Littera Scripta

Finding a Web Host Cost

The cost for hosting ranges from free to hundreds of dollars per month (or more for dedicated server setups). There are quite a number of good free hosts. But some of them don't allow commercial pages. Most have some limitations, and often will place advertising banners on your site - either at the top of every page, or in a little popup window. Usually, they won't allow you to use your own domain name . For a guide to free hosts, visit FreeWebspace.net .

You often will receive a free site from your ISP. In most cases they do not allow commercial use, and are not overly reliable as hosts anyway. You should always try to find a company that is dedicated to hosting only. That's where you'll normally find the best customer support, and the highest quality servers.

Once you get into the paid web hosts, you'll be looking at different packages. There are very low cost packages which, while they'll include domain name hosting, won't include more advanced features. It's possible to get domain hosting for as low as $4.95 per month. But don't choose based on price alone.

Features You really need to decide what features you need, and what you can live without. Here's a rundown of the most commonly available features:


FTP access- means you'll be able to use an FTP program to upload and download your website pages. You NEED this one.
Telnet access- this is necessary if you'll be installing any CGI scripts (like shopping carts).
CGI-bin- there is a difference between having cgi scripts available to use, and having your own cgi-bin. If you want to install custom scripts (like a bulletin board, or a shopping cart) then you need your own cgi-bin.
Unixvs. NT- most people will start out with a Unix host. NT is sometimes necessary for certain specific applications, but not generally anything that a bookseller might need.
POP mailboxesIncoming mailboxes. You can't send mail from a POP mailbox, but you can receive. Allows you to use an email address with your domain name. When you reply to these messages, you use your regular ISP email address. All that you need is an email program capable of multiple accounts (most are).
SMTP mailboxesOutgoing mail server. Since it is considered something of a security hazard, it's not nearly as common as POP mail.
Data storageYou will probably need at least 10 MB of storage space. If you have graphics on your site, then you'll need more. Between 25 and 50 MB would be good.
T1A relatively slow connection to the net.
T3Faster than T1
OC3Faster yet
Data TransferA measure of how much information has been viewed by your visitors. Likely you won't need more than about 1000 MB (for the average bookstore).
Front Page extensionsOnly needed if you use MS Front Page.
StatisticsLets you see how many visitors you've had. The important number is always the number of sessions or unique visitors you've had
Auto RespondersAn automatic email that's sent out every time one comes in. They are mostly useful when you go off on vacation and want to let people know that you might not get back to them for a few days. They've been known to wreak havoc on mailing lists though. Imagine if your autoresponder answered every message from a list with a message back to the list... which it would then receive and respond to ad infinitum. It either makes everyone on the list crazy, or it crashes the email server.
Anonymous FTPWhen you go to a site that has shareware to give away and you download a copy, you are using their anonymous FTP capability. Basically it just means that visitors can download specified files from your site.
Audio/VideoThe capacity to turn your page into a singing, dancing nightmare. Okay, so I can see using it on a music site, or other relevant places. But when it's on a booksite, it's just startling.
Secure Socket Layer (SSL)- Allows you to install a secure server certificate, so you can have a secure order form. Some hosts allow you to use the site-wide certificate already installed, and some don't. Make sure you know which is being offered.
PHPStands for... well nevermind... it stands for a bunch of things. But the simplest (over-simplified actually) explanation I can give you is that it's like Javascript except that it is completely cross-platform (it'll run on every computer that visits your site).
MySQLA database. It's fairly advanced for most users. But it is an excellent database.
BackupsThere should be a regular backup made of your site by the host. Preferably every day. Just in case...

Quality

Some hosting companies offer great prices, great features, but terrible support or server downtime. There's not much point in getting a bargain if your site is never up and running.

There are any number of sites that rate web hosting companies. You should check the rating of your prospective host with more than one of these sites though. Sometimes they make mistakes, and sometimes they are biased. Here are a few places to start:

Also, I offer a competitive webhosting package.


 

Related Articles

Domain Names

Your Own Website


Recommended Books

HTML 4 for the World Wide Web, Fourth Edition: Visual QuickStart Guide

Complete Idiot's Guide to Creating a Web Page

Designing Web Graphics.3


Web Links

Arachnophilia This is what I use. It's simple, straightforward, and stable as a rock. Not to mention FREE.

Homesite 4.5 From Allaire. Excellent editor, with many extra features.

Dreamweaver 3.0 The editor of choice for many design professionals.

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Copyright © 2000 by Deanna Ramsay