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Web Hosting FAQ

 
Basic questions

 
What is web hosting?

Web hosting refers to the process of publishing a web site so that it is available to the world on the Web.  Paid web hosting also involves getting a domain name and not having forced ads displayed on your site.  Please see our Quick Start Guide for info on how to get started with a paid web host.
 

What is a domain name?

A domain name is a sequence of letters and numbers which determine the address of your site.  This site's domain name is "WebHostingRatings.com."  You need to register a domain name before your web site becomes accessible at this address.  Please see our Domain Name Guide for all the details.
 

What are PHP, SQL, Java, IP, etc.?

Those acronyms refer to various features such as programming languages, databases, etc. that might be available with a hosting plan.  Please check out our Glossary for definitions.  To find plans that support these options, please use our Advanced Search page.
 

What is shared (virtual) web hosting?

Shared (or virtual) web hosting is the most fitting way of hosting for 99% of web sites.  It means that a web hosting company will have one or more servers (computers constantly connected to the Internet that run a web server software such as Apache or IIS) that will be running multiple web sites (it will be shared).  Unless a web site is exceptionally busy or requires a lot of bandwidth, this is the least expensive way to get a real web site.  You can still have your own IP address with virtual hosting and the site won't look any different to users.  Other options are dedicated, co-location, or doing it yourself web hosting.  In those options you have the whole computer to yourself and you can do things like install your own software.
 

Can I keep my domain name when I change a host?

Yes.  We recommend that you register your domain name with a separate registrar before getting a hosting plan (please see our Domain Name Guide).  Then, when you need to move to another host, you just need to point your domain's name servers to this new host.  If you registered your domain name with a host and now you want to move, you should find your registration records or contact this host and ask them how to control your domain name.  If you have a problem, you can usually see the name of the registrar by performing a "Whois" query on your domain name and contact them.
 

Does it make a difference what type of desktop computer I use?

No.  This will only make a difference if you develop scripts that you want to use without changes on your web site.  FrontPage extensions can also be done on Unix (or Linux) servers.
 

Will I have forced advertising on my site like I do on Geocities, etc.?

No.  None of the web hosts listed in our database force any kinds of ads on your site.  In fact you can put your own ads if you'd like.
 

I don't have any experience in creating a site.  Who can help me create and host my site?

There are services such as 1001designs.com, OCWebdesign and CityMAX that do that.  Please also see our Quick Start Guide.
 

What is domain parking?

Domain parking lets you cheaply reserve a domain name for future use and display an "under construction" default page on it.  You can register a domain and not park it anywhere but then your site will simply be inaccessible until you get a web host.  Some registrar let you park your domain for free.
 

What is full-service web hosting?

"Full-service" can refer to a variety of services offered in addition to providing web space, transfer, and emails for a web site.  For example, it could be 24/7 toll free phone support, web design services, or web site content maintenance services.
 

What are the numbers listed under "space" and "transfer"?

Space is the amount of "stuff" you can put on your web site.  Available space is usually listed in megabytes (MB, millions of bytes).  Single letter takes up one byte.  HTML files are usually rather small (this file is about 25,000 bytes) but pictures and programs can get quite big.  Your scripts, emails and stats will also take up space on your host.
Transfer is the amount of "stuff" that visitors to your site can download before you reach your monthly limit.  Transfer is usually listed in gigabytes (billions of bytes).  After the transfer limit is reached for the month, you will need to pay extra for additional transfer at higher rates.  For example, if an average visitor to your site views 3 HTML pages of 20 KB (thousands of bytes) each and 8 small embedded pictures of 10 KB each, and you get 500 visitors per day, you will require at least (3 * 20 + 8 * 10) * 500 * 30 = 2,100,000 KB = 2.1 GB of transfer per month.
 

How do I pay for web hosting?

The methods of payment which are accepted depend on each individual host.  Almost everybody accepts credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard.  Vast majority of plans require periodic (usually monthly up to yearly) payments.
 

How do I upload my site?

The main method of uploading files to your site's account is by using FTP.  When you sign up with a host, you will probably get an FTP account that lets you access files in your account (usually ftp.yoursitename.com, your main account name and password).  Then you can use a built-in Windows or Internet Explorer FTP client, or some other software that supports FTP such as CuteFTP, WS_FTP, or Total Commander, to transfer files from your hard drive to your account.  If you don't get an FTP account or if you prefer a Web interface, you can use your account control panel's File Manager instead.  Yet another method is to use an SSH or telnet client software, such as SecureCRT, to upload using Zmodem protocol (sz and rz commands).
All these methods will work fine, but we recommend using dedicated FTP programs as the preferred solution because these programs have the best user interfaces and support advanced options like setting file permissions and resuming aborted file transfers.
 

What is uptime?

Uptime is the percentage of time that a web site is working.  For example, if some host has an uptime average of 99.86%, this means that your site will be down for a total about 1 hour each month.  We monitor uptime of customer websites of many web hosts and we display this data on the host's details page.  Some hosts also offer "uptime guarantees" but this is not as valuable as it might appear (see our gotchas page for more details).
 

Can I use Java applets, JavaScript, and Flash pages on my site?

Yes.  Those are client-side technologies, so the host doesn't have to do anything to support or enable them.  Any browser (such as Internet Explorer or Netscape) that supports them is enough, so any host will do.  It doesn't matter whether Java or Flash are listed among the plan's features, they are supported by default.

 
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Advanced questions

 
Should I use a Unix (Linux, SunOS, BSD, etc.) or Windows NT (Windows 2000) based server?

Which operating system you decide to use should depend on what features you need.  For example, if you are already using IIS, ASP, VBScript, Windows Media, Microsoft Access, Microsoft SQL Server, or Visual InterDev, and you don't have the time to learn Unix-based solutions, you'll have to choose a Windows NT or Windows 2000-based host.  Just because your desktop is Windows-based doesn't mean you should use a Windows host.  You may notice that Linux-based operating systems and Apache Web servers are most common among web hosting companies.  This is due to Apache's many shared-hosting features, a good track record of stability and performance, and because Linux and Apache are free.  In addition to cross-platform products like Java or Cold Fusion, it is also possible to find hosts that run unusual combinations that for example let you use Apache on Windows NT or ASP on Linux.

Even if you use FrontPage and its extensions for your site design, you can find many web hosts that will support these extensions on a Unix system using our Advanced Search page.
 

How much data transfer will I need?

You can figure out how much data transfer you will require by estimating your average page size (including graphics!) and multiplying it by the number of page views you expect to have in a month.  For example: with an average page size of 50 KB, and around 2000 page views per day, you will transfer an average of 3 GB per month.  In this case, you should get a plan with 4 to 5 GB of data transfer limit per month, so you don't have to worry about overstepping your account's limit, which may cause extra per GB transfer charges.
 

Can't I just get a DSL line or a cable modem and host the site or my own computer?

Sure, you could do that, but it's not a good idea for several reasons.  First, a vast majority of ISPs won't let you legally use a residential cable modem or a DSL line to host a public server.  You would have to get a more expensive business package.  Second, ADSL and cable lines usually have lower upstream bandwidth than downstream bandwidth, so your site may appear to be sluggish under heavy traffic.  Third, DSL and cable lines have a much lower reliability than dedicated T1 or better lines.  Fourth, you wouldn't have the benefit of data security, data backup, UPS power, or technical support that a host can provide.
 

Do I need stats?

Probably not.  If you can access raw logs, you could download them and analyze them on your home computer with a stats program yourself.  However, the log files can get quite large for popular sites, so having the server analyze them may be more convenient.  You could also use a service like WebTrends, theCounter.com, or Site Meter to get more detailed stats on your users than any host's stats program can provide.
 

My site is database-driven and uses 50 GB per month in transfer.  Can I simply use a host with an unlimited transfer plan for $10 per month?

No.  Most hosts are in business to make money and they would lose money hosting your site.  They have to pay from $0.3 to $5 per GB of transfer to upstream providers themselves.  Almost all hosts that have "unlimited" plans specify in their acceptable use policies that no site can use an "excessive" amount of resources.  If you use too much disk space, bandwidth, or CPU time, these "unlimited" hosts will ask you to upgrade or leave.
 

Is there any advantage to a host that uses a Cobalt RaQ as opposed to one that uses a normal Linux computer?

No.  RaQs are made specifically for hosting and they have pre-installed software that is optimized for hosting but experienced hosts can build and administer their own server just as well for less money.  RaQs do have an advantage of being physically smaller.
 

Can I run my own software on my site?

This depends on a web host and a plan.  Most plans will allow running scripts in languages such as Perl or PHP.  Some plans will also allow you to compile program in C/C++ and run them.  Some Unix plans will also allow you to run "cron" which enables you to automatically execute programs or scripts at a specific time and date.  However to get a full control over all aspects of your server, you will need a dedicated or co-located server instead of a shared plan.
 

Do I need a static IP address for my site?

Maybe.  There are some advantages to having a unique IP for your site.  When you change servers, you can point your users to a new IP, so they don't have to wait for the domain name change to propagate.  With a static IP, it can also be simpler to upload and test your site before transferring the domain name to a new server.  Setting up SSL is also much simpler.  You may also not want to share your IP with some sites that could lead to your site being banned by search engines or spam lists.
 

Do I need to use host's search engine submission service?

No.  Some search engine submission tools are better than others and some big search engines don't like automated submission.  You should submit manually to major directories like Yahoo!, ODP, or Looksmart, and you may also prefer to submit manually to major search engines.
 

Should I simply choose a cheapest plan?

We wouldn't recommend choosing any plan below $5 per month if you expect to get a reasonable level of technical support.
 

Will the bandwidth prices fall soon?

Bandwidth prices are gradually decreasing.  It is now possible for hosts to pay less than $1 per GB of transfer in chunks of 100 GB.  New companies like Cogent Communications are building fiber-optic networks and promise 100 Mbps of bandwidth across their network to multi-tenant office buildings in major cities for $1,000/month.  The question is whether they will be able to peer with established telecoms without raising prices.
 

How can hosts make money offering high transfer limits for low prices?

They count on the fact that the majority of sites won't use anywhere close to the full amount of transfer available.  This overselling is usually a valid assumption and it is done in many other businesses (ex. airlines).
 

Are there any extra costs involved in hosting a secure site?

Yes, you'll need to get a digital certificate from a Certificate Authority such as VeriSign, Thawte, or Equifax Secure.
 

Should I worry that my host is a reseller?

Probably not.  It is quite possible to get better support or prices from a reseller than from a base company.  Resellers are usually smaller companies and since they don't own the server, sometimes they have to wait for the parent company to perform some tasks.
 

Should I go with a big or small hosting company?

This depends on your preferences.  Large companies might be considered to have better chances of staying in business for a long time and may be able to negotiate better deals for their customers, but small hosts are usually cheaper, provide better support for individuals and small businesses, and are quicker to offer new features.
 

Are there any advantages to getting a domain name with Network Solutions instead of a cheaper company?

No. 
 

I don't want my site to be down.  Ever.  What host should I use?

No host can provide 100% uptime.  We monitor uptime for many hosts and you could use this data as a guide.&bnsp; But even the biggest and best multi-million dollar sites go down from time to time due to various unforeseen circumstances.  The best you can find is an uptime guarantee, where the host offers refunds for downtime. 
 

Can I reduce the amount of data transfer my site needs?

Usually yes.  Try to optimize all the graphics on your site.  Many GIFs don't look noticeably worse with fewer colors.  Don't duplicate graphics files, let the browser cache them.  Try to clean up your HTML by using relative paths, short filenames, less extras, and reducing the number of spaces and new lines.  If your site is mainly text-based, ask your host about using an HTTP compression module like mod_gzip.


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