Choosing the Right Web Host

A basic fact of doing business in this modern technological age is that you must have a web site. Whether you are a corporate leader, looking to promote your own personal brand, or just plan a family reunion establishing your online presence is important, both personally and professionally. In order to have a web site that projects your own personal identity you must start with selecting the right web host; but with so many options available today, where do you begin and how do you know if you are selecting the best web host for your needs? In this guide to selecting the right web host for your web site we will look at ways to select the best host and a review of some of the top choices available to you in order to help you find the best hosting solution.

To begin the process your first step is to take a look at what your web hosting needs actually are. Do you need to help customers find your business? Are you wanting to establish a community with interactive features for your members or site visitors? Or do you need a great way to showcase your portfolio that lets you sell your talents to potential clients or buyers? Finding a web host that offers a ton of great features is not going to be very helpful to you if you do not know what you actually need or how you can incorporate those features in your web hosting needs. To get you started thinking about what you need and how you can incorporate some of the more popular web hosting features into your online identity, here is a quick over view of the more common features offered by a number of web hosting providers.

Site Builder:  This is one of the important areas that you need to deal with at the very beginning; how will you design your web site? If you already have web design software that you want to use to create your new masterpiece or will be hiring a designer to take care of that aspect of your web site for you then using a host that offers easy FTP access or an easy editor to give your design team room to create will be very important.  You can also find a professionally designed template that you can purchase then customize and upload to your web host.

But what if you are not a web design guru and you do not have a budget large enough to afford the luxury of hiring a design pro? This is where selecting a hosting provider that offers an easy site builder will be very important. Most site builders are WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) drag and drop editors which mean that all you have to do is choose from a selection of predesigned templates and plug in the information and options that you want to add to your page.

Who Is It For: This is perfect for those who do not have a lot of time to put into designing the look and feel of their web site or for those who do not have the design software or know how to create their own web sites.

Blog: Blogs are being used today for everything from personal journaling to full blown magazines but are they an essential component for your web site needs? Blogs can help you to easily update information on your site and communicate with your web site visitors or customers. There are many blog hosts available and most hosting packages include easy to install blogging platforms such as WordPress that allows you to easily customize your blog’s look by choosing for a variety of themes or uploading your own. 
Who Is It For?: A blog is great for web site owners who want to offer regularly updated information or online newsletters for their customers or members on a daily or weekly basis and for those who will be offering more detailed information that they want to use to draw more visitors to their websites. A blog can easily be used to supplement your current needs; for example, a bridal shop could use a blog to display how to articles and feature on selecting the right dress, etc.

Community Features: If you want to engage your site visitors and have them returning to your web site frequently, adding community features can be a great way to go. Community features can range from a simple discussions forum to a full scale content management system that allows users to post articles and comment on content. Adding polls or a guest book is also another simple way to get your customers or visitors engaged with your site.

Who Is It For?: If you want to keep your customers on your site, get a lot of feedback from them, or encourage users to help grow your content then community features will be important to you. You will need to decide what level of visitor interaction will suit your needs in order to determine which community features you need. Those who only want to get basic feedback on a particular issue or two may make due with a simple poll where as web masters who are looking to create a full, robust community will need to find hosting that offers a forum and content management features that allow you to assign users the ability to add content to your site.

Email: If you want to communicate under your own brand, such as Your Name@lifesnips.com then finding a host that provides email services will be important. This is an area where you may want to think long term as well. If you want to offer email services to your site members with your domain then you will need to locate a host that provides larger email services that can be accessed by others. If ; however, you only want email for yourself or other key members of your company or organization then basic email services should work fine for you.

Also, you should consider how you want to access your email. Do you prefer web based email that can be accessed from anywhere or do you want the flexibility of using POP email services that allow you to use an email reading program such as IncrediMail or Microsoft’s Outlook? Knowing which options you prefer will help you to choose the best web hosting solution.

Top Recommendations:
To help you in your search, here is a quick review of some of my favorite options for web hosting.

Site 5 Hosting: This is one of my top picks for hosting with tons of options, great features, and an easy to use control panel that allows you to host single or multiple sites from one easy account. Site 5 has unlimited space and unlimited bandwidth plus they offer tons of preinstalled scripts including blogging platforms such as WordPress, forums, and CMS (Content Management Systems) including phpNuke, Joomla, and others. They have an easy to use site builder for chooser from a series of predesigned templates or you can easily use the ftp option to upload your site designed with software elsewhere. With free unlimited email and easy to manage domain tools, Site 5 is top rate choice that you can also feel good about because Site 5 is a green host and they plant a tree for every new account. With a 30 day free trial and money back guarantee you can not go wrong with this hosting option which is great for all levels of expertise, even those new to web hosting. They also offer Moodle for those needing to add educational elements to their sites or communities.
Who is it Best for? New users and professonals alike, Site 5 is great for anyone looking for a great all in one solution that is easy to use, especially those looking for professional WordPress hosting or need the great educational tools offered by Moodle.
Costs: Rages from $4.95 per month to $13.95 per month depending on package and term with no set up fee.
Cons: You do not get as much control over the design elements offered online; however, you are free to use any design software that you want and upload using ftp.

Homestead: If you do not have a lot of technical ability and you just want easy to use web hosting without a large learning curve, then Homestead is a great choice. You can choose from hundreds of predesigned templates or have complete control with true drag and drop features that allow you to put any element anywhere on your page without predesigned restrictions. You can also easily add a customized web form or predefined guest book to your site with just a click.
Cons: No community features available such as blogs or forums, and no member management to allow visitors or customers to log into your site.
Who is It Best for? Individuals or Businesses who want basic hosting features without a complicated user panel or want complete real time control over the look and feel of their site.
Costs: Packages range from $4.99 a month for a simple 5 page site to $49.99 a month for an unlimited number of sites and pages.

Pro-Stores: If you just need an e-commerce solution instead of a full blown web site then Pro-stores may be a good option for you. You can choose from professional templates, edit customizeable options including html, and even run coupon offers or generate logos for your online store. If you want to establish a full featured, professional online store front, then this is the perfect solution.
Who is it Best for? Retail businesses looking to put their entire product line online in an easy to use, professional store format.
Costs: They offer two packages, $29.95 for up to 5,000 products or $59.95 per month for up to 100,000 products; both with a 0.5% transaction fee.
Cons: Designed for large retail businesses, if you only have one or two items to sell this may not be the best option and a standard web site with PayPal integration may work better for your needs.

In addition to my top picks, you may also want to check out a couple of these other great options:  

Ed Note: All links above are affiliate links. Clicking on them for your purchase helps support Niki and her great writing.

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