A good web
site hosting service is like a stethoscope to a doctor: for anyone wanting an online presence, a good hosting service is the essential tool.
Without the benefits of a comprehensive hosting service, a content provider or an online marketer will be restricted by a limited-growth environment. An inadequate hosting service might satisfy the needs of today, but it will starve new growth tomorrow. This article describes the characteristics of a good hosting service.
At a minimum, a good hosting service today should have the following:Affordable hosting plans--but not necessarily the cheapest, readily available customer service, 24/7 technical assistance, comprehensive online documentation, database support, adequate disk storage and non-restrictive data transfer policy, multiple domain hosting on a single account, multiple sub-domains on a single account, comprehensive scripting support, and a comprehensive management control panel.
It goes without saying that an acceptable hosting service would also include these:full email support, including POP3 accounts and email forwarding, site-building templates for easy web-design and customization, useful scripts for such things as e-commerce, forums, blogs, and photo-galleries, and multimedia support.
An online marketer should also expect to find:good security, such as password protected directories, secure sockets layer for safe e-commerce transactions, email-auto-responders, and mailing list capabilities.
A good hosting service will provide these and much more:Many who aspire to an effective web presence are initially trying to satisfy an immediate need, at the least cost, and with the least amount of effort. Later, when a new need arises or a new idea needs to be implemented, the content provider or marketer will discover that the inexpensive, basic plan does not include the services required.
For example, to install a CMS system or forum, a database will very likely be required--but a basic plan might not include database support. Of course, the basic plan can probably be upgraded to provide needed services-for an additional cost. In this way, and as new needs arise, the basic, low-cost plan can become an expensive plan. It is far better, for the serious web-user, to begin with a hosting plan that will not hinder such future growth.
If the account user does not have the technical competence, time, or interest in putting up or managing a web site, it still makes sense to have the kind of hosting plan that will not hinder contracted help from providing what is needed and wanted.
Hosting plans vary in cost according to how the payments are made (by month, quarter, year, two-year, etc.). The plan cost most visible on the web-host's home page will often be the cost for a longer contract. There are advantages to subscribing to a longer-term contract. For one thing, longer-term contracts average out at the lowest monthly cost.
For another, you will not be receiving frequent emails about your account. I use a two-year plan at my host. I pay the cost up-front and have the satisfaction of not having to worry about it for another two years. There is another added value in doing this: you might well get a search-engine boost if your account has a year or more to run. The bottom line is, don't "cheap out" on this most important tool.
Control panes:I use tools on my local PC to design and test my web pages. I then upload them to my host using the file transfer protocol (ftp). Although there are no-cost ftp clients you can download to your local PC to do this, a good control panel will have the necessary ftp facilities built in.
A good control panel will also facilitate the installation of new domains, sub-domains, databases, email accounts--in short, will provide a complete array of management tools.
Various Logs can be enabled from a good control panel. I review my sites' error logs from time to time. I can sometimes correct problems detected and logged. For example, at my new blogs, I saw repeated error entries stating that the favicon.ico file could not be found. I created the icon files, uploaded them to the blogs, and eliminated the error. More serious problems can be detected through the logs. It is a very good idea to activate these logs from the control panel and then to review them periodically.
Aside from management tasks, I also visit my account's control panel to look at statistics
for my active domains and sub-domains. I like to know who visits a site, the number of unique visitors to a site, what page they look at first, and where they exit the site. The statistics showing the entry page (what page a visitor first viewed) and the exit page (the last viewed page) are of particular interest because they indicate whether or not visitors spend time looking around the site or click away from the first page they view.
The statistics are also important for evaluating new content. For example, I can judge by the stats just how effective a recently published ezine article is at driving new traffic to my site.
In the past, I have used traffic exchanges to increase the traffic to my sites. The statistics can distinguish between just "hits" (a traffic exchange loads a graphic from the site, for example) and "real," unique visitors. Huge increases in "hits" do not necessarily indicate a significant increase of "real" visitors. The statistics can give you an idea of just how many individuals visit your site.
Be wary of promises to increase traffic to your site. More traffic is easy to get. Using a traffic exchange can dramatically increase traffic to your site--but most of the traffic will be "hits" and not "real," unique visitors.
A good hosting service will provide several ways to get help and information. These include help by phone, online chat, trouble tickets, and online documents. Most of the time, I receive the help I need very quickly by phone.
Sometimes, the questions I want answered are beyond the knowledge of the technician answering the phone. In that case, I have always been able to get an answer by submitting a trouble ticket online. After submitting the ticket, I normally receive the answer I need by the next day.
I have been able to find many answers by reading the online users manual and FAQS. The explanations provided in the online documents are often more extensive than I could expect to get by phone or email. I have sometimes received references to the appropriate document in answer to questions I have entered during an online chat.
Over the years, I have hosted various kinds of web sites including forums, complex content management systems(cms), blogs, as well as more conventional sites. Most importantly, I have been able to host these-at the same time-on a single host account. These included different domains, with or without sub-domains, and with database access when needed.
With the right hosting service, you will not have to be concerned about the number of domains or sub-domains you want to host or the applications you want to run. If you start out with the right hosting service, you will be able to look forward to unrestricted growth as your needs and ideas expand.