How To Find A New Web Host

Courtesy sxc.hu

Last week there was no post here at Oh, A Girl Dragon because I was moving the site to a new host. Setting up new hosting and transferring a site to a new host is something I’ve done more times than I care to admit to. Thus, I thought I would put together a how-to for anyone who is thinking of setting up a new website or transferring their current one.

Decide What You Want & Need

Sit down and list this out. If you’ve never had a website before, this part can be very tricky. If you tell this to a sales person at a large hosting company, they may direct you to a larger package than what you really need. Think about what kind of site you’ll have. A business site that will offer things for sale needs to be a lot more robust than a business website that just has company information on it. A personal blog even less so. The top two things you need to keep in mind are bandwidth and storage space. You will also need databases, the amount of which vary based on what you will be doing with the site. Most hosts will let you upgrade your package mid-contract. Ask how this is done, if there are fees involved, and what you’d be looking at if there’s bandwidth overages. Underestimating your needs can be just as expensive as overestimating them.

Get Recommendations

Chances are you know a few people that have their own website. Ask them who they have and if they like them. Generally you’re locked into a contract for a year or two when you set up hosting so just because someone is using a host, doesn’t mean they like them.

Bigger Is Not Necessarily Better, But Neither Is Smaller

I’ve had large web hosts, the kind you see TV commercials and billboards for, and I’ve also had smaller “mom and pop” hosts. I can’t say one is better than the other. I’ve had good and bad experiences with both kinds. Each host needs to be evaluated individually, and not just on their size. In theory a large host has a large staff, possibly available 24 hours a day, and can fix things fast. On the other hand a small host might be more willing to do “hand holding” with setting things up. Even when you know how to install a copy of WordPress, sometimes it’s nice to let someone else do it. There’s trade offs for both types. A large host can afford to have very cheap packages, which makes them appealing. Small hosts might charge a little more but might be willing to work with you on your budget or even sometimes have a free options to those truly in need.

Register Your Own Domain

I am currently not following my own advice here but hear me out. Many moons ago I had a personal blog and I hosted on a site that catered to blogs and was quite popular. I paid quarterly because it was cheaper than monthly, but I couldn’t really afford to pay a whole year at once. One morning I woke up to an email from the head of the hosting company saying that they had gone out of business. They were very sorry, would work with new hosts to get our sites transferred, and would try to refund money. Like other bloggers I scrambled to get new hosting. Some hosts even had “refugee sales” for people who were left in the lurch. I was able to move my site within a few days without too much problem. A big part of this, I was the registrar of my own domain. (There’s a Seinfeld joke in there somewhere, I just know it) People who had let the now defunct host register their domain had to wait not just for help transfering their data, but also their domain. It added a layer of headache they didn’t need, and it could have been worse if the host had gone belly up and not been willing to help at all. They could have lost their data AND their domain. Anyone who’s tried to search for the “perfect” domain name knows how hard it is to get just the right one. Imagine finding the right one and then losing it.

As I said above, I’m the contact for my domain, but my host registered it for me. It’s part of the package. I’m not overly concerned because he seems like an honest person who would not screw me over. Plus I know the area he’s from and I bet if I asked around I could find someone who knows him and could rough him up. 😉 Just kidding. Kind of.

Don’t Ignore The Free Options

You can have a blog at MyWhateverDomain.com and not pay for hosting. As I said above, some “regular” hosts have free options, but you can add a domain to other blogging websites like Blogger.com or WordPress.com usually for a small yearly fee. You give up some control with this such as what kind of plugins you can have or sometimes templates. However, it’s a cheap option if you want to have your own domain name but don’t want to take the leap into full time “real” hosting.

Educate Yourself And Research, Research, Research

Lastly, this is something I would recommend for just about anything. Whether you’re planning a wedding, buying a car, or setting up a web host. Research what you want and what hosts offer. Educate yourself on terms. Don’t know what bandwidth is? Don’t know your Apache from your SQL? Aren’t sure what a virtual host is? Google it! You don’t need to be an expert, but I would suggest figuring some of this stuff out so you aren’t going in blind. You can buy a car without knowing how to rebuild an engine, but you should know how the steering wheel is used.

Did I miss something? Thinking about setting up a host and have some questions? Leave a comment and let me know.

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