Web Hosting FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions about Web Hosting

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What is web hosting?

Web hosting is a service that allows you to run a website from a domain that you own. Big companies like Yahoo! or Google run sites using their own servers. While some individuals and small companies do this too, many choose a web hosting service for cost and convenience. Running your own server can be a headache and it requires a good degree of technical know-how. A web host does all that work for you, leaving you to create the content.

I've registered a domain already, why do I need web hosting?

Registering a domain gives you exclusive rights to a domain for a given period of time (which is why two people cannot own the same domain). Domain registration does not generally include any type of hosting. It's a bit like owning a street address, but not the house that's there. If you want to run a website on your domain, you'll need to purchase web hosting.

If I already registered a domain from one company, can I host it with another?

Yes you can. When you sign up for hosting you will generally have the option of buying a new domain or transferring an existing one. You will be given some information (generally a couple of addresses called name servers) to provide to your original domain registrar, so be sure to follow the directions your web host and domain registrar give you.

Why should I choose web hosting over free hosting services like Blogger or Webs.com?

There are ways to put your content online that don't involve a web host. Many Internet Service Providers offer free space on their servers. Online blogging services like Blogger allow you to host a blog on their site. Generally those options are rather limited and they don't give you your own unique domain (meaning you'll always have a domain like: blogger.com/your_name instead of your_name.com). Having a hosted domain means that you can have a number of different offerings such as a blog, store, and a personal or company website all at a domain that's unique to you.

The other key advantage is having your own email address from your domain. It lends professionalism and individuality to your online identity. You don't have to be yourname54321@generic_isp.com. You can be yourname@yourdomain.com.

How much technical expertise do I need?

This depends a lot on which web hosting service you choose. Some web hosts provide step-by-step site creation options all without ever having to leave your web browser. Some are suited more towards people with web design expertise. If you don't have a lot of experience, you should start with a web hosting company that provides easy site creation (ones that have a high rating for "ease of use for beginners"). Most web hosts will allow you to get more advanced as you get more comfortable with site creation.

What is a WYSIWYG editor?

WYSIWYG stands for What You See Is What You Get. A WYSIWYG editor lets you create and edit a website as if you were looking right at it the way a visitor would. Some WYSIWYG editors have drag-and-drop functionality, meaning you can move around different modules with your mouse and put them where you want them.

What costs are associated with web hosting?

You will always pay some kind of hosting fee. In most cases it's a yearly fee. Yearly fees run anywhere between $50 and $140 for the basic plans. Some web hosts will charge you a set-up fee in the $30 range, but most waive this fee. Similarly, some offer free domain registration with hosting, and some charge an additional fee for the hosting (remember that registration is a yearly fee, so look to see if a site offers free lifetime registration if you want to keep your costs down). Another common fee is for domain privacy (see below), though it's free from some web hosts. When looking at a web host's pricing structure, be sure to keep these costs in mind. It may be that a host that charges $10 a month comes out the same as a host that charges $5 a month plus additional fees.

What is domain privacy?

One feature we've chosen to highlight is domain privacy. When you buy a domain you are required to give your name and business or home address. That's to keep people accountable for the sites they publish. However, that information is publicly available to anyone who wants it. There are many good reasons for wanting domain privacy including protection from spam, scams, junkmail, and cyberstalking. Most web hosting services offer domain privacy, meaning they will list themselves as the owners of the domain as a way to protect your name and address. Some charge for it, and some do not.

What is lifetime domain registration?

If a web host offers lifetime domain registration, they are offering to pay the yearly domain registration fee for as long as you host the site with them. If you move to another host, they will no longer assume the cost. This can be a substantial savings over the years. If a host does not provide lifetime registration, you'll want to note the price of yearly renewals before signing up.

Do these services offer refunds?

Most web hosts do offer refunds of some variety. Often it's a full refund under thirty days. After the guarantee period, there's sometimes a pro-rated refund, so you'll receive a refund on any unused months. It is important to note that a refund will almost always exclude the price of domain registration, even if the domain came free with hosting. That's because domains are purchased for a year's time, and the web host assumes the charge for the domain. If you are charged, that domain remains in your ownership until it expires, so you can host it with another company if you choose to.

What do storage and data transfer limits mean to me?

Most web hosts claim to provide "unlimited" storage and data transfer, meaning you can upload as much content as you want, and take as much traffic (i.e. visitors interacting with your site) as you want. But, in fact, there are limitations. Most will limit you to the storage of files intended for your website (but not, for instance, backing up the files on your computer). Also, they will monitor your storage and traffic statistics to make sure you're not monopolizing their resources. Since most personal and small business websites are pretty small, there's not much danger in this. There's also not any real difference between "unlimited" storage and a 10 gigabyte storage limit. Next Advisor's site is about 25 megabytes, while a personal site may be closer to 7 megabytes or less, roughly the same size as a couple of MP3 files on your personal media player.

It is possible that a web host may penalize you for unusual traffic spikes, or excessive storage.

What does FTP mean?

FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol and it is the way files get from your computer to your web host. If you create a website by writing the code yourself, or using website builder such as Adobe Dreamweaver, Microsoft Expressions, or Apple's iWeb, you will use some form of FTP program to upload your site to your web host. If you create your site using an online sitebuilder that comes with your web host service, you won't need to FTP the files. However you may find it useful to learn as your needs change.

How did you review these web hosts?

We used every single web host that we reviewed. We signed up for each one using a different domain, and performed various tasks we think a user would go through, focusing on the needs of a beginning user. This included installing Wordpress, using the sitebuilders, and installing shopping cart scripts. We also kept track of uptime and response time as outlined in the following two questions.

We also weighed the pros and cons of all the hosts against each other to pick out the best hosting companies for bargain hunters, beginners, advanced users and eCommerce, taking into account price, performance, features and ease of use.

Top Web Hosting

Rating:

Bottom line: Great balance of price, features and support: includes exclusive discount of over 40%
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Bottom line: Reliable web host with a 25% exclusive discount (code: NEXTADVISOR), good for beginners; particularly strong for advanced users
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Bottom line: Low cost plan with good reliability; easy shopping cart creator; green host; 60% exclusive discount
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Bottom line: Mediocre service as well as some quirks keep it from being a gold standard; offers Windows hosting
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Bottom line: Reliable green web host, free domain privacy, but clunky beginner tools; better for intermediate and advanced users
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Bottom line: Nice service and features, exclusive discount, but it's a pricier version of Hostmonster
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Bottom line: A good bargain with strong tools and Windows hosting, but the outsourced support is only average
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Bottom line: Easy online site builder for beginners but tricky control panel; solid Windows hosting option
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Bottom line: Inexpensive one-year plan with exclusive discount; geared towards beginners and intermediates
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Bottom line: Very basic web host at a reasonable price; lacks features and options for intermediate and advanced users.
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Bottom line: Aabaco retains Yahoo!'s integrated web builder and other features, making it great for beginners; support quality and newness are small concerns to keep in mind
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Bottom line: A mid-priced option with decent features but poor customer support and policies
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Bottom line: For intermediate to advanced users; fast data transfer and free domain privacy but very limited support
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Bottom line: Green hosting and domain privacy are pluses, though interface was challenging and support uneven
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Bottom line: Adequate web hosting but needs upgrades; limited MySQL databases, advanced features.
Rating:

Bottom line: Discounted first year; frustrating limitations for advanced users, counterintuitive for beginners

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