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Which Web Host is right for you?

by Shawn Si

There are thousands of Web Hosting Companies out there and counting. How do I choose the ideal plan for my Web Site? The key here is to understand what your Web Sites needs are. Once you know what is required, you can eliminate many options. These are the most important points that you need to focus on:

Determine the requirements of your site. Choosing an Operating System. Choosing between SHARED and DEDICATED solutions. Determine which hosting company is better.

So, what are the requirements of my site? Answer all the following questions. If there is any question that you do not know the answer to, try to work with your Web Designer. If you do not have a Web Designer, try to ask any Web Hosting Provider. If you do not understand any of the terms, see Web Hosting Terminologies at http://www.sirunet.com/WebHostingTerms.com. <ul> How much Disk Space does your Web Site require? How much Monthly Transfer (Bandwidth) do you need? Is a Database required? If so, what Type of Database is required for your site? What Scripting Languages does your web site use? Does your site require Servlet Technology (Server-side scripting language)? If so, What Servlet Technology does your web site use? </ul> Some of the questions above may have approximated answers. Try to do your best and it will help you when choosing your hosting provider and plan.

Most of the sites out there need less than 100 Megabytes (MB) of disk space. Notice that one Megabyte is equivalence to eight Megabits, so do not be fooled by numbers. If your web site is not for heavy media downloads, in most cases you do not need more than 10 Gigabyte (GB) of Monthly Transfer. There is an equation that can be used to calculate your bandwidth: Monthly Transfer = Monthly Visitors x Average Hits per Visitor x Average Page Size

Unless you have a web site hosted already, otherwise it is impossible for you to determine the sites monthly visitors and average page hits per visitor. So lets put this aside for now.

There are many types of databases. The most commonly used database types are MYSQL (Windows & UNIX), ODBC (Windows), and MS Access (Windows). By knowing what type of database you use, it will help you decide which Operating System to go for.

The most popular Scripting Languages are CGI and Perl. While most of the web hosting plans include these as standard features, you do not have to worry too much here. Note: some Free Web Hosting plans DO NOT support scripting languages.

Choosing a Web Host with Servlet Technology is very hard because it is not commonly supported and even for those who say they support it, they do not have sufficient technical support. The most commonly used Servlet Technologies are Active Server Pages (ASP) and Java Server Pages (JSP). While JSP is best supported in both Windows and UNIX environment, ASP is currently well supported only in Windows. Although Sun Java System Active Server Pages do work on UNIX environment, it is still in testing stage; as of July 2004.

What Operating System should I go for? Windows based hosting plans are usually more expensive than those are UNIX based. Why would I need Windows Hosting then? There are many factors. If you use ODBC or MS Access database you may be required to use Windows Hosting. If you use ASP you may be required to use Windows Hosting. If you or your Web Master is more familiar with Windows environment you may consider using Windows Hosting. If you do not need any of the above, I would recommend you to use UNIX based Hosting. Why? Because they are much less expensive in terms of service fees and software licensing than Windows Hosting. Windows hosting are often slower than UNIX hosting in performance. If you have two servers with exact hardware specs, one in UNIX and the other one in Windows, the UNIX server will have better performance in terms of speed, reliability, and security.

Should I use SHARED hosting or DEDICATED hosting? There are only a few reasons that you will need dedicated hosting. Your site contains sensitive information that you need better security and dedicated hosting does that. If you need flexible software support, you should consider dedicated hosting. If you need total control over your account, you should consider dedicated hosting. If you need to host a large web application, dedicated hosting is your choice. So who should choose dedicated hosting? Any Web Sites that need any of the above should choose dedicated hosting. If you do not need any of the above, I would recommend you to use shared hosting because it is more cost effective than dedicated hosting.

Hints on choosing a Web Hosting company Ok. Now I know the requirements of my Web Site and which type of hosting to choose, but how do I know which Web Hosting company is better? There are two factors that you should focus on. First, check if the company offers all the things your Web Site needs. Second, check if the company is reliable in terms of services and support. The only way for you to know if a company is reliable is to try them, so sign up for the plans that have at least 15 days Money-back guarantee. This way you can always cancel the account if you do not feel comfortable with the company. How would you know if they have what you want? Well, the best way is to ask them. Make sure to provide them all of the requirements of your Web Site. There are other ways to know more about the companies, such as finding reviews on hosting community sites. But the reviews are often misleading, thus the best way is still trying it yourselves.

To summarize, make sure to know both what your Web Site needs and what Web Hosting companies are offering before making your final choice.


Shawn Si, is an editor and Marketing Director of Sirunet.com, a leading ecommerce enabled web hosting service provider. He can be reached at shawn@sirunet.com