Your Most Important Online Business DecisionWritten by Barbara Camisa
Your web business depends on your site's uptime around clock. When you want to make a purchase online, you most likely take time to check credentials of that business. Yet, how many of you actually bother to check out credentials and competency of a web host, which is absolutely stronghold of your web business?
I've been in hosting industry as a reseller for almost 5 years. It's become a zoo out there. With so many hosts coming and going, or sites constantly going down or getting cracked into from lack of security measures (very common), how can you really know for sure if you're going with a reliable and competent host?
Emailing to test their support response is NOT a good indicator of their response time. Some will be very fast for pre-sales questions, but extremely slow or non-responsive for support once you are a customer. On other hand, sometimes very slow for pre-sales and fast for customer support.
Here are a few important tips to keep in mind when shopping for a web host:
First of all, be sure they have a phone number posted on their site. There's no reason why they shouldn't be reached easily via phone.
Phone them and ask questions. It's preferable to get a technically savvy person to call for you. You need to be assured that host's staff is competent and security conscious. There are so many variables in securing servers. Only a competent technical person would know key questions to ask, but importantly, can also tell by conversing with host how competent they really are. I may sound redundant, but you'd be surprised at how many hosting providers wing their way i.e. they learn as they go along, thus, causing downtime and/or slowing down speed of your website.
Also, discuss with them what your needs are for your business.
If you need any of following, it's vital that you find out if host can accommodate you:
Streaming Media - for live audio and video feeds
SSH (secure shell) - SSH is a secure telnet - Some programs need telnet access for installation. Also, if you want to add more data to data base that may be too large to install using a web-based data base system like phpMyAdmin (a common program provided by most hosts), it will require telnet access. If a host provides unsecure telnet, run other way!
SSL (secure sockets layer) Certificate -This is needed if you'll be using a merchant account to take payments from web.
If you use an SSL Certificate, it is mandatory that you get an IP based account, whereby you get your own IP number instead of sharing same IP number with several other accounts on server.
Mailing List Accommodation - Many hosts are not equipped to accommodate large mailing lists on their email servers. So, if you have a large list and use your own list software, get specifics on this.
Data Bases - Think about how many data bases you'll need to start with. For instance, if you'll be running a forum using php software, it will require one data base. You may decide to use a program to make your site data-base driven, that will be yet another data base needed.
The Host With the Most?Written by Jason Shpik
Web hosting in one of its various guises should be considered by any enterprise embarking on e-business. The potential for cost savings and benefits through reaching customers and coming to market faster is huge, but there are also great risks. The principal danger is of choosing a Web hosting provider that is either unsuitable -- perhaps being unable to deliver level of service you require -- or worse, about to go bust. The dangers of latter were demonstrated by high-profile agonies suffered last year by PSInet, company previously touted as "Internet super-carrier", which is now threatened with bankruptcy. The problem with Web hosting business is that to make it viable, major investment has to be made up-front in data centres, staff and network infrastructure, in hope that customers will then come flocking in. Although rapid growth in Internet use continued through 2000 despite dot-com debacle, PSInet suffered because it was over-ambitious in its projections and a little ahead of its time. Caroline Bryan, Web hosting analyst at Datamonitor, says, "It over-reached itself and sunk too much money into its IP network and datacentres, while services did not take off quite as expected," This showed that size alone is no guarantee of success in Internet service business, so question is how can a potential Web hosting customer make sure it is entrusting its Internet shop window to right provider. After all, in case of full outsourced Web hosting, an enterprise might be relying on service provider to collect a sizeable proportion of its revenue through e-commerce, as well as to deal with customers. According to Bryan, hosting companies that have spun off from some existing large players in telecommunications or systems integration are better placed, because they have independent revenue streams and so rely less heavily on goodwill and patience of their financial backers. The best UK example is BT Ignite, said Bryan, which although still losing money overall has a huge existing network infrastructure it can call on, as well as BT's IT solutions business Syncordia and its outsourcing company Syntegra. This point is echoed by other analysts, such as consultant and analyst Ovum's ISP-watcher Henning Dransfeld. "ISPs with a telco background can leverage their telecom network and are in a good position to offer good quality of service," he says. This includes not only big incumbent carriers such as BT, but also likes of NTL with cable TV networks and in future others exploiting unbundled local loop. It can be argued that BT has over-reached itself with huge investment in 3G mobile networks on which there will be no immediate return. There is also little matter of $1.25bn ([pound]8.5bn) it is spending jointly with US telecoms giant AT&T over three years in setting up global network of at least 44 data centres for Ignite Web hosting services. But principal risk is of takeover rather than collapse, with hopefully less disruption to hosting. In any case, at least according to BT Ignite's vice-president of sales and marketing Perses Sethna, company is on target to start making money on Web hosting by 2003. Some of individual country businesses making up BT Ignite are already profitable, for example I.net in Italy, which recently had a successful initial public offering with BT retaining a 50.8% stake. But other Ignite businesses, including UK operation, are still making significant losses. Expansion The Web hosting story began in US with basic co-location services and has since expanded into more managed offerings, including up to full outsourcing and application provision. There is now a broad spectrum of services on offer, but most analysts assign these to just three categories. For this reason, others such as Worldport only provide dedicated services. Few if any ISPs in hosting business want to confine themselves purely to co-location because, as research director specialising in ISP issues at Gartner Group Eric Paulak points out, it delivers a relatively poor return per unit of space and in locations such as City of London, where property is expensive, it is only just viable. Matching hosting providers to these categories is easier said than done, as suppliers are reluctant to admit that they are only in co-location arena, even if that is all they are capable of providing. BT Ignite addresses entire spectrum, but Sethna admits cheerfully that all their marketing effort is pitched at dedicated hosting because that is where most money is to be made. "If you look at pricing for basic co-location within UK, it works out at about [epsilon]100 ([pound]65) per square foot," says Paulak. This figure can be increased by perhaps 25% by offering some additional management, for example of IP routers, but pales into insignificance when compared to pickings that can be made with dedicated services.