Your Most Important Online Business DecisionWritten by Barbara Camisa
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CGI and PHP -They should already have this enabled on server. If they don't, then they aren't keeping up with latest technology.
Be sure host can upgrade your account as your business grows.
I don't recommend that you get a dedicated server unless you know how to administer one or can pay for a system administrator to handle your. A lot goes into managing a server. When a host offers 'managed' servers, it doesn't necessarily mean that they take care of everything on your server. You are responsible for maintaining it, otherwise average tech fees are $95 per hour.
Find out how many backbone providers they have. A good host would have a minimum of 2, preferably more. That's a very important factor. A few years ago, I was hosted and also was hosting sites from a popular large international hosting provider. All sites went down for two days due to a problem with their backbone. That's when I discovered that they only had ONE backbone provider. That could have been avoided had they another provider. Had I did my homework more thoroughly, I could have avoided a full day of downtime!
In event you go over your bandwidth limit, does site go down or do they just send you a bill with extra costs, accordingly? You need to know this from very start, so you don't get surprised if your site goes down from exceeding your bandwidth limit.
Also, there are hosts advertising 'unlimited bandwidth'. There's no such animal. Even backbone providers couldn't guarantee such a thing. That's impossible. Most hosts who advertise unlimited bandwidth have a disclaimer attached to their sites, usually stating that your site will go down or you'll be charged for extra bandwidth if you exceed 4 gigs.
Do they have daily backup? This is very important! However, be sure to do daily backup of your own sites and any important info to your hard drive for safest measures. Also, download your sites to cd or zips and keep them in a fireproof safe-box along with your other important biz docs.
Word of 'Very Reliable' mouth from someone who has been with a host for at least a year, with minimal or no problems is another good factor. From time to time, problems can occur with best of them. Importantly is efficiency of host, in handling problems.
You can find out if a host is a reseller by using tools at either http://www.Samspade.org or http://www.DNSstuff.com. There's nothing wrong with going with a reseller if they are very competent and manage their business well. Actually, many of cream-of-the-crop resellers don't even advertise their services, since they get plenty of business via word of mouth.
The advantages of going with a very competent reseller are that you get more personable attention and some will even give you extra services. A reseller should tell you up front that they are a reseller.
If your bread and butter is dependent on your online business, you'll go extra miles in doing your homework when shopping for a host, less you don't mind losing business and/or moving your sites from host to host.
Barbara Camisa is a Web Developer/Designer, Advisor, Virtual Web Host, Domain Name Expert, Project Manager and Web Development Tutor. She's been helping webmasters and web business owners since 1998. Visit her private coaching site at http://www.BusinessWebWise.com.
The Host With the Most?Written by Jason Shpik
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The gulf is not difficult to estimate, As a rule of thumb, according to Paulak, a business-class hosting service with management will cost between [pound]100 and [pound]400 per user per month, depending on location and level of sophistication, with average being around [pound]200. A typical Web server can handle 50 users and 12 such servers can be accommodated in a rack occupying nine square feet in a room. This equates to about [pound]10,000 per server per month, or [pound]120,000 per rack per month. Dividing by nine square feet, this comes to about [pound]13,500 per square foot per month, which is a good 100-fold increase on what can be earned with co-location. The result is that dedicated services are that much more expensive for customers, but when you put into equation cost of managing facility and acquiring necessary in-house IT skills, it may look more attractive. For a mid-sized company with 100 users, cost of a dedicated Web hosting service would be [pound]240,000 per year on this basis. So despite these costs, there is a strong swing in demand from co-location towards dedicated services, according to Sethna. But because of huge cost differential, a number of larger enterprises that already have most of human resources needed to run a Web site will at least start off with co-location to test waters. To cater for this, many business sector ISPs, such as UUnet, will continue to offer co-location services for foreseeable future, almost as loss leaders to lure customers into their Aladdin's cave of more lucrative services. As Bryan notes, "Web site hosting is one of first things that a company is quite willing to outsource." Dedicated services Basic co-location is technically far easier to provide and is more of a vanilla service, with fewer differences between contenders. But when it comes to dedicated services, some providers are more capable than others, both in their ability to offer high levels of availability needed for e-commerce and in range of options offered. BT Ignite, for example, can now go beyond full outsourcing of IT to embrace customer relationship management (CRM), "In this way we can provide not just technology but surrounding services to get a company to market quickly," says Sethna. This could appeal not just to end customers but also to aspiring application service providers (ASPs) which might have a sound proposition but not be geared up to handle CRM issues on behalf of its own customers. "So we are packaging this as a wholesale ASP offering," says Sethna. Some of value-added services that a large player can bring embrace both IT and surrounding business issues. One is Web caching, which is particularly important for international multinationals, where a global enterprise might want localised content located close to relevant customers for performance reasons. This in tarn requires hosting company to have at least a satellite data centre in each country in which they operate. But before getting carried away with value-added options, users should evaluate ability of hosting companies to deliver maximum availability, says Worldport's vice-president of sales and marketing Frazer Hamilton. This cannot be achieved through resilient hardware and communications alone, but requires attention to operating systems and applications as well. "For this reason we do not use a standard operating system," says Hamilton. "We harden operating system to make it more secure, and also applications." The essence here is to close unnecessary routes into system that a hacker could exploit, using similar principles to those applied to military-grade software development. Now with large Web site hosting, there is a growing need for such hardened software in commercial sector. Another pressing need in Web hosting is better support for peering arrangements between providers. Progress is being made in basic connectivity to create faster transmission with better quality of service along end-to-end paths through Internet, traversing domains of multiple service providers. But what is lacking is ability to retain information about content during such multi-ISP transmission. "We think new content peering arrangements are needed to drive industry forward," says Sethna. "We want to be able to swap content across network and retain intelligence and functionality so that, for example, information on consumer is passed back to source. Then an advertiser might be able to have granular information of who is looking at their content." This may raise privacy issues, but that is another story. Without doubt though next chapter in hosting saga will address content distribution question.
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