To have a live web site, you need a space on a web server which is fully connected to the internet. Web hosting companies maintains these servers and you can get your own space by getting a web hosting account from your desired host. After that you can put your stuff (web pages) on your space and point your domain name to it which make your web site live. There are some basic facts you need to know before choosing a host and maintaining a web site.

Space

See whether the given space is enough for all your existing and future web site stuff. Always have an approximation about the size of the stuff that you expect to add in the future. A standard account always provides 500MB or more.

Bandwidth

Bandwidth means the amount of data transfer your web host allows you per month. This directly affects the number of visitors you can have per month. For an example if you have a web page of 50KB and a bandwidth of 1GB (1,048,576KB), the number of visitors you can have per month is 20,972 (1,048,576/50). If you have 10 web pages of 50KB and you assume usually a visitor visits all the pages then the number reduces to 2097.

If the number of visitors exceeds the amount that is allowed by the bandwidth then your web host may prevent the accessing of your web site for that month. So, if your web site stuff needs more space and you expect more visitors, you will also need more bandwidth.

Usually web hosts provide 10GB or more at start and you may increase your bandwidth (for an additional fee) when your traffic increases. And also not all pages equal to 50KB, most of them will be far below than that. If you are unfamiliar with KB, GB etc, the explanations are below. You can think of the space required for one letter as one Byte.

KB - Kilo Bytes
MB - Mega Bytes
GB - Giga Bytes
TB - Tera Bytes

1KB = 1024Bytes
1MB = 1024KB
1GB = 1024MB
1TB = 1024GB

Email

Having email accounts on your domain is essential to conduct a professional business. Usually all web hosts provide this facility. As added features you will be able to use your email accounts with a web mail account and also with a desktop client like MS Outlook. Some may also provide Email Aliases which you can use only to receive emails. You can then redirect those emails to a desired email account.

LAMP Support

LAMP stands for Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP (or Python or Perl). Linux is the operating system (like Windows), Apache is the web server, MySQL is the database server and PHP is the server side scripting language. This is a very popular and sophisticated server side technology combination. All these are free and open source meaning you will get a hosting account at a cheap price over a Windows powered hosting account.

Since the power of LAMP, lots of great software products (like WordPress) are based on it. Even if you don’t have a thorough understanding on LAMP, just make sure your hosting account is based on LAMP because you will surely need that technology on the way. You may want Windows hosting if you are going with Windows technologies like ASP. If you are up to that knowledge then you would surely know what kind of hosting account you need. But if you are just a beginner or have no idea on what to choose, you better go with LAMP.

Another fact you have to consider is the number of MySQL databases provided. Some server side software products need their own databases and if you are going to add many of them then you will also need more MySQL databases. Most of the web hosts provide unlimited number of MySQL databases. Just make it clear when you choose your account.

Server Up Time

This is the percentage of time that your host guarantees to keep your site online. It is always good to have 100%. But even if your host promised, it won’t be practical. Lots of host promise and are bounded to provide 99% up time. You can watch your up time with a free service like 24×7.

Shared Web Hosting

Unless it is not clearly mentioned or you pay high rate, you get a shared web hosting account. That means some other web sites are also hosted on the server where your web site resides. To provide equal opportunity, web hosts may impose certain conditions (like CPU usage) and even suspend a site temporarily (in a case like your site gets lots of traffic within a sort period of time).

You need to have an understanding on how your host tackles these situations (contact and ask). Some may transfer your web site temporally to a server which is less crowded or some may just shut it down. Most of the time, you will be informed and provided necessary actions to take. You may not face these situations until your site become so popular and you would easily afford a dedicated hosting account at that time.

Name Server Details

Name Server Details are needed to let the internet know where your web site resides. If you have both domain name and web hosting with same provider, you may not notice them since they are configured automatically. But if you have domain name separately (which is advisory), you will need these details to point your domain name to your web hosting account. Usually these details are provided with high priority and can be configured easily at your domain control panel.

File Transfer Protocol

File Transfer Protocol is the protocol which governs the file transfer between web servers and client machines. You would need a tool based on this to transfer your web site stuff to your host. Your host may provide a web based one and recommend desktop ones. FileZilla is a free desktop FTP tool which would work with any host. You will need the Host Name, User Name and Password to begin transferring. You will be provided these details when you sign up.

Free Web Hosting

While surfing the internet you might have met lots of free web hosting services. These services may be fine if your goal is not commercial, like personal web sites. If you choose free web hosting, you won’t get your own domain name and also they may put some advertisements on your site which may damage your brand heavily. So, when it comes to business, it is always better to choose a paid service where you can have your own domain name and ad-free space.

Choosing a Web Host

The details discussed are sufficient to choose a good host. But lots of hosts provide these features on competitive rates and you may be confused on which one to choose. Always go with one which has a matured industry experience and a fair amount of good reviews. You can use a forum like WebHostingTalk to ask your questions. But beware that those responses may not be 100% impartial.

To get you out of confusion, I would like to recommend DreamHost. It’s in business from 1997 and has hosted thousands of sites. It also contains all the features you can imagine. Despite few complains, lots of its users love the service. You can also use my Dreamhost Coupon Code to reduce the fee by $97.