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Articles - Knowing Your Web Hosting

Hosting is one of ways that web design companies use to generate long-term revenue without a whole lot of effort. It's also something that the client usually tries to save a few dollars on, even if the website being designed costs thousands of dollars and really must be working as close to 100% of the time as possible. Here is the reality.

  • Domain Hosting

    As long as you use a major company for this, you're probably fine. Domains in one place can be pointed to hosting in another, so there is no need to set up your hosting in the same location if the hosting offered isn't what you need. Make sure you are listed as both administrative and technical contact, so if something needs to be done with the domain, you are not reliant on either your hosting company or your website designer to make the change for you.

  • Shared Hosting

    This can come in a variety of names - economy, regular, premium, deluxe, etc. - but essentially, you're sharing the same server and database process with dozens or hundreds of other sites. If one of those sites does something that eats up a lot of server resources, your site is going to lag. More expensive hosting will probably be shared with less accounts, so the more you pay, the more reliable your website will be. Use cheaper hosting for personal sites or HTML-only sites, more expensive hosting for business sites or sites with a lot of coding. Larger database-driven sites shouldn't be run on shared hosting at all.

  • Virtual Dedicated Hosting

    This is hosting run on server partitions. It simulates a server environment with roughly 1/10 the cost of a full server, giving you a reserved amount of memory and processor time and far more control over server settings and the software you can install. Since your hosting is walled off from the other accounts on the server, nothing they do can slow your site down, and this hosting also has the advantage of allowing you to set up multiple sites on the same hosting account. Use virtual dedicated hosting for database-driven sites, sites that have to be lag-free 100% of the time, or if you have several websites and don't want to have to pay more to set up individual hosting accounts for each one.

  • Dedicated Hosting

    Having your own server is occasionally useful - you have a massive amount of server resources and don't have to worry about lagging anyone else if you run something inefficient - but for almost all websites, it's just unnecessary cost. You can get most of the same benefits from virtual dedicated hosting for several hundred dollars less per month. The exception is security and uptime monitoring, which is a little more detailed for full servers and makes this type of hosting a viable option for security-conscious websites such as government or medical websites.

  • Windows or Unix/Linux

    In the cheapest accounts, it makes very little difference whether the hosting is Windows or Unix. However, when you move beyond basic HTML pages to programming dynamic site features, Unix offers more scope for configuration, especially if the hosting allows SSH access and you can log in via the command line. For this reason, we prefer to develop for Unix, and we highly recommend it for larger sites.

  • Control Panels

    Cheaper hosting usually comes with the hoster's own control panel, which can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on the host. If you're not familiar with the control panel, it can take some time to learn even if it's well-designed. More advanced hosting accounts offer additional standard control panel options such as cPanel, Plesk, etc. We prefer to use cPanel, but any major control panel will do if only a small amount of configuration is required.

Overall, don't just take your designer's word for it - check out the hosting specs, call up the hosting company's tech support line and see how long it takes for someone to respond (it's usually a bad sign if it's impossible to find the tech support number, or if you have to wait for 15+ minutes and then get someone who speaks bad English), and above all, don't try to save $10 per month on hosting for a heavily database-driven website that cost thousands of dollars to design. Even the best website in the world is totally useless if the server won't respond.

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Knowing Your Web Hosting - Fenton Web Design Firm

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