need to know that if you have an email problem or your website is down, that you can contact someone to sort out the problem quickly and efficiently.
  • Backups – make sure that the hosting company does backups of your website. This is VERY IMPORTANT for websites where that run on a database or are updated via content management systems. You need to know that if something happens, your data and website is backed up and can be restored quickly. The reality of the internet is such that you can have your website hacked. You want to know that in the case of a hack attempt or data loss, your website can be restored without any hiccups. Most hosting companies back up and some keep up to 1 to 2 weeks worth of backups. However, some hosting companies DO NOT BACKUP and makes it YOUR RESPONSIBILITY, so make sure you understand what is involved when it comes to ensuring your website is “safe”.
  • Security – this IS an issue. You don’t want to have your site hacked, so make sure the company you’re using has a good track record and mentions some form of virus protection.
  • Hosting Packages and Options
  • As mentioned above, there are so many types of hosting options that you simply need to look around and find the one that suits you and will support your website requirements best.
  • The most popular hosting solutions are the following:
  • Linux Hosting – usually slightly cheaper than Windows platform hosting due to Linux being an open source. Linux hosting typically supports 3 major technologies:
    • MYSQL
    • PHP
    • PERL
  • Windows Hosting – usually more expensive that Linux Hosting due to the licenses involved. Windows Hosting typically supports the popular Microsoft website technologies including:
    • ASP
    • ASP.NET
    • MS SQL SERVER

Summary and Final Thoughts

For us, at Mammoth Solutions, our priority is service and support. Your hosting company, as with your web agency, is part of your website development and both play a role in helping your website business succeed. You need to know you can rely on your hosting company and that you will receive good service for your monthly or annual fee.

You will need to find a hosting company that covers your website technology requirements, support needs, business infrastructure (mailboxes) and financially suits your pocket.