How To Select A Good Website Hosting CompanyWritten by Jeff Colburn
I constantly encounter people that want me to design or update a website for them, and they are already signed up with a hosting company. The only problem is that many of these people should never have signed up with that particular hosting company. I'm dealing with a client now who is paying almost two and a half times more a month than she should, and service hosting company provides is substandard.
I run into many problems with hosting companies, including:
- Prices being too high. I often see people paying $15 to $25 a month, when average is $9 or less. The $15 to $25 fee is okay, if you are getting monthly updates, or some other service, from a website designer.
- Very important features are missing, such as form handling and some e-mail features.
- You can only post websites that you make using their design software. This means you must stay with them or completely redesign your website if you decide to go to another hosting company. If you can't recreate your website you will wind up paying hundreds or thousands of dollars to have someone else do it.
- Terrible technical support. I have called technical support at several hosting companies to get some needed information only to be told, "We aren't going to help you with that." You usually hear this response from companies that really don't care about their clients.
- The hosting company has listed themselves as owner of domain name. This means that they own your domain, you don't. This is considered very unethical. It can take months to have your name put on as owner, if they will do this at all. Do you own your domain name? Go to http://www.WhoIs.com and do a search for your domain. You should be listed as registrant. If this is not case, then you don't own your domain.
The features offered by web hosts vary widely, as do their costs. Following are minimum features a decent hosting company should offer, in my opinion.
- A minimum of 500 MB of storage space. This is equal to about 500,000 pages of text. Yes, this is more space than you will probably ever use, but quite a few web hosting services offer this amount. I have almost 150 pages on my website and over 300 graphics, but I only use 38 MB of disk space on server.
- Unlimited POP3 E-mail Accounts. This lets you have an unlimited number of e-mail accounts so you can keep e-mails separated for different departments or personnel.
- 6 GB (Gigabytes) of data transfer (bandwidth) per month. This is equal to about 6,000,000 pages of text. If you have a website that contains 10 pages, and each page is a MB (Megabyte) and a person goes to each of your pages, then that person would have used 10 MB of your bandwidth.
- No long-term contract. You should be free to pay monthly, quarterly or annually. The longer you sign up for less it will cost you. Also check into what happens if you want to cancel hosting service. Will you get any unused money back?
- Technical support should be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You should be able to contact technical support by phone (with a toll free number) and e-mail.
- Unlimited e-mail autoresponders, so you can set up links on your site that will automatically send information via e-mail when a person clicks on link.
- A control panel or site manager so you can control all aspects of your website, including e-mail, backups and software installation. You should also be able to check your site statistics to see how many hits each page is getting.
- Mail list manager, so if you have an ezine you can manage your list of subscribers.
- 30-day money back guarantee. Many hosting companies don't offer this, but many do. The hosting company I use is Westhost (www.Westhost.com), and they offer all of these features, and more.
Avoid Free Hosting like plague. These hosts don't charge a monthly fee, but they do put ads on your site. These ads may run across top, side or pop-up anywhere on screen. People find these ads annoying and distracting. Using a free hosting service will put many people off and you will lose visitors. Customers will also be more reluctant to buy any products or services from you. Would you buy something from a business that couldn't afford to pay $5-$10 a month for website hosting? It will also be more difficult for people to remember you web address. Instead of www.Acme.com, your web address may well be www.TheFreeSite.com/acme.html. And if company goes out of business, then your site is gone and all listings you have on search engines will no longer work.
Speed Up Your Web Site For More SalesWritten by Alvin Apple
Margaret spent a lot of time and money to get her web site just right. The big photo of a professional at work beckoned visitors to stay and learn how they, too, could be as successful.
Links to her main pages flashed when a vistor's mouse passed over them. She even featured a classy animated mailbox at bottom of page to encourage visitors to send her email.
But something went wrong. When Margaret checked her web site visitor statistics after one week, she noticed most people clicked to her site, then clicked away after just a few seconds. No sales.
Like many sites, Margaret's takes too long to load. The very graphics and programming tricks that seem so exciting are loading at a snail's pace on dial-up connections 85 percent of her customers have.
For a while there I thought all we needed to do was wait for a few months and most North American's would have fast cable or DSL hook-ups. Even fanciest sites crammed with eye-popping graphics would download in a breath.
But Wall Street's telecom melt-down has all but sealed our fat- pipes fate. It looks like most of us will be using dial-up to get on line for several more years if not another decade.
Here's what you need to do to get on right side of this important trend:
Step 1. Start cutting. Right now you can't do better than to scale back time it takes your site to load. Last year Zona Research estimated 40 percent of sales were lost due to customers who left a site early after waiting on slow web pages. That translates into $21 billion in lost sales.
If you've visited FedEx site lately to track a package, you may have noticed their pages come up much faster. Now pages download in less than two seconds. Big sites like FedEx have special server tricks up their sleeve, but some of time- cutting things they do will work for anyone.
Step 2. Reduce those graphics. FedEx took big jpeg file photo off page and replaced with a much faster loading gif file graphic. Jpeg files, commonly used for photos, require thousands of colors. A gif file, used for drawings and simpler graphics, can be compressed to include only a few colors.
Think of your favorite cartoon character. Chances are he or she is created with a just a few colors, maybe as few as two. That translates into a graphic that downloads fast. A designer confided you can get killer graphics with just 16 colors.