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52. Shop for best host for site

By Mark Alberstat

After you have written text for your website, settled on a general layout and decided which images are going to be JPGs and which will be GIFs, you have to find a host for this fledgling site. Several factors should be considered.

The host company or organization has a system with a variety of folders that computers on the Internet can access in read-only mode. This computer has an Internet ID number that other computers on the Internet recognize so they know which websites are stored on it.

A wide variety of hosting options is available. A few years ago many people were using mega-hosts such as Geocities or Tripod. Much of the shine has come off these hosts as they insert ads and pop-ups onto your website and often host so many sites they are overloaded and slow and will sometimes put on bandwidth constraints.

This means that if your site becomes popular they will shut you down or force you to move to a more expensive hosting option.

Rates can be as variable as websites. It is best not to simply settle on the cheapest host you can find. In this area you often get what you pay for.

The cheap alternatives have very little or no support. If you have a problem uploading your files or understanding their directory structure, you will be out of luck or endlessly waiting for e-mail responses from their overburdened support staff.

Bigger is not always better. The big hosting companies have so many sites that your recipe or travel site means next to nothing to them. They are also more interested in the commercial sites that might feature an e-commerce aspect they can skim a few more dollars from each month.

There are almost always local options as well. Local could mean within the city or province or within Canada. Many of the large outfits are in monster data centres south of the border and that will eliminate any chance you might have of meeting your host face to face to discuss your needs, problems or future.

Some sites will also need access to specialized server software, often called back-end software for its ability to run CGI scripts or PHP for various interactivity options.

The ability to run a database on your site is another feature and the site creator will have to ask the host if such options are available on their servers. Not all hosting companies have these options. Some of these features might not be what you are looking for now, but you may want them down the road and they should be something to consider.

Chebucto Community Net, the sponsor of this biweekly column, is one local option for web hosting that has many of these features. Like most hosts, Chebucto's own site outlines its services and fees.

One aspect often overlooked when searching for a host is the amount of web space on offer and if that amount can easily be increased if necessary.

A simple web page with only a few graphics takes up only a few megabytes. A travel site with dozens of images could easily take 15 to 20 megabytes.

Look over what is available, for what price, with what options, and make your best guess. No host will be perfect, but some might suit you better than others.

The Mousepad runs every two weeks. It's a service of Chebucto Community Net, a community-owned Internet provider. If you have a question about computing, email If we use your question in a column, we'll send you a free mousepad.


The Mousepad Index


Originally published 30 January 2005


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