[ glossary ]


Once you've decided whether you want to host on a shared, "virtual dedicated" or dedicated computer, you will need to consider a whole range of other factors which may influence your choice of hosting service provider and plan:


  1. Software: This is especially important for those wishing to use shared services (as these typically give you less control over what you can install). What will you be using? The web hosting provider often pre-installs packages for most popular shopping cards, databases, blogging systems, etc. Make sure you are either satisfied with the choices offered or can ask for additional software to be installed (which is less likely if you are paying only a few dollars a month).
  2. Access: How will the web site be accessible? The standard "low-end" way of accessing your site will be through a control panel. There exist several varieties (your provider will chose one or several, you'll have to make do with the choice they give you). Try to determine from the start whether you'll need ssh, telnet, FTP, or some remote access software which goes beyond the functionality offered by the control panel. If so, you'll need to make sure your provider supports it. As a rule of thumb, plans that support ssh, for example, are more high-end (typically at least double digits per month).
  3. HTTPS Access: You should also decide whether you will provide your visitors with the ability to connect to the site securely (via https). Most providers will help you if you need to purchase a certificate, but try to check in advance.
  4. E-mail access: Almost all hosting packages come with some email functionality (like, having access to one or more email boxes), but you may need more. Will you require setting up a mailing list? Some script-to-email interface? Browse the options offered as pre-installed and try to decide whether you'll need to go beyond them.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it gives you the general idea on what things to consider when decided on a plan. Using these criteria, you should be able to put together a "short list" of provider that seem (at least theoretically) to satisfy your budget and needs.


After finding a short list of plans that satisfy your needs as described above, you should do some basic background checks on the providers you are considering.


This may matter less to small sites, but it's always better to have a provider with many high-speed connectsion – after all, this is the main reason for hosting outside of your own home or office! You should avoid those companies that don't disclose their network capacity (i.e. the total bandwidth available through their networks). Most serious providers are very proud of the investments they have made in their infrastructure and will disclose their network connectivity on their web site.


Although it's not a direct relationship, speed is usually higher for sites physically hosted close to where most users are. If your business is local, all things being equal, you may want to look for a provider with a data center in your geographic area (e.g. the Northeast, Midwest, California, etc).


Last but not least, the quality of customer service and feedback from other clients are also well worth looking into. How happy you are going to be with support may not be easy to predict in advance, and most people think that will probably not need much in the way of support, but it's better to find out in advance how problems are solved. Is there a toll-free number? Is there a ticket system? Email? A guarantee for turnaround?