Advice on choosing a host
Firstly, research, research, research!
Spend weeks looking for a good host as it WILL pay off.
Secondly, remember this: http://www.webhostingtalk.com
- Do not request hosting there, simply go into the web hosting forum (the first forum) and read, read and read!!! It's such a valuable resource, you won't believe it until you do it.
Thirdly, learn your stuff, if you know what bandwidth is, how servers work, the concept of overselling, bandwidth providers and so on, you will not make a mistake in choosing a host.
Also, remember that cheaper is NOT better. It is always worse. Never can a host maintain such great service, support at very low prices, do not believe it, no matter how much it appeals to you, no matter how much you want to believe it, do not believe it!
Don't jump to conclusions either, because if you see a nice looking site and think, oh, they've put effort into their site so I will go with them, no, wrong way to go about it, templatemonster.com sells templates at 30-100$ and a lot of hosts just buy these.
Don't go over the top with your plan either, because if you know you are pushing 20GB bandwidth now, and your forum is increasing at a steady rate, you do not need 80GB bandwidth per month. Scalability is a feature to look for in a host, will they be able to expand your account?
Test the host: send emails on random days at random times to their different email addresses asking questions. Ask ask and ask questions until both parties are tired! You will learn a lot and see if the host has patience or not.
Key phrase: you get what you pay for. It's true .
For example, you see a nice site, you see their plans page, say something like this:
Plan 1: 1GB space, 40GB bandwidth - $14.99 a month.
Plan 2: 2GB space, 80GB bandwidth - $29.99 a month.
These can't be. They will be lacking in some departments. Very rarely will a host be efficient in every section and maintain dirt cheap prices.
Ask for a speed test. Ask friends in other countries to download the speed test file. Download the speed test file at different times. If you're not getting a very high speed (for your modem) then the host isn't using a good bandwidth provider.
That concludes shared hosting in the majority, but some forums may be big enough to require dedicated hosting. This is where decisions are crucial.
You MUST take time in choosing a dedicated host. It is a lot of money, a lot is at stake.
- You need to know how to manage a server, if you don't want to spend over $200 a month. Regardless of what anyone says, places which offer managed hosting at <$200 will not enforce quality, they will be lacking somewhere.
- You need to know about operating systems, web servers, PHP, MySQL, perl, etc. - you need to know what you need. Make sure any software you run works on your configuration.
- Security: very important. This is an important part of having your own server. If you don't know how to do this, before you get the server, learn, read tutorials, how-tos, etc. or hire a security admin (means more $$$) to do it for you. It is key. Make sure you have an active firewall on the server, make sure you are running an up to date kernel, latest OS patches installed, etc.
- Once again go to webhostingtalk.com and research dedicated web hosts. I'm not here to advertise any hosts like others, just to post advise to let you make your own decision as I feel that's what helps in the long run. Just for the record I have been with 4 different shared hosts and 2 different dedicated hosts in the last 2 1/2 years. I did learn the hard way and I also learned a lot from webhostingtalk.com. Two valuable lessons. I haven't however made any big mistakes of losing money or being ripped off, I've just experienced some inadequate service or support at hosts.
So that's my bit for now, hope it helps some!