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Or is it? Way back when I bought my domain and signed up with a web host, I was typical "the internet is so wonderful" optimist. I was thrilled to find something that sounded just about what I kind of wanted - and bam, just like that, $300 poorer and with a useless chunk of web space that wouldn't even work properly. My domain addresses wouldn't connect, my content was being warped - things weren't looking too good for me.
A year later and much wiser, I know better. My site is working, I have a lovely, helpful support team, and I now know what I want. But, that's all well and good for me - I have had added advantage of working for a web hosting company. But what about rest of you out there who don't have my experience, who see a world of opportunity and are about to jump into cesspit of money loss and disappointment.
So, I figure, why not let you in on a useful hint, one that may save you from misfortune. What is it, you ask? Well, simply - know what you want! Sounds way too simple for me to be handing it out, right? I don't think so! Sure, you have a vague idea of what you want, but do you know what all of it means? The "mumbo jumbo", so to speak?
I didn't think so! Listen up, sit back, relax, and before you go jumping off deep end, scroll down and read a bit.
MB of space - MB? Eh? Well, MB stands for MegaByte. This is basically amount of storage space you will have. You can figure out how much space you will need if you spend a little bit of time thinking about what is going onto your site - how graphic intensive it will be, how many pages, any multimedia or music, etc. Make an approximation in your head and then add another 50. This will allow you to add on and expand. It's always better to have too much, rather than too little.
Pricing (Monthly/Yearly) - payment plans are generally either monthly or yearly. Make sure, even if you want a year or more of hosting, to start with a monthly plan! If you give them $3/400 for a year, and then they end up being useless, I'll bet you that you won't be getting that money back. If you start with a monthly account, you can always upgrade to a yearly account. And if you can't upgrade and you're really worried, add up how much it will be for a year, and set that money aside to slowly add back onto your credit card every month.
Domain Registration - do you already own a domain name? A domain name is basically www.yourdomainname.com. Most of web hosts will provide domain name registration in their packages. If you already own your own, you will have to transfer it to their name servers. Make sure this is possible! Ask them if they will do it for you, or ask for directions on how to do it yourself. If you don't own a name already, though, how many will you need? Will one be enough? Do you need redirects; do you want extra names attached to sub-domains?
And then you need actual name! If you're completely stumped, have no ideas, there are some really good places online which will create a list for you.
http://www.1ststar.com/cgi-bin/fswiz/wizard.pl?show_wizard=1 & http://www.ecxmall.com/domains/
Make sure your name is relevant to what's on your site - people tend to get annoyed if your website is called "cool-cars.com" and it ends up being about cushion embroidery.
Email Accounts - there are quite a variety of options in this area. You have mail servers, mailing lists, redirects, catch all. If you're going to be getting a substantial amount of mail through your website, you might want a mail server - an actual site online where you have your own personal mail box. It would usually be mail.yoursitename.com. Mailing lists are sometimes offered and sometimes not - if you're going to be sending out a newsletter, promotional info, etc to a lot of people you might want to go with this option. A mail catch all basically does what its name suggests - catches emails with typos, wrong names etc, but have your domain written properly in address, (i.e. firstname.lastname@example.org). And finally, mail redirects, which give you an email address, but redirects emails sent to it to another mailbox - for example, if you have email@example.com, it could redirect to your hotmail account.
There are many other added options as well, which you need to think about. If you want to have multimedia on your page(s), Front Page support, Access/database support, cgi-bin, custom 404 error pages, search engine submission. Sit down and make a list of what you need.
But before you do anything, send support team of web host an email. Ask them if they provide all of your specific requirements; describe what you are looking for. Be friendly and concise, and see how they react. If they are prompt and friendly or slow and unpleasant. You are always going to end up needing some sort of support during your hosting, and this will be a good indication of what kind of assistance you will get further down line.
Basically what I'm telling you here is to think before you spend. So many people have tales of woe and disappointment; don't end up being one of them. There are no guarantees here, but make it as close to it as possible.
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