52. Shop for best host for site
By Mark Alberstat
After you have written text for your website, settled on a general layout
and decided which images are going to be JPGs and which will be GIFs, you
have to find a host for this fledgling site. Several factors should be
The host company or organization has a system with a variety of folders
that computers on the Internet can access in read-only mode. This computer
has an Internet ID number that other computers on the Internet recognize
so they know which websites are stored on it.
A wide variety of hosting options is available. A few years ago many
people were using mega-hosts such as Geocities or Tripod. Much of the
shine has come off these hosts as they insert ads and pop-ups onto your
website and often host so many sites they are overloaded and slow and will
sometimes put on bandwidth constraints.
This means that if your site becomes popular they will shut you down or
force you to move to a more expensive hosting option.
Rates can be as variable as websites. It is best not to simply settle on
the cheapest host you can find. In this area you often get what you pay
The cheap alternatives have very little or no support. If you have a
problem uploading your files or understanding their directory structure,
you will be out of luck or endlessly waiting for e-mail responses from
their overburdened support staff.
Bigger is not always better. The big hosting companies have so many sites
that your recipe or travel site means next to nothing to them. They are
also more interested in the commercial sites that might feature an
e-commerce aspect they can skim a few more dollars from each month.
There are almost always local options as well. Local could mean within the
city or province or within Canada. Many of the large outfits are in
monster data centres south of the border and that will eliminate any
chance you might have of meeting your host face to face to discuss your
needs, problems or future.
Some sites will also need access to specialized server software, often
called back-end software for its ability to run CGI scripts or PHP for
various interactivity options.
The ability to run a database on your site is another feature and the site
creator will have to ask the host if such options are available on their
servers. Not all hosting companies have these options. Some of these
features might not be what you are looking for now, but you may want them
down the road and they should be something to consider.
Chebucto Community Net, the
sponsor of this biweekly column, is one local option for web hosting that
has many of these features. Like most hosts, Chebucto's own site outlines
its services and fees.
One aspect often overlooked when searching for a host is the amount of web
space on offer and if that amount can easily be increased if necessary.
A simple web page with only a few graphics takes up only a few megabytes.
A travel site with dozens of images could easily take 15 to 20 megabytes.
Look over what is available, for what price, with what options, and make
your best guess. No host will be perfect, but some might suit you better
The Mousepad runs every two weeks. It's a service of Chebucto Community
Net, a community-owned Internet provider. If you have a question about
computing, email firstname.lastname@example.org. If we use your question in
a column, we'll send you a free mousepad.
Originally published 30 January 2005