Expanding upon the web hosting checklist we started in our small business web hosting article, here’s some more features to consider when making your decision on a web hosting company:
A control panel is used to maintain your webspace. There can be links or icons on the main page of the control panel used to access different features of the webspace.
- add or delete features
- add or delete email addresses
- check your website statistics
- monitor your webspace usage
- monitor your website bandwidth usage
- list of what programming and types of databases can be used
- list of databases you have setup
- access to setup and maintain your databases
These are just a few of the things you should look for in the web hosting’s control panel. If they don’t list what is available on their list of webspace features, check out the support and frequently asked questions sections of the website.
FTP (file transfer protcol) is the process of transferring files across the internet from the web server to a computer and back again.
This is a useful feature because it enables you to build or work on your website right on your computer and then transfer the updated files to the webspace via special software called FTP software. There are for purchase FTP software programs and there are also open source (free) programs.
Some HTML editors have a built in feature to accomplish this (FrontPage, Expression Web, Dreamweaver, GoLive, to name a few) but these may need extra setup on the web server to accomplish this. Where as, having FTP access does not, the web server just has to be able to accept FTP connections.
The ability to use FTP is important for backing up your website.
This is definitely something to add to your web hosting checklist.
Microsoft FrontPage Extensions
If you or your web designer are using special features created by FrontPage you may need FrontPage extensions. You’ll have to check how the web pages are being built to determine if this is a necessity.
Providing FrontPage extensions may be an extra to the web hosting package.
Update:Microsoft FrontPage extensions are no longer supported by Microsoft therefore web hosting companies are not offering this anymore, well, most.
Password Protected Directories
If your website is going to require sections of your website to be password protected (meaning a person has to have a user name and password to access the area) then you need a web hosting plan that allows this.
Custom Error Pages
When the web server can not find a page, access to an area of the website is denied or there is a server error an error page is shown to the visitor. You may have seen sites where you get a generic “Sorry but….” page that is sent by the web hosting company’s server.
You may have also seen errors pages where they are styled exactly like the rest of the website. These are custom error pages.
Being able to create your own custom error pages is important so the visitor does not feel lost. They know they are still on your website but there has been an error. You can also help them out on the error page by providing suggestions as to where they might have intended to go or a site map to help them find their way to where they intended to go.
Definitely something to be on your web hosting checklist!
Secure Server Access
Ever noticed in the address bar that there’s https: at the beginning of the web page address? Or the browser may have a closed lock showing. These indicate you are in a secure area of the website.
If you are going to process sensitive information, such as credit card or detailed personal information, then to give your visitor the confidence to provide this information, you are going to need secure server access.
You can buy a security certificate for your website at an extra cost if required.
Sub domains are subsections of your website. A large website may have a sub domain for different areas of their business (e.g. Yahoo uses a sub domain for their finance section, finance.yahoo.com) A smaller website might have their blog on a sub domain or their shopping area.
Being able to do this in the future is something to consider, even if it’s not in your immediate plans for the website.
Database support may not seem important when first starting your online business but keep in mind that later on, when you realize the benefits of blogging or decide to add a database driven shopping catalog to the website, you will need this available in your web hosting package.
The number of email addresses you will need will depend on the size of your business.
Being able to use POP3 / IMAP4 / Web Mail Support are all important features to add to the web hosting checklist.
Web mail is for when you check your email via the web. A great feature if you travel.
With POP mail access you can setup your email program to pickup and send mail via your computer or laptop.
Webspace storage is the amount of web server space you are renting from the web hosting company. The more pictures, pages, movies, downloads and/or databases you are going to use, the more space you require.
A basic traditional website would have to have a lot of pages and images to fill 50mb of webspace for example.
Bandwidth is how much of the web hosting’s web servers resources you use to present your website and/or your visitors use viewing or downloading movies or files from your website.
The more pictures, files for download and movies available on the website, the more bandwidth you will be using.
This is something to consider when writing your web hosting checklist.
Server Side Includes
Server side includes are a method of including sections of a web page when the web page is shown. These are different than FrontPage, Expression Web and design time includes.
You will have to check with your web designer if they intend to use server side includes as this may be something that has to be on your web hosting checklist.
Finalizing Your Web Hosting Checklist
Above were some basic web hosting features to look for and add to your web hosting checklist.
Now you have your web hosting checklist complete, and once you have your website built, it’s time to secure quality web hosting.
Further Reading on Securing Web Hosting
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