E-Commerce Fundamentals (II) - Selecting Host for your website

We discussed domain names, their significance, IP numbers, key points to remember while selecting a domain name etc. last week. This week we discuss the next step - how to find a physical space in the Internet that will host your webpages under your own domain name (yourdomain.com)

The domain name is an intellectual property, you may or may not use it to build a website. However, if you decide to build a website named after your selected domain name (yourdomain.com) - you need physical space in a web server or Host. Host is a computer with special features (notably a 24-hour telecom connection with Internet called backbone). You have the options of:

  1. Have your host or web server at your premises, get leased telecom lines, hire programmers and maintenance staff etc. It gives you unlimited freedom but costs huge sum of money.
  2. Place a dedicated server at a data centre, hire programmers and other maintenance staff. Suits large websites with dynamic content and considerable programming input.
  3. Hire space with others in a shared-host. Most economical and popular option - more than 90% small and medium enterprises use this option. (We focus our discussion on this option here)

The next decision you need to take is the platform or operating system of the server. There are largely two options :

  • Unix / Linux host supporting open source
  • Microsoft supported platforms (Windows NT, Windows 2000) supporting ASP and other Microsoft suits

There are pros and cons for both, no such thing as one best solution. While Unix / Linux option is cheaper and faster, Miscrosoft supported options provide user friendliness, flexibility, regular upgrades etc. The best solution depends upon your actual requirements - something your technical expert is better placed to decide.

The third and final decision is the location of your server. Earlier, options were limited - USA or Europe as there was hardly any data centre in India. However, many Indian data centres and web hosts have come up during last two years. The ground rule is to select a location that is nearer to your target audience.

What To Look For In A Web Host

There are plenty of vitally important things to look for in a host OTHER THAN PRICE . Do not get carried away by price alone - check how competent is your host and what features are offered. Some of the features you may look for are:

  • Speed & Reliability

    Quality of backbone connection to the net, Server configuration, how fast ? What is the uptime, do the host guarantee 99.99% or above uptime ?

  • Customer Service

    How competent, fast and friendly is the customer service ? Is it 24 hours x 7 days a week ?

  • User Friendliness

    How easy to set up and maintain various facilities. Do they provide web based control panel for setting up mail lists, add/delete autoresponders, edit html pages etc. from your browser ?

  • Global Hosting

    How many clients ? which countries ? User satisfaction level ? Are they able to host domains with extensions from your country ?

  • Back Up Routine

    Frequency of systems back-up, hourly ? daily ?

  • Price

    How competitive is the price ? How much disk space ? What are the payment options ? Do the host accept credit card ?

In addition to above general selection criteria, you should also be looking for:

  • e-commerce support including secure-server
  • Support for your application programs (Java, PERL, CGI, C++, TCL, Python etc.)
  • Microsoft Front Page Support
  • POP3 e-mail accounts
  • Infobot support
  • List Server support etc.

You must be sufficiently confused by now !! Well, in next issue we shall discuss how to get best advise from the web free of cost. We shall list web resources that will help you compare and decide the best host for your application.

Related Links:

Source: FAIDA - Newsletter on Business Opportunties from India and Abroad Vol II, Issue 18; October 11' 2001

Author : Dr. Amit K. Chatterjee
(Amit worked in blue-chip Indian and MNCs for 15 years in various capacities like Research and Information Analysis, Market Development, MIS, R&D Information Systems etc. before starting his e-commerce venture in 1997. The views expressed in this columns are of his own. He may be reached at amit@infobanc.com )

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