Choose a Web Host
All Web hosts
ultimately provide the same service. An individual or a business places a
page on the hostís server and people all over the world can access that
page from their Web browser. But that, unfortunately, isnít all there is
A Web siteís performance depends on the
bandwidth, server resources and infrastructure of the hosting provider.
Hosting comes in many forms--shared hosting, dedicated hosting and
co-location, plus hundreds of variations of each.
When choosing a Web host, you should look
for size, speed, and diversity of dedicated Internet connections, as well
as what hardware and software the host uses. Reliability is very
important. Is there more uptime than downtime? Also important are a hostís
response times. The quality and standard of back-up power is also
important, as is security. But one of the most important issues youíll
face when choosing a host is the quality and level of customer service.
Twenty-four-hour customer service means next to nothing unless the
persons fielding calls are qualified computer professionals. What about
the skill level of the technical representative at 4 a.m.? How accessible
is an engineer during "non-business" hours? Can the engineer on
call be notified via pager that thereís a problem? This isnít a
problem if your site is simple but can be if itís more complex.
Response time is important. When sending
a message out into the great unknown, it's nice to get a response back
within a an hour or two. This is something you can test before signing on
with a service. After sending the hostís support department a question,
how long does it take for them to respond? Also, how helpful is the
response? If a host has extensive online FAQs, then its customer support
team should respond faster to queries and respond in more detail than if
they were bogged down all day telling 500 people how to upload a page.
Ensure Maximum Uptime
Size and speed indicate the Web hostís
total bandwidth to the Internet and, therefore, directly relate to the
speed of a siteís delivery and the traffic it can support. One of the
most overlooked issues is diversity of a hostís Internet connections. To
ensure maximum uptime, it should have connections to several national
backbones. This ensures that it will have at least one active connection
even if one of the national backbones goes down.
Many hosts claim they have "unlimited
bandwidth." This simply can't be true, as no one has unlimited
bandwidth, and someone eventually has to pay for it. If you set up a site
which chokes a hostís Internet connection, the host will either make you
pay more or simply shut off your site.
How is the host setup powered?
What hardware is being used, what
operating systems and Web servers are being run, and whatís its internal
networking structure like? After obtaining this information from several
different hosts, youíll be able to sift out those with weaker setups.
What about the physical platforms that are used
to host sites and connect to the Internet? What about router platforms?
Are they redundant and diverse? At what capacity do they implement
upgrades? Are the platforms made up of industry standard vendors such as
Cisco Systems, Sun Microsystems, etc., or does the host use lesser-known
vendors or possibly other proprietary methods? Also, is the host Y2K
compliant? All of these capabilities ensure interoperability, especially
between client and vendor in private business applications where employees
have access to databases through the company Web site.
Every time a visitor goes to a Web site, he or
she downloads the images off of its hostís server and onto a PC. This
transfer causes data to be sent over the hostís internet connection,
which is only of a finite size. Too much data can cause the connection to
become clogged. But figuring out your siteís requirements is easy. If
your homepage has two 5K images on it and receives100 visitors, that means
that each visitor would download 10K of information over the host's
Internet connection or 10K x 100 or 1000K, which equals 1MB. One to two
gigabytes of traffic is ample for 99 percent of the sites on the Internet.
Reliability can be a tough issue. Servers
crashĖthatís simply a fact of life. Everyone has seen the dreaded
"Server not responding..." message. For a host to admit to
downtime is an admission of failure. However, a responsible host should
understand that crashes are a part of running a server and be open about
any major interruptions of service. Your site should be reachable 98
percent of the time.
What about backup?
Is the hostís equipment backed up by
battery or generator? If the host relies on battery time while power is
restored and the servers are rebooted.
What about danger from flood?
You probably wonít ask what floor the
hosting facility is located on until thereís a flood. Business people
and Web developers often donít look at the Internet as something
physical. But the virtual world exists on physical facilities, and
competitive pricing is only one of the critical elements to consider.
How secure is your host?
Even more important is the security of
the network. What is the hostís security policy and configuration? Do
they have a firewall? Is there a security expert on staff? Hosts with weak
network security are vulnerable to hackers.
After checking off the above items, you should
contact some of the hostís current customers to see how satisfied they
are with its service.
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