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The Best Web Hosting Companies Print E-mail
Written by iTechGuide   
Thursday, 17 January 2008

by: Jason Canon

With more than 5,000 web hosting companies on the Internet, consumers are looking for a short cut to finding the best service for their business and personal requirements. A little known secret from the “geek” community can greatly simplify the process of finding the perfect match for you.

Since the mid-1990’s, a company in Bath, England called Netcraft has been providing free research data and analysis on many aspects of the Internet. They are a respected authority on web hosting providers, operating systems, ISP’s, electronic commerce, encryption, and content technologies, to name but a few. Netcraft is the place where webmasters and other information technology professionals go when they want answers to solve real-world problems. Fortunately, one of the best reports Netcraft produces is an on-line near-real-time web host performance report. It provides performance data on about 50 of the top web hosting companies on the Internet. Incredibly, the report is free and updated every 15 minutes.

Netcraft's Hosting Providers Network Performance report can best serve those who are seeking to locate a reliable hosting service. It tracks outages over the past 24 hours providing the hours, minutes, and seconds information. Performance monitoring agents are operating in the USA and UK so that the network performance can be determined from different points. Web hosting performance is comprised of the time to process the http GET request and return the page contents. The time reported depends on the speed of the processor, the size of the data, the number of concurrent requests being processed by the web server and so forth. Dynamic content generally requires more time than static content. During the http GET request Netcraft records four times: (1) DNS (2) connect (3) first byte, and (4) total.

The DNS category provides performance information on the time it takes for the Domain Name Service (DNS) to lookup the hostname. The customer's local name server as well as the authoritative name server for the domain affects DNS response time. Due to the wide variability of this performance parameter it is not part of the total time recorded. The connect performance parameter is the first phase of the http GET request when the TCP/IP connection is made to the web hosting server. Connect is typically reflective of network latency but if the web host is under heavy load the time recorded will increase. The first bye performance parameter is the time from when the last byte of the http GET request is sent until the first byte of the response header is received. Although many different factors, including application associated processing, are involved this performance parameter is generally useful in determining how fast the web hosting server is responding. From a performance perspective this is the silver bullet because studies have shown that consumers purchase more often and in higher dollar amounts from fast performing web servers. The last performance parameter is the total, which is the time from when the http GET request is started until the last byte is received.

Can selecting a great web hosting provider really be so simple as looking at web hosting performance reports? Well, yes and no. If you are simply looking for the best virtual web hosting company using Netcraft's web hosting performance report can help you select from the 1% of hosting companies who are so confident in their service that they pay Netcraft to monitor and publish the results for everyone to see. The chances are very good that companies willing to do this will do everything possible to keep their operation running as competitively as possible. Of course, you still need to determine which of these best 50 companies can satisfy your needs in terms of operating system support, programming languages supported and so forth. You can save yourself lots of valuable research time by using iTechGuide's Top Performance Web Hosting Companies table to help further identify the best web hosting company for your needs.

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Last Updated ( Monday, 28 January 2008 )
Web Hosting Turned Upside Down Print E-mail
Written by iTechGuide   
Thursday, 17 January 2008

You can safely forget most of the dire warnings you have read on the Internet about the perils associated with the selection of an Internet web hosting provider. The greater peril faced by new Internet business upstarts is far more likely to be their own lack of experience running a web site than poor quality web hosting service. That isn't to say that poor quality web hosting can't be found if you look hard enough but experienced web masters know that Murphy's Law rules the Information Technology world and they plan accordingly. In this article we peek behind the Wizard of Oz web-hosting curtain to see what is really going on.

Most web hosting reviews are focused on showing you the tiny differences between a virtual web hosting account that costs $4.95 per month verses one that costs $9.95 per month. That cost difference might be important for your own personal web site but if $5 per month really makes or breaks your business model, perhaps it is time to rethink things. If you are really worried about getting stuck by a poor quality web-hosting provider visit your favorite Usenet server such as Google Groups, and look for user postings about your prospective vendor. If you find lots of the vendor's customers ranting and raving first take a look at the date(s) of the postings. Things may have changed. Next, consider the source. Is the poster someone with years of experience or a newbie? Was the poster expecting to pay $4.95 monthly but actually needed $200 per month of technical support? Realistic expectations go a long way toward making a happy customer and often this comes right back to experience.

Conventional web hosting reviews are focused on differentiating among largely irrelevant parameters such as noting the hosting provider that offers 600 Gb of storage space from those offering only 500 Gb. Likewise, vendor data transfer limits are differentiated even when multiple competetors are in the range of say 6000 Gb monthly.  The overwhelming majority of new web sites won't even use 10% of the aforementioned resources during the first year of operation.  Thus, it is important to focus on your specific business requirements. Instead of comparing parameters that are for all practical purposes useless to your business, take time to evaluate vendors based upon their ability to provide more of any resource you may actually need. If you really might need more monthly bandwidth will it be available at a reasonable price? Look for a vendor that has a wide range of capabilities so that if you initially develop your site using FrontPage Extensions but later switch to Dreamweaver and Flash, it can still be supported without changing vendors. Take advantage of a vendors strengths. If Netcraft shows that a vendor's own web hosts are running on FreeBSD servers, chances are good that this vendor will have excellent quality Unix skills even if they are kept hidden from answering trouble calls.

Integrate your web hosting activities with web development. If you are outsourcing web programming and database development, go one step further and outsource the activities associated with web hosting. This approach can significantly reduce business risks, such as outages caused by not keeping timely backups, often caused by inexperience. For those who wish to do their own web site maintenance, consider implementing a content management system (CMS) such as Drupal or Joomla. A CMS can significantly lower your development and maintenance costs.

Finally, keep in mind that while great web hosting is a fundamental underpinning of any successful online business, your ability to attract and convert targeted traffic via search engine optimization, pay per click, and the acquisition of relevant links will ultimately determine the results.

Last Updated ( Monday, 28 January 2008 )
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