How to Choose a Web Hosting Company

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There are a lots of hosting centers out there and choosing the right one for your need can be daunting task. I have learnt it the hard way, but hey, you don't have to go through the same burnt fingers incident. I have listed features you may need to check with a hosting company. There are two sets here. The first set is for normal users who need to get their sites up and running quickly. The second set should be an extension of the first set and are features that an advanced user should check for.

Set 1:
  1. Multiple Domains: What this means that the hosting center allows you to host multiple domains on one account. This is useful if you have many websites.
  2. Uptime: The time basically expressed in a percentage during which the server hosting your website is up. Frankly speaking having an uptime of 100% is unrealistic. Imagine your site running day in - day out throughout the year. Anytime around 99% is acceptable.
  3. Support: These are the timing during which support is provided either through email or phone. You shouldn't settle for anything less than 24/7.
  4. Ticketing System: The ticketing system the hosting company provides through te web so that you can track your issues or questions.
  5. Average Response Time: The response time to answer your queries through tickets opened or phone calls. This is very crucial because you don't want to wait for many hours or days for a response. This feature cannot be normally obtained. But if you can get a rough number, it would be great.
  6. Backup Procedure: Going my Murphy's Law, it is of utmost importance that the hosting company provides a decent backup process proportional to the rate at which your site is updated.
  7. Website Loading Speed: This determines how slow or fast your website is. Slow sites are annoying to users. You could ask for some sites hosed by the company and determine the speed.
  8. Bandwidth: This is the amount of information that can be downloaded or uploaded to the server hosting your website. This number is usually expressed in GB and you should calculate it based on estimated website traffic.
  9. Disk Space:  The amount of space provided by the hosting center to hold your website. This number again is to be estimated depending on how much your require.
  10. RAID Support: This basically means that the Hard Disk within the server hosting your website is duplicated to provide redundancy. It is very useful to have this feature because if one Hard Disk fails you can always rely on another.
  11. Control Panel: It is basically an interface to manage your account.
  12. Emails: The number of emails provided by the company for your website. This is really important to have and is generally provided my all major hosting company.
  13. Relevant Software: This totally depends on the website you wish to host. Normally you should be looking for MySQL (Database), PHP / PERL / Python(Scripting Language).
  14. Configuration of Hardware: Basically you would be interested in the processor speed and the RAM. These all change every year and you would want these values to be in acceptable range.
  15. Money: I have put it here after you weigh the options and features provided by the company and see if it fits your budget.

Set II: (Advanced Users)
  1. Version Control System: It is always nice to have a version control system. What a version control system allows you to do is go back is history and get an old version of some file. This is useful if you change code files and want to make sure that you have some kind of history of the file. SVN is the most popular version control that some companies have started providing.
  2. SSH Access: Normally if your hosting company has *NIX servers, you should check if they provide SSH access. It is always nice to have.
Hope these help.

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