Hosting your web page or website can be as simple as a quick Internet search. But as with most things you buy online, you need to be wary of what you purchase. A hosting plan is only as good as the reputation of the company from which you purchase it.
Top Hosting Companies
The top three hosting companies (as of January, 2013) as reviewed by Hosting-Review.com are listed below along with details on what each has to offer.
Out of a score of 100, Hosting-Review.com gave HostPapa a 94. Not only does this web host get high marks for reliability and affordability, but they also run on green renewable energy sources, making it an environmentally conscientious choice.
- Cost: HostPapa is often seen as one of the most reasonable web hosts with a variety of features for website owners. With the $3.95/month package, you get unlimited hosting space.
- Features: There are quite a few bonus features, such as free domain name registration, unlimited add-on domains, $50 in free Facebook advertising credits, $100 to use toward Google AdWords and typical features such as PHPMyAdmin, Frontpage Extension and web building software.
- Support: Support is offered 24/7 for 365 days of the year and is based in North America. They also offer a 30-day money-back guarantee if you are unhappy with their services.
- Positives: According to WebHostingStuff.com, HostPapa has 99.98% uptime reliability. This is most likely due to the fact that the company has its own data centers and complete security and emergency generator backup.
- Possible Drawbacks: To get the $3.95/month price, you have to pay for three years in advance. While this is still under $150, it is a chunk of change to lay out at one time and if you are unhappy with them you will be out the money should you choose to switch to a new host after the first 30 days. They also only offer one basic hosting plan, so if your site needs additional features later, there are no options to upgrade.
- Best For: Sites that use a lot of space or bandwidth
iPage gets 92 out of 100 points from Hosting-Review.com and is second on their list of top 10 hosts. There are more than 96 positive customer reviews on the site, praising iPage for things like a welcome phone call for new customers and fast customer support responses. They offer unlimited domains, disk space and bandwidth.
- Cost: The hosting fee is $3.95/month for a 12-month plan, with a lower per monthly fee for longer contracts.
- Features: Features include shopping carts, drag and drop site building and free marketing tools.
- Support: 24/7 support is provided via live chat, phone or e-mail.
- Positives: Anytime money back guarantee,
- Possible Drawbacks: Some of the customer reviews on Hosting-Review.com indicate that there may be FTP connectivity issues. If you create your own HTML pages and upload them via FTP, this is something you should be aware of and try out extensively before your trial period is up. They do offer a money-back guarantee, so check for issues in the first few weeks.
- Best For: Those who need an ecommerce capable website or need web design tools and a step-by-step process to get a website up and running
Hosting-Review.com's next webhosting provider on the list is HostGator at an 89 out of 100 percent. While customer reviews are mixed, those who love HostGator's services state reasons such as customer support, prices and tons of features.
- Cost: $6.36/month with a 36-month contract. This gives you the same features of unlimited domains. If you only need one domain pointed, then you can get the hosting cheaper.
- Features: Free site building tools and website templates, shared SSL certificate, cPanel, $100 for AdWords and free SEO tools.
- Support: 24/7 support via phone, live chat and e-mail all 365 days a year.
- Positives: This company has also made a commitment to go green and their servers are wind-powered. Additional benefits include unlimited disk space and bandwidth, as well as the ability to upgrade to a reseller or to a dedicated server as your business grows.
- Possible Drawbacks: Some customers indicate that if you have a website with extremely high bandwidth, you may experience problems with HostGator and describe customer support as less than stellar. Ironically, positive reviews often state that excellent customer support is one of the best features of HostGator. If you choose to host with them, it might pay to call back at different times, since your customer support experience may vary by which technician you speak with at the time.
- Best For: Web designers who want to host more than one site or resell hosting to their clients or companies that may have growing needs
Choosing a Host for Your Website
While the companies described above are three of the most popular and highly regarded providers, they are certainly not the only options. When you select a hosting company, what you are doing is renting web space to store your website. Besides web pages, your host will also store pictures, videos, documents and another files you use to keep your website up and running. You may want to use the company that you used to register your domain name for hosting, or you may want to choose a different provider. Choosing a hosting plan that works for you depends on your web design knowledge and experience, your budget and the size and complexity of your website.
The price of a host should not be the only characteristic when choosing a plan. There are many factors to consider when choosing a company to host your website, such as:
- Bandwidth: The amount of traffic allowed between your site and the rest of the Internet; most small businesses and personal sites usually don't need more than 1GB of bandwidth per month.
- Speed: How quickly visitors to your website can load and view your pages; if your pages load slowly, visitors will leave rather than waiting around to see what you have to offer.
- Security: Protects your site from unwanted intrusions; a host's security protocol should be outlined in a way that makes its security protocols clear to customers.
- Control panel: This is a centralized location where you can set up your domain, e-mail accounts, logins, software and more; most control panels are included in the package you purchase, although some companies will charge you an additional fee to access a control panel.
- Reliability: How often does the host's main servers crash? Are there backup servers available? How often are your files backed up?
- Customer service: Many options should be available including a 24-hour toll-free phone number, 24-hour e-mail help, a FAQ page, forums, and many times, a live chat feature.
- Contract: These are usually available on a month-to-month, quarterly or annual basis. Discounts are usually offered on contracts for longer time periods.
- Server software: The operating system of the server; most use Windows or UNIX, with some offering hosting packages that feature both options.
Additional questions to keep in mind when choosing a hosting company include:
- Cost of additional storage space
- Cost of extra gig of data transfer
- Number of FTP accounts are included in the plan
- Inclusion of shell account
- Number of POP3 e-mail accounts
- Spam filtering provision
- Number of sub-domains allowed
- Support for C++, JSP, Java Servlets, etc.
Pointing Your Domain
If you decide to go with a hosting company that is different from where your domain is registered, you need to follow a few simple steps to make sure your domain points toward your new host. Do not cancel your current host until your new web host is up and running (and verified!):
- Establish an account with a new host. When you do this, you will receive a temporary domain name to be used until your site goes live.
- Access new account with server hostname or IP address provided (usually in a welcome e-mail).
- Upload your website through FTP or other publishing software.
- Open site with your temporary domain to make sure everything is working correctly.
- Update your domain with the company with which it is registered to use the new host's DNS (Domain Name Servers) numbers; these are usually given to you in a welcome e-mail from the new host (you may need to contact the registrar's customer service for help).
- It can take as little as 12 hours or as much as a week for the site to propagate to the new server.
Choose a Host
There are many companies out there that want to host your website. While some will try to rip you off, many providers are legitimate. Take your time and ask a lot of questions until you find the host that is right for you. If you switch to a new hosting company and are not happy with their services, there are hundreds of others that may better meet your needs.