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How to pick a good webhost for your website

Posted on Sep 13, 2007 by Paul White

Website hosting is one area that most people don't have a clue.  If you are a small business owner and not a developer you won't have any clue as to how to tell the difference between multiple hosts.  Every hosting plan can be measured on the following.


- Measured in MB ( megabytes ) or GB gigabytes
This is how much data ( photos, text, code ) you can store on your website.


- Measured in MB ( megabytes ) or GB gigabytes
This is how much data is passed back and forther between you and the server, or the server and the people looking at your website.

Opertating System

Websites can be hosted on any thing that can run a web server ( software that enables websites to work ).  The most popular are Linux and Windows.  Windows can run any type of site. Linux can run anything except ASP and ASP.NET.  Windows tends to be more expensive because of licensing fees.

Additional things your host may provide.

Stats Server

This allows you to see how much traffic you are getting.

Mail Server

This allows you to have email accounts

Database Server

This is usually a MySQL or MSSQL Database server. This allows you to store data and retrieve it quickly for use on your website. 

Website hosting comes in 4 varieties.

Shared Hosting

This is where a website is hosted on a box with other sites.  You have access via FTP to your files to upload new content.  The majority of websites are hosted in this way.  Shared hosting is the cheapest way to host.  Plans can range from $3/ month up to over $100 / month.  Hosting companies load anywhere between 20 to over 1000 websits on a single box.

Dedicated Hosting

This is where your website(s) run on their own box.  This results in much faster performance, and can handle much more traffic than a shared hosting account. Costs usually start  around $150 / month and worth their way up.

VPS Hosting

This is where you have all the power of a dedicated host without the cost.  Using virtualization software you hosting is able to create several logical dedicated servers on a single box.  The only downfall is you are usually restricted to the amount of ram, and sometimes you are also restricted to CPU time.  These accounts are much more powerful than a shared hosting account. Costs start at $40 / month and work their way up.

Colocated Hosting

This is where your website runs on its own box, and you own the box.  Servers can cost as little as $500 up to over $10,000. And can be bought from many differenct companies.  The most populare are Dell, IBM, HP.  You can also find plenty of used servers on Ebay. Colocation can start for around $120 / month for a 1 Unit Rack Server, and work its way up depending on how much transfer you need.

How do I tell what is a good hosting account?

First and foremost the most important thing in a hosting account is customer support.   Websites can go down no matter where they are hosted, and if you call in to be on hold for 30 minutes, or if they don't have call support, they are not a good host.  Find a host that has 24 call support.  If they put you on hold for more than 30 seconds, they are not a good host.  I host all my websites with HostMySite.com  They are in my opinion the industry leader in customer support.   I can call in at 3am and I get a knowledgable american picking up the phone ready to assist me. 

But isn't Godaddy.com and 1and1.com good hosts?  They give alot more transfer, and storage than hostmysite.com?
As a rule of thumb the best hosts do not advertise. HostMySite relies on word of mouth, and as a result is one of the fastest growing hosting companies in the USA.  Developers that know use Hostmysite.com.   Instead of wasting millions of print advertising, or TV ads, they put that into hiring the best customer support techs they can find, and they staff them to make sure their customers don't have to wait on hold ever.  I have worked with other hosting companies.  The bigger the company the more likely it is you have a MBA that has never build a website or programmed in their life making decisions.  To cut costs they outsource their call centers to China or India.  Ever been lost in translation?  On top of that they have a multilevel support structure. The person you talk to is trained to help customer with very simple stuff.  If you need something more complex, they have to submit a ticket to level 2 support, where they take a few days to get back to you.  This kind support does not fix problems.  This is what we call Bureaucracy.  HostMySite has their top level support on the phones.  And for the transfer.  I can tell you that doing more than 30 Gigs of transfer a month takes alot of traffic.  For most people transfer won't be an issue.

What do I need for a hosting account?

If you are getting a website you need the following
Web Server, Mail Server, Stats Server, Database Server, Control Panel
On top of this you want a host that does not force you to use their FTP client and their DB client to access your account.
They should let you use any third party client that you wish. 

Why are you so Pro HostMySite?

Companies can be judged by its leaders.  The best companies are not lead by an MBA.  They are lead by those who lead by example.  Bill Gates made Microsoft what is is.  Gates is a programmer, and has spend countless hours programming some of the products himself.  Even though today he plays a more political role, he is respected among programmers.  The CEO of HostMySite, Lou Honick. is yet another leader, that has earned the respect of web developers.  He started off as a webdeveloper, and quickly learned what developers want out of a host.  So he started a company to provide this.  This is not your typical CEO that spends his afternoons at the golf course.  His focus in always on his customers.  Earlier this year Hostmysite suffered a major outage.  A construction crew accidently cut one of the data connections to their datacenter.  It was a hot day. and while most CEOs would be in their air conditioned office. Lou was outside with a shovel digging a hole with so they could quickly repair the connection, and get their datacenter back online.  This kind of leadership earns respect.

Update 9/11/2009

HostMySite is now Hosting.com
Their Shared hosting offerings are no longer competitive ( $24/ month for .NET hosting )  Sure its nice to get a real live person answering the phones, but at what cost?  I have moved 3 of my VPS clients to dedicated boxes with Godaddy, and I no longer use the HostMySite shared plans as they are too expensive.  The people with HostMySite are still great people, but the original CEO I spoke so highly about ( Lou Honick ) has left the company to spend more time with family.  Instead of putting Jamie Price in charge ( the only guy in the company with a clue ), they put the Hosting.com CEO ( Zeil ) in charge who only cares about Dedicated Hosting.  It will be interesting to see where they get their dedicated Hosting customers without a growing base of Shared Hosting Customers. 

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