Choosing a web host is like buying any other product online. One has a lot of choice and good competition owning to the declining hardware costs.
A web host is a server that will physically host your web site for everyone to access. A web host is usually chosen on the basis of reliability (high uptime), good customer service, bandwidth + hardware provided and cost effectiveness. Each web host will have something or the other to offer over others. The best way to choose one is to read reviews online and see comparison tables on unbiased sites. Everyone will have different priorities be it cost, bandwidth, space provided, etc.
Below are the top lessons learnt while choosing a web host:
- Shared servers are cheaper than dedicated ones (duh!). The shared servers are the cheapest to host one’s website especially if it is your first. Not a bad choice when you are just starting out and are yet to learn the tricks of the trade.
- Get discounts if possible. Be on the lookout for coupons / offers before placing your order. Click here to read my blog entry that describes this.
- Browse a few of the sites hosted on the web host. This will give you an idea of the kind of response time the audience of your site can expect. Check out http://www.myipneighbors.com/ to see the sites that hosted by your web host in addition to yours.
- There is nothing called free lunch. If some web host offers unlimited hard disk / bandwidth, just ignore the claims as these sites are promising the world on the assumption that you never really need those many resources. If you actually do, you will be restricted on the basis of CPU usage and the word “unlimited” will start making a lot less sense.
- Understand the services provided. For example, if you plan on writing a blog, check the version of PHP, MySQL and WordPress that the web host will provide. If ssh is important for you, check to see if it included in the package or not.
- Choose a web host that provides a 30 day cancellation policy. Try to sign up with a host who has a cancellation policy and read it before you actually pay the money. Get started with your site from day 1 so that you know whether the service provided by the host is acceptable or not.
- There is no free dinner either. Make sure you are not taking the domain name (usually a promised lifetime freebie) from the web host. If you cancel, you will usually have to pay for the domain name at a much higher rate. Not taking the domain name from the web host gives you a lot of freedom to switch as per your will. Remember the longer you commit yourself with the web host, the cheaper the cost will be. However, you will be losing out on freedom to switch at will.
I think most of the time spent while finding the right web host goes into reading reviews, visiting forums and getting feedback on the shortlisted web hosts. Getting hold of coupons and filling in the sign up form on any web host should not take more than 20 minutes. The research is always worth the effort but do remember that people still make mistakes and learn from them too.
BTW the image above is my failed attempt to depict 99.9% uptime, a case where only 20MB of the unlimited harddisk space is used by a website, freebies offered by web hosts and your attempts to shop and search for something that suits your needs.
The first step while setting up a site is getting a domain name.
I think that the primary reason for not starting your web site is trying to get that name right. And finally when you have it all figured, you realize that the name is already taken :-) And it doesn’t stop there. The next 20 names (good or bad) that you can think of will be taken as well. And then rather than searching for the domain name related to the one you initially had in mind, you start playing around to see if everything under the sun is taken.
It comes as a rude shock to the uninitiated that selling and buying of domain names is a trade in itself and a profitable one too.
Choosing the domain name is not easy. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) gurus have a lot to share on how to choose a domain name.
In addition to what the pundits had to say, I introduced a few rules for myself (not necessarily applicable to everyone) to help me come up with a name I’d like to keep.
- Don’t choose a name with hyphens or numbers. I have a personal dislike for them as they are difficult to remember.
- Don’t try to insert a city’s name in the domain name just because you live there. Do it only if your blog covers a specific region. To connect to a geography neutral audience, it may not always make sense to include the city / country in your domain name.
- Two words in a domain name is more catchy than three (or four or five for that matter). Also the name gets to be a bit shorter with two words.
- Don’t use words that others are bound to misspell or misinterpret. mysiteforeveryone.com may be typed in as mysite4everyone.com and your potential readers may never visit your site.
- If you are not into domain name trading, don’t take time bound names. myeuro2008sitehere.com is not going to make much sense since Euro 2008 is now over.
- I for one am not very fond of remembering URLs. Domain names should have an inherent bookmarking capability. The words contained in the URL should be memorable and a person typing them in Google should be able to reach the site with ease. Remember the keywords techno+chakra for your future searches ;-) [update: the site technochakra.com is now mohit.io]
- Before making the payment for your domain name, break its name into words and put them up in Google’s search box. If the search results bring up embarrassing or negative stuff which you wouldn’t like to associate your site with, then you may want to give the name a pass.
However, at the end with all the rules and the free advice at your disposal, you will end up taking the name that is available :-).
A free time saving tip: Search for domain + names + ajax in Google and you will come across sites that will do search-as-you-type lookups for domain names. Given that a lot of domain names are already taken, such sites make it faster for you to search for that name you have been looking for.
Getting started with web hosting is not always easy.
If you are the kind who likes to do the research before taking the plunge, the amount of information on this topic can be very overwhelming. This is true especially if this is your first time trying to setup something on a web host.
There will be those who are just trying to setup that one blog that they have been planning to write ever since and then there are those looking forward to setup complete sites.
The top 5 lessons I learnt while digging for information on blogging / web hosting are :
You cannot learn all the steps before starting. Try to take one step at a time. It does not matter if you do not know what you will be doing next. If you are trying to register a domain name you should conveniently delay learning everything else about web hosting. That way you will actually make progress.
Research takes time and even the best search engine (read as Google) can throw data at a rate you cannot possibly dream of understanding. Don’t worry – eventually everything will start making sense.
There are good authors out there who write really good stuff. If you know how to use Google efficiently, you will manage to step over the various commercial sites who only want to sell you domain names, web space, dedicated servers and rank very high in the search results. Learn the art of Google if you haven’t already.
The dilemma of choice. When you have decided to shell out money for a particular service provider, (say a web host), you are bound to come across a post that criticizes that very service. If you take each experience very seriously, you will end up rejecting every provider out there. The fact is that you will have to choose someone who does not have too many bad reviews or is not the one who was rated well in the past but has lost credibility over time.
There are discount coupons at every step of web hosting. Before paying money for a domain name or a web host, make sure you search for discounts available through coupons. Just type the_name_of_site_you_are_going_to_pay + coupons in the search box and then let Google do its magic. Don’t be cheap but saving money is absolutely fine. I would suggest you first decide a web host and then search for coupons than the other way around.
This has to the first post.