Have you ever gone car shopping with a former car salesperson? Their industry and sales knowledge is powerful information vital to the average buyer. Gaining their street smarts and savvy gives the buyer an edge. This "edge" can be the difference between getting good value and being taken advantage of.
As a former top web hosting salesman, I have decided to come forward and shed some light on the industry. The rapidly growing world of web hosting, domain names, and basic web design is still a mystery to many interested people. My intent is to help you understand basic "do's and don'ts" in order to help you make a better more-informed decision.
When I got into this business several years ago a close friend if mine had paid $35 for a domain name and had monthly expenses of $20 for simple hosting. By quickly checking the domain name I discovered it was in the hosting company's name and not the actual owner of the website! I also quickly realized that this $275 annual expense was available at less than $100.
Not controlling your domain name can become a huge problem to website owners even though it is the smallest annual expense. You can be "held hostage" by hosting companies who control your domain name. This is how they keep you paying more than you should monthly, because you cannot leave! Make sure you are dealing with a reputable reseller or actual Registrar when you buy your domain name. Also consider buying the name for 5 or 10 years for $40-$80. If your email address changes or the credit card expiration changes, you can accidentally lose the name and have fines of $200 to get it back. Be wary of free domains and free web hosting, as you still get what you pay for. For more info on the subject refer to DomainInformer.
Not having the username and passwords to access the web hosting accounts is another huge mistake many buyers make. If your web designer turns up missing, and you cannot gain access to the files you bought and paid for, then you cannot leave that web host. This is the most common problem I encountered in my selling names, sites, and design! By the time you realize you are over-paying, you are frustrated because you are powerless. Do not trust anyone to keep this information for you. The relationship may change and you will be glad you are independent, informed, and in control of the situation.
Finally you also need to keep a copy of the files on your hard drive and/or backed up on a CD. This way if the web host loses the files or your designer is MIA you have a backup plan. Be sure the domain name is registered with you as the administrative contact, and that you have all username/password combinations for names and hosting accounts.
When you are a prospect everyone acts professionally, but what about after you are a customer? To be really comfortable with your web host make sure they give a 30-day money back guarantee. Load the files and see what kind of performance and customer service you get for a few weeks. If they promised 24/7 customer care on the 3rd ring and you are getting voice mail or being on hold for 15 minutes... you will be free to leave!
Web hosting is simply space in a computer where your html documents and jpeg. images are stored. Good web design allows for easy navigation through the written words and the pictures you want the world to view. What you need to be concerned with is the speed with which your website loads and the amount of uptime your host claims to give. When traffic is a heavy a slow loading website will frustrate interested viewers, and cause them to leave. In addition the host needs a backup plan for power and Internet connectivity. Many top hosts claim 99+% uptime year round. Get details about top hosts at HostReview.com.
Things to consider when buying web space are as follows: Will you utilize a database for a dynamic searchable site? Are you going to have a store, selling products online in a shopping cart? Are you going to have Unix or Windows based hosting? Do you need a secure site (static IP) needed to enter sensitive information like social security or credit card numbers safely? How much space do you need for large audio and video files, versus pictures and text only? And what is the difference between shared and dedicated hosting?
To answer all the above simply I will paint some broad stokes below. More knowledge about technical info can be found at WebKnowHow.net http://www.webknowhow.net. People are unclear on the differences between shared and dedicated hosting. Most everyone starts with shared hosting as it is more affordable and works fine. In a shared hosting environment, the computer space is sliced up and "shared" among many small sites. Shared hosting ranges from a few dollars a month for a simple site to as much as $30-50/mo if you are selling online. Dedicated hosting usually begins at $59 and can easily reach $200/mo. and more.
If your site ever gets really popular and/or you have many transactions happening you to will move to a dedicated server. Dedicated meaning that all of that computer's resources are allocated to you alone. If you do not know how to configure the server then you will need technical assistance in the form of an IT employee.
This technical expert will monitor the data center operations; of your hosting company to make sure data is backed up and protected by firewalls. Firewalls protect your computer from being "hacked" into unauthorized people. Another option you may consider is an emerging trend known as "managed dedicated servers". The host helps to manage the servers daily operation, in order to help the novice operator.
Both shared and dedicated hosting requires a decision between Unix and Windows. This has been compared with people's preference to Ford or Chevrolet. Some people grow up and get used to one and prefer it for some reason. Others know both and utilize what will be best in each situation.
From the viewer's perspective, both Unix and Windows look the same. If you are going to use ASP (Active Server Pages) you will need Windows. Unix utilizes PHP instead of ASP, and is generally more stable and affordable. This is because the license fees paid to Microsoft increase the hosting company's overhead and they pass that on to the consumer.
Many PC users have Front Page design software from Microsoft included as a gift in their original purchase. Unix hosting now includes front-page support for well under $10/mo. So you can utilize design software you already have, and host for under $100 per year.
Dreamweaver is the other popular design software program you should investigate if you are thinking about doing website design. Be wary of friends or relatives who will do the design for free. If they are gainfully employed, the tasks that they are paid for will take priority, which places unnecessary strains on the relationship. More info on web design and search engine optimization can be found at PromotionWorld.com http://www.promotionworld.com/.
We also need to understand the relationship between the static IP address, using a database, and using eCommerce features to sell products online. IP addresses help identify where the actual end user is located physically. This is important if we need to locate to the original sender of a message or a live user creating havoc on the Internet.
Many of us have bought an airline ticket online by now. You may have noticed the screen that alerts you to the fact your connection is secure. This secure certificate assures a computer user that it is safe to enter credit card info and buy without fear of someone intercepting your sensitive data.
The static IP allows authorities and credit card processors to track storeowners and their computers to insure 100% honesty. Most shared web hosting sites share IP addresses as well. This is fine for a simple informational website with just pictures and text.
Dynamic sites are capable of storing your name and user profiles at an initial visit. This allows the site to "recognize" you on a subsequent visit and quickly load the profile for instant access. Dynamic sites also search for products or names in the company's stored database. Searching for different items quickly and the site saving all your personal information, is a direct benefit of a database.
Most initial sites will not use static IPs or databases unless you are going to be selling online. These stores are referred to as eCommerce web hosting and are the most expensive of all. Monthly charges can easily exceed $50/mo when you consider all expenses of the static IP, payment gateway, merchant account, and shopping cart.
Buyers add items to their "shopping cart"; it totals shipping and taxes and charges your card. Merchant account banks process your buyer's online purchase, charging 2-3% fee total to send money to your bank. You are then free to ship the product they bought.
My personal website has lots of pictures and text, yet is barely over 50 MB in size. 1 GB (1000MB) of storage, now is available for $10/mo, and has 20 times the storage I need. Large video files such as streaming video and audio are the largest users of space. 200MB and 10 email addresses are going to be as much as many small sites will ever need. Often of you prepay the year you can get a free month or the setup fees waived. Also find a host who pays you to refer friends, and you can get free months that way.
I hope this information helps you better understand the power of the Internet. We are all connected through this World Wide Web, and it is your right to benefit in every way possible. Come on, jump in, the water's fine...
Jamie Chantiles is Director of Sales for DevStart. He has been featured in magazines and on TV as an expert in peak performance. His speciality is in increasing productivity and attaining peak performance by harnessing the power of your own brain. Jamie has worked in the web hosting industry, selling and training for the last 2 years. Read more stimulating, probing and revealing articles on HostReview (www.hostreview.com).