How to choose a suitable hosting package?

1 – How to choose your server type (Web Hosting Platform)

The first consideration is: Server type. Usually there are 2 options: Windows or Unix/Linux. If you are familiar with IIS, ASP, ASP.net, VBScript, Microsoft SQL Server or Visual InterDev, you should use Windows server (also known as NT platform).

If your website is php based with MySQL Server (Unix Base program), you should use Unix/Linux platform.

For stability, Linux and Apache Server (Unix Platform) is fabulous. This free application is the choice of not a few IT people, and it is getting popularity over Windows/IIS server, if your website is a simple one, you should choose more stable server.

Please, do not mix up your home application with those used by hosting companies. Even if your own pc is using Windows, you can still choose a hosting company with Unix/Linux servers.

2 – Websites need hosting space

Then, you have to calculate how much space you need for your website. If your website contains a lot of pictures, videos, short clips or downloadable files, you would need more storage and spare space for future development.

i.e. 1MB = 1025kB

One point worth noting is the online control panel. A good control panel allow easy changing settings, some hosting companies have their tailor-made panels, which can be upgraded easily.

3 – Different packages support different languages and databases

You have to decide which server language and database you want. Most popular ones are Perl, PHP, ASP etc. (ASP is fading out though…)

Windows Server supports ASP, and also VBScript and JSScript for website setups. Unix/Linux Server usually supports PHP, TCL, Python, C/C++. Besides, if you need a database, usually the package would cost more, e.g. MsSQL is more expensive than MySQL, because MsSQL applies on Windows Server, hosting companies have to pay Bill Gates license fees!

4 – Email storage and number of users
Email service is very important as well, Does the hosting comapny support POP3, IMAP, SMTP, WEBMAIL services? Would the number of email accounts more than enough for all employees or members? These questions have to be put into consideration.

5 – Domain registration service
Domain registration cannot be ignored. Domain types are classified as international domains (e.g. .com/.net/.org/.biz/.info) and regional domains (e.g. .com.hk/.net.hk/.org.hk/.hk(. Former ones are more easy to apply, no documentation would be needed; later ones would need supporting documents and the prices are also higher.

Quite a number of web hosting companies would also provide domain registration service, but you have to be aware whether the domain belongs to you or not. When you change your hosting company, you have to provide the domain owner’s information. For some less reputable companies, they would lock the domain and registered themselves as the domain owner, not allowing their customers to leave.

6 – Website Traffic
To calculate the website traffic, the formula is:

Website Traffic = Size of each website page x estimated monthly visitors for each page

E.g. Website Traffic

=Size of each page ~100kB × Average 1000 pages visited daily × 30 days
=100kB × 1000 × 30
=3,000,000kB,roughly 3GB traffic per monthy

In addition, FTP and database traffic also have to be calculated.

Current general hosting company would offer 5GB-10GB traffic flow, additional charges would be placed for additional traffic, so you have to calculate and budget it in advance. If you estimate your website traffic is huge, you may consider renting your own server, or choose service providers with unlimited traffic flow. You do have to bear in mind that even unlimited service providers would place restrictions on bandwidth, which may affect your website’s browsing speed at peak hours, or even unable to show web content due unstability. You also have to pay attention to the lines concerning server usage at “Additional Usage Statement” and restrictions on resources. Traffic flow is a major cost of hosting companies, they would not allow unlimited free use.

7 – Importance of Server Stability
Server being stable is most important to a website’s performance, including the uptime and access speed. If your website is a commercial official site, you HAVE to consider the uptime, and usually hosting companies with strict terms and traffic limit can better guarantee stability, because they can better distribute resources evenly.

8 – Good Technical Support is actually essential
Good technical support team could definitely save your neck while you meet difficulties in site-building. Some providers only have email supports, better providers would have 24-hours support hotline.

9 – Others

  • Server with SSL certificate
  • Traffic Report
  • Additional Charges
  • Regular Automatic or Manual Backup

If you do not know much about web hosting companies, you should probably choose more established ones, or those with advertisements on major media or magazines – at least that may prove some financial power… You also have to know if they are HK registered companies, like if they have a BR and authentic office address or not.

To find a reputable hosting company with stable and reliable service is your first step in making a successful website.