Web Hosting Review and Search

what to look for, and how to do it.

With That Computer Store merging into PC Oncall, I finally decided it was time to get my own web space on the internet and the choices available to you are so much more then they were just a year ago. While internet providers locally and nationally have consolidated quite a bit lately, there is still a ton of places to go to get web space and your own domain names. And the good news is that it is getting easier and cheaper to set yourself up.

First of all, nearly every internet service provider will give you a personal web page just for asking if you are using their dial up service. Usually it includes a couple of mb of disk space and a modest amount of download time or web hits. And the way people find you is to go to, for example, www.aol.com/mypages. Sometimes the ?mypages? string gets quite convoluted but if someone sends you an email with it, you simply click on the reference and can bounce over there. A lot of times with personal pages, you are pretty well on your own as far as design, content, and getting it uploaded.

But, if you want to set your business or personal pages apart to make them easier to find and go to, you now need your own domain name so that people can go to www.mydomain.com. For years, there was a very limited option available on names in that you only had .com, .org, and .net to choose from and with the millions of companies and people setting up their own web sites, the names went quickly. Today however, the choices are growing. You can now set up your domain from a number of countries that are willing to sell you the name for 10 per year or less. How would you like to have www.mydomain.tv or www.mydomain.as just to name two countries selling you the names.I created a name for fun at www.drbob.ws. Many of these tiny island countries are finding out that it is a great source of revenue. To add to the choices, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN, www.icann.org) group recently formed is looking to add a who number of additional top level domains like .firm, .bus, .shop, and a ton more. When that happens, look out for ambush marketing and lawsuits as people and companies wrestle over names but you will get a ton of new options for your domain name.

Getting back to getting the domain name, you can go to www.networksolutions.com or a number of other companies to first search out and then register your own domain name. Basic costs are just around $10 per year per domain name. For a complete listing of who is authorized to register domain names, go to http://www.internic.net/regist.html and as you look them over, you will find that some even offer a package deal of web hosting and registration. Some of my personal choices are www.godaddy.com and www.webhostinganddomains.net

The next step is to get the web hosting. As I said, there are a ton of them available from every local internet provider in town to many national companies that offer some very good pricing and services. Pricing I found was from quite a range from $8.95 to $50 per month and the options included range even wider. Consider though that you will be spending that per month and it goes quickly from an annual cost of $107 to $600 and even more so you definitely need to do your homework. In looking to set up my own web page, I ended up looking at 13 different companies. Four local to Indianapolis, IN, and 9 national providers.

What I end up finding was a very wide variety in what they offer for a small business. I based my requirements on the size of the web site that I had put together for That Computer Store. I wanted to be able to have a number of information pages, put up some pictures and graphics of some of my travels, expand it later if I want to do some electronic commerce or file transfer, and to have a system that is reliable and responds to my changes quickly. I also didn't want to get surprised by an increase in traffic over what I had already seen and this leads us into another discussion. Do you know what a web hit is ? It depends on what you are counting and who is doing the counting. I had always thought that a web hit was when someone came to your web site. Well yes and no. The way most web hosting companies bill you for your time is to measure the downloaded traffic from your web site. Say for example, my web site has 10 pages of 1K in size each and 10 Pictures of 100K each. If only one person goes to the site and looks at all 10 pages and 10 pictures, they have downloaded 1100K of data. Assuming of course that they only look at each page and picture once and don't hit the refresh button on the browser. One hundred such visitors and the download total goes to 110,000K. When I took a look at my Lisbon Portugal web site, I had over 2mb of pages and images so depending on what you want to show on your web site, you can have quite a bit of space and download traffic. In fact, if you are thinking of putting a web site together for your small business, you might want to create the web site first and then get a feel for how large it will be. Putting it up on the web takes no time at all and in fact, when I registered the domain names, it only took a few days to get it ready to go. Same was true for the web hosting.

How do you find the national web hosting companies. A couple of places to go would be the online magazines that rate them. www.webhostmagazine.com, www.webhostdir.com, or www.tophosts.com among a bunch of others. When searching, here are a few key issues to keep in mind besides the setup fee and monthly rates. We already talked about the storage amount and the monthly transfer rates. Look also for what scripts and extensions are included. If you use Microsoft Front Page, you might want those extensions included as well as the CGI scripts for forms, search engines, guest books, and the like. Most of the sites will include POP mail boxes and accounts with most of the hosting sites providing at least 5 accounts. They also include mail forwarding, auto responders, and aliases. Aliases are great if you want to have email addresses like sales@, info@, support@yourdomain.com on your web site. Many of the hosts have unlimited number of such email services.

A couple of things to watch out for and remember. If your hosting site has POP mail accounts, this does not include dial up access to get to them. You must still have another internet service account somewhere to get to your mail and the same goes with the domain name. If you want to get to it, you still need that dial up access from your home or office. When I did my searching for a new web host, I ruled out a couple of them because of the creeping prices for a ton of add ons that were standard with some of the others. If you must know, my short list of hosting sites ended up being www.media3.net, www.hostway.com, www.hostpro.net.

Of course, now that you have a web hosting company and your own domain name, you now need to figure out how to create the web site. It can be as easy as you like or well beyond your capabilities even if you know how to work with some of the web authoring tools like Microsoft Front Page, Adobe Go Live or Pagemill. A lot of the new and neat features you see on some web sites are actually provided by the server and web hosting company so you need to do some research if you want some of those strange bells and whistles. A couple of things can really add to your expenses and they can be shopping carts, database dynamic page generation, and secure transactions. Again, be sure to think about those things before getting too involved in setting up your web site. Any amount of preparation and thinking ahead of time is well worth the effort you have to put in.

Now, where did I put my site, to give you a hint,

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This Page Last Updated: December 5, 2004.