There are thousands of web hosting companies available, and choosing the right one for your needs can be difficult. While our Cheap Web Hosting Comparison can make your search a lot easier, this article is for those that want to learn a little more about choosing a web hosting company first, so you can choose a web host with confidence.
The most important thing in selecting a web hosting plan, is to be sure it supports the features you require. It doesn't matter how cheap it is, or how reliable their servers, if it doesn't support the features you need, it won't be a usable solution for you.
So the thing to do is make a list of the features you need, and then make sure your prospective web hosting companies deliver what you need. Simply discard any that lack features you require. The good news is that most web hosting companies (aside from free web hosts), provide a wide array of features. Therefore, for typical needs, most web hosts will provide all the features you require.
Features you may need include PHP, ASP, JSP, Perl, TCL, Java, Python, CGI, SSI, SSH, Telnet, mySQL, ColdFusion, SSL Secure Server, SubDomains, Cronjobs, Flash, Shockwave, Real Audio, Real Video, Streaming, raw log files, Web stats, customer error pages, Miva, shopping carts and Microsoft Frontpage extensions.
If you don't know what some of these are, it probably means you do not need them. However, to learn more about many of these features, please see our Web Hosting FAQ.
BANDWIDTH AND WEB SPACE
After you find a host with the basic features you need, you can compare the remaining ones to determine which provides the best value. Most web hosts give you a set amount of transfer (bandwidth) and web space for free with your plan, and then charge you if you go over this limit. Fees for using too much bandwidth or web space can add up, so you are best off finding a host that has the allowance for each of these beyond what you anticipate needing.
However, if your site uses tons of bandwidth or web space, you'll want to find a host that offers addition space and transfer for a modest cost. Fortunately, there are many web hosting companies that provide far more bandwidth and web space with their plans than typical sites will ever need.
To learn more about bandwidth and web space, please see our Web Hosting FAQ.
The web hosting companies we include in our Cheap Web Hosting Comparison are established web hosting companies that provide web hosting services for thousands or tens of thousands of customers. While this doesn't guarantee that they will be around forever or that they will never have problems, they are likely a safer choice than many of the small, fly-by-night web hosts out there.
On the other hand, going with the biggest, most famous provider you can find may not be a good choice either. While their name may be recognizable, these large providers often charge a lot more, without necessarily giving you anything more for your money. In fact, because of their large customer base and high demands on their support staff, they usually offer inferior customer service.
FREE WEB HOSTING
Earlier, free web hosting companies were mentioned. These are companies like Geocities.com that provide you with a small amount of web space for free, while they collect the advertising revenues for ads they put on your pages. This may be an acceptable choice if you just have a personal homepage and have no money to spend, but it isn't worthwhile for most people.
First of all, many people want their own domain name, and many free web hosting providers do not support this. Instead you are often left with a really long domain name. Not only does this look cheap and unprofessional, but it is hard for people to remember or type in to their web browser. Worse, if your web host closes down or for some other reason you need to switch hosts, the address to your web site will change. That means any links to your site will no longer work, and any printed materials you have with your address, such as business cards, will need to be re-printed. If you had your own domain name, you can simply switch to another web hosting company without changing your address.
With free web hosting, visitors to your pages are subjected to advertising from the web host. This almost always includes annoying pop-up ads. Maybe they'll click on an ad and then they'll be leaving your site. Equally bad, they might get annoyed with the pop up ads and decide it isn't worth browsing your pages, let alone coming back.
Another problem with free web hosting is that they typically do not provide any tech support. If you have any problems, you are simply out of luck. Additionally, free web hosts typically do not provide many features at all. It is rare to find more than a couple of the features mentioned above at a free web host, while most commercial web hosts will support most of them.
Since real web hosting is available for so cheap, it's just not worth it to mess around with free web hosting.
CHEAP WEB HOSTING COMPARISON
Now that you've learned the basics on how to choose a web host, you are ready to select a hosting provider. Jump to our Web Hosting Comparison where we compare 10 affordable web hosting providers with great features and value. If you need more information before you can choose a web host, browse our Web Hosting FAQ: