Choosing a host
Last updated: 02/05/2012
When you have a website, choosing a good host is crucial for its success. If
your site is down all the time, how can it be successful? But how can you be
sure you've got a good host? Well there isn't really any miracle answer to that
question, but before you sign up with a host, you might want to ask them some
of the questions below. When you have had satisfactory answers to these questions,
try searching the web and newsgroups for the host's name, and also try a search
Beware: You probably shouldn't ask them all of these questions!
Choose the ones which apply to you (for example, not everyone needs anonymous
FTP). Do not just copy and paste these questions into an email!
Note: This is a work in progress. I will add questions as I think of them or as they are sent to me.
- How much space?
- How much to add more?
- What is counted (website, email, logs, databases, etc...)?
- Bandwidth - Transfer
- How much bandwidth/transfer (technically, transfer is the appropriate
word, and bandwidth is incorrect, but most hosts use bandwidth)?
- How much if I go over my allocation?
- What is counted (website, email, FTP, SMTP, etc...)?
- Who is their bandwidth provider (Cogent bandwidth is lower quality bandwidth,
but cheaper, which in turn usually means a lower price for you)?
- Is there a file which can be downloaded to test the speed (you might
try testing it during offpeak and peak hours)?
- Uptime Guarantee - Service Level Agreements
- Is there an uptime guarantee (if there is, make sure it in the terms
- What does it exclude?
- Over how a long a period is it calculated (go away if it's yearly -
monthly is the maximum!)?
- What do I get if the guarantee is not met?
- What is the current uptime on their servers (if it is low, ask why)?
- What version are they running?
- Is PHP running in safe mode?
- Is there an open_basedir restriction?
- What modules are installed (ie: are the ones you need installed)?
- How many?
- What kind of database (ie: MySQL, PostgreSQL, Access, MS SQL)?
- Operating System
- Linux? If so, what distribution?
- Unix flavour?
- Are multiple connections at once allowed?
- Is it possible to have more than one FTP username?
- Is anonymous FTP available?
- How many POP boxes?
- Are the POP boxes IMAP compatible?
- Is there a webmail interface to check the POP boxes? If so, what script
(ie: Horde IMP, Squirrelmail, etc...)?
- How many forwarders?
- Are mailing lists supported? If so, how many and using which program
(ie: Majordomo, Mailman, etc...)?
- How many autoresponders?
- Is a spam protection program installed?
- Are any statistics available to see how many visitors I have had?
- If so, what program are they generated by? Example?
- How long have they been in business?
- Where are they based? Where are the employees (it helps if they're not
asleep when you're awake)? How many of them
- Is a demo of their control panel available?
- Is telnet/SSH access available? Most hosts will either not provide this,
provide it only on expensive accounts, or only provide it if a valid reason
for needing it is provided (some hosts even ask for a faxed copy of ID).
- Is it possible to be hosted on one of their subdomains (ie: yoursubdomain.yourhost.com)
instead of on a top level domain name?
- Is SSL available? If so, for how much extra? Is a shared SSL certificate
available (for all the server's users)?
- Is a dedicated IP included (ie: you do not share the IP with all the
people on the server)? If not, is it possible to get one, and for how
- Is an upgrade to a lower/higher plan free?
- How many websites will there be on each server?
- Are the FrontPage extensions installed?
- Are web based file uploads possible?
- What processor? How much memory?
- How much of the processor's power can I use (some scripts are very intensive
on the server)? Is this monitored?
- Am I allowed to use x script (ie: ikonboard is banned on most hosts)?
- Do I have access to my crontab file?
- Web Server
- What web server are they running (ie: Apache, IIS, Zeus, etc...)?
- Under what user do my scripts run?
- Who is the file owner?
- What Perl modules are installed?
- Email only? Phone (toll-free or not)? Forums? Instant Messaging (ICQ, MSN, AIM, Yahoo, etc...)?
Chat Room or equivalent?
- Paid monthly, yearly, bi-monthly? Make sure you don't pay yearly if
you're on a big account - things could turn nasty, and then you'd be stuck
- Discount for paying over longer period?
- Ask for custom quote - you may get a better deal ;-)
- Are free trials available? If so, for how long?
- Is there a money-back guarantee? If so, for how long? Are there any
special conditions for this guarantee?
- Are they pro-rated?
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