A host is generally a server or rack of servers that “hosts” the files composing your website via the Internet. Companies usually offer various packages at different rates for their hosting services, but it’s important that you make a choice with your future company in mind, and not just saving a few bucks at the moment.
If you’re just building your first website, opt for shared hosting. There are two main types of hosting on offer: shared, which is cheap, but has fewer options, and dedicated, in which you get the works and lots of customizability, but you pay for the privilege. Good shared hosting plans can be had for just a few dollars a month.
Go for Linux hosting unless you need to use certain applications or server-side languages. Linux hosting has a better reputation for uptime, stability, and resource use. Shared hosting that runs on Linux tends to be somewhat cheaper, as well. There are, however, certain applications that need Windows hosting, including Plesk, Microsoft Access, Silverlight, MSSQL, and ASP.net.
Make certain to read reviews to determine whether your potential web host has frequent periods of downtime. If your website is often inaccessible to visitors, there can be drastically negative consequences. For example, if you are running an online business, downtime directly translates into lost business because potential customers will not be able to access your website. Customers may also feel uncomfortable conducting transactions on your website because they might believe your website to be unreliable. Choose a web host that does not have a history of being offline frequently.
If your web hosting service does not notify you of planned outages, you should change. A professional service needs to do some maintenance on their servers and be able to plan when your site will be done. If you never receive this kind of notification, look for another service who communicates with their clients.
Read the terms of service when dealing with a web host who offers “unlimited” services. Many times web hosts will offer unlimited bandwidth or sometimes hard disk space. Read the terms carefully, as they may reserve the right to ask you to upgrade your plan, if you are a higher profile customer, that has increased usage.
If there was anything in your business that you should be willing to splurge on, it’s the power of a proper host. It will be one of the most important decisions you make, and if you choose wrong, it could end up meaning months of lost service and lost profits.