Finding a hosting provider can be a daunting task.  First you’ll find there are thousands of different hosts, with prices ranging from Free to hundreds of dollars a month.  What makes them different and which one is right for you?    For most people all they will ever need is the cheap 10 dollar shared hosting plans that companies such as Hostgator, Hostrocket and Bluehost offer.   With unlimited disk space, no monthly bandwidth cap, PHP, and MySQL support, these hosting packages will satisfy most customers.

 

What do I look for in a hosting provider?

As I briefly mentioned above there are a few key points to look for in your host.  How much disk space does your host offer?  How much bandwidth can you use monthly with the host?   What programming languages does the host support?  For many modern web projects that require a content management system, at minimum you will require PHP support as well as some form of database support such as Mysql.   If you’re simply creating a static xHTML web page that has no web based administration section, then PHP support would offer you little to no benefit.   One of the most important factors I look for in a host is how easily can we administer our hosting package?  Does the hosting company provide you with an easy to use administration panel allowing you to add files, databases and change various other settings?  Or do you have to call your hosting provider to make all of these minor changes?  A very common administration system among shared hosting providers is called Cpanel which gives you the ability to take control of many of your host settings.  Typically through the Cpanel, you can upload files, add and delete Mysql databases as well as change other setttings your provider allows.   Many shared hosting providers combine their Cpanel systems with One-Click install systems, allow you to install CMS and blogging packages right from your web browser.  If you are someone without a lot of technical knowledge, I recommend using a hosting company which uses Cpanel.

 

When working on an E-commerce project you have to take other things into consideration, security.  How secure is your hosting providers systems?  Although you may have your data encrypted on their servers, how secure are they?   Luckily there is a standardization that helps you determine if the hosting provider is secure enough.  When working on E-commerce projects you need to make sure your hosting package is PCI-compliant.  Although your web platform/CMS may be PCI-compliant, if your hosting provider is not, your just as unsecure.  Typically shared hosting plans are not PCI-compliant and you need to seek out dedicated hosting or co-locate your own servers.    Many credit card companies will not approve your applications or will close your accounts if you are not on a PCI compliant system.   If you’re processing credit card information on an unsecure host, your putting your customers and the credit card companies customers at risk.   Depending on the size of your project there are alternatives to spending more money on dedicated hosting or co-location.   If your company is only selling a few items you can use services like Paypal or Google Checkout to process all of the sensitive information.   Simply create an account with either service, follow their instructions to input your items and then finally paste the code they generate for on your website.  In this fashion your website remains on a more affordable hosting plan while all sensitive information is secured by the third party service.

 

Conclusion

There are many aspects to consider when choosing a host, however for the most part it is fairly simple.  You will find a plethora of fairly cheap hosting providers that offer unlimited disk space and bandwidth, as well as all of the features most websites.  However for specialized projects such as E-commerce implementations, you need to look for specific things in your hosting, usually increasing your monthly costs.   Some hosting providers that we’ve had great success with are Hostgator, Hostrocket, and Bluehost.   Do you have another host that you like?  Let us know in the comments section below.

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