Web Hosts - Not All Are Created Equal

Many people think that all web hosts offer the same level of service within a certain price point. This could not be further from the truth. Fundamentally web hosting is web hosting but when you compare apples to apples you will find a broad range of differences that may or may not be a detriment to your business. Surprisingly the same web host provider that charges $5/month may have a direct competitor that charges $10/month for a comparable service plan. Below are 3 simple steps to help you determine what provider will best fit for your needs and where to find them.

1. Determine Your Price Point

Let's face it; the bottom line is usually at the top of the list, which is price. You can spend anywhere from a few dollars a month to a few hundred depending on your needs. Only you can determine your budget and what you are willing to spend so the best bet is to choose a realistic middle ground on price and then begin shopping. A great place to start is CompareWebHosts.com, Inc. This is a very well known and established web hosting directory which lists many reputable web hosting companies such as eDataRack.com, Inc.. On this directory as well as many others like them you will find providers offering shared and dedicated hosting solutions. It is important to clarify and understand the differences between the two. Typically shared web hosting is more inexpensive than dedicated hosting. Shared web hosting can be compared to apartment living. You have a large building split up into many small rooms. All of the rooms share the same pluming, electricity, etc. In other words, all of the tenants share resources which makes doing business considerably more affordable for you and the provider because you share the web server and it's resources with several hundred other accounts. Consequently a large percentage of individuals and businesses start out with shared hosting due to this fact. Shared web hosting has become much more sophisticated and reliable over the years. As a result of this thousands of businesses have benefited from a comfortable middle ground on price and reliability, which can be a win-win for everyone. Shared web hosting prices usually range from $5-$30/month on average. Dedicated hosting can be compared to owning your own home. No one else lives in that home accept you. You have all of the resources at your disposal. Therefore you control the performance of your web server based on the resources that your web site requires and not hundreds of other web sites along with yours as is the case in shared hosting. This type of hosting varies greatly in price as well but typically you can expect to pay any where from $99/month in upwards of $300-$400/month. The obvious benefit here is that your hosting reliability factor increases greatly as well as the control of your content and customization.

2. Determine Your Needs

What do you need? In other words, what are your requirements from your perspective web host and what are your expectations in relation to your budget? Web hosting in general has become much more affordable and competitive over the last few years but you should ask yourself some fundamental questions first. Do you require your web site to be available 24/7/365 100% all the time or can you / your business live with a modest 99.9% up-time which is normally the industry standard for a much lower price point then a higher end SLA (Service Level Agreement) from a more expensive provider. What level of support do you need or expect? Will you require 24/7/365 phone support for technical and sales assistance or will email and or ticketing system be sufficient? Another important aspect but highly overlooked is the issue of potential data loss. Make sure that the web host you choose offers back up / restore services or perhaps at least an option to ad it or make it available at an additional cost. Many people take this for granted that it is automatic but unless you see it advertised or offered in some form or fashion on the providers plan description do not assume that it is being done. You should also consider the number of email accounts and databases you may require. If you have employees they will most likely need individual email accounts for interoffice and external communication. If you plan on running an e-commerce shopping cart or a community forum of any kind you will need one or more databases. Make sure to clarify that this is an option through whichever provider you choose and if there are additional charges.

Typically email accounts are standard but many hosts do charge extra for databases and or limit both depending on their business model. Last but not least how much disk space and data transfer will you need? These days disk space and data transfer have become commodities and are relative, meaning they are extremely affordable to provide to you the customer. Performance, features, reliability, and customer service are what your dollars and cents are paying for so when it comes to the later if you know that your web site is going to be very graphic intensive and you anticipate growing a large database for what ever reason it does not hurt to have as much disk space and data transfer that your money will buy depending on your budget constraints. Even if you do not use it all at first you may very well grow into it and it will be there when and if you do need it.

3. Do Your Homework

So you have done your homework on steps 1 & 2 now its time to switch to research mode. Once you have narrowed your web hosting needs and price points its time to do a little digging on your perspective providers. Your research should begin on the providers own web site. Most companies have an "about us" page which may provide some relative background on company history and a summary of their products, services, and infrastructure. You should also read their privacy policy and terms of service. Never take anything for granted. You should know exactly what you're entering into and what you can expect from your provider should problems arise. Reading these policies may also give you insight and knowledge on limitations between providers and what direction you can take with future needs as well as steps you can take to avoid any major problems until your budget and business requirements change accordingly. Many companies also provide a customer testimonial and FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) page as well. Testimonials can provide helpful information on the types of web sites being hosted and how well the company is currently providing service to its existing customers. If companies FAQ page is done well it can provide a wealth of answers to commonly asked questions about sales and technical specifications that may not be listed on the home page. Of course one of the most important ways that you can do to research on the provider would be to actually contact them with questions that may not be apparently answered or any special needs that were not specifically addressed on any of the later sources above. By contacting the provider directly you can gage how responsive and accurate your questions are addressed which is obviously important.

In closing, it's important to note that there are literally hundreds of specific needs that any one company or individual may require when searching for web hosting services. One could literally write a textbook on all of the industry specific questions and challenges when researching the various different types of hosting solutions. The short process outlined above is simply a fundamental foundation of steps that will hopefully serve as an informative beginners guide in the process.

Sean Shehan serves as Senior Vice President of Operations for eDataRack.com, Inc. which provides high quality, reliable hosting solutions at prices everyone can afford. eDataRack.com, Inc. was established in 2002 to meet market demand for high performance, reliable and affordable web hosting services. We have consistently strived over the past 4 years to deliver high quality services at the lowest price possible for our customers.

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