Seven Guidelines for Choosing a Web Host
By Walter Sommergruber, owner of a webhosting company

You can't put your website live on the Internet without some kind of web host. The good news is, there are plenty of web hosting companies out there to choose from. The bad news is, many of them claim to provide better service than they are actually capable of providing.
When choosing a web host, you have to read the fine print. You can't simply take their claims at face value.
The problem is, most people don't know the difference between one web hosting package and the next. They pick the a host that wows them with empty promises, then end up with hidden fees galore, or their site down half of the time.
To avoid the cataclysmic mistake of choosing the wrong web host, keep these 7 guidelines in mind:

1. Unlimited Bologna - Yes, the promise of unlimited bandwidth sounds too good to be true. That's because it is. You will find plenty of web hosts who offer unlimited space or unlimited bandwidth, but not one of them will fain to slap extra fees on your bill or take your site down if you go over their untold limit and start costing them money.
Somewhere in the web host's contract or terms of service will be a teeny, tiny clause that says something like,
"Your account will be terminated if your bandwidth goes over a certain amount."
Sometimes this amount is specified, but usually you won't be able to get a straight answer.
Essentially, what 'unlimited' means is that the web host thinks you won't go over a certain amount of bandwidth. The host may claim to have their own Network Operation Center (which most don't), providing them with sooo much bandwidth, but if the host allowed everyone true unlimited bandwidth, he/she would lose money and go out of business.
2. You Get What You Pay For - If you do need a lot of bandwidth, beware of web hosts who offer it for incredibly cheap prices.
They usually assume that you won't use the whole amount. But if you do, they can't support it and have to suspend your account or kick it offline.
3. Room to Grow - Successful sites are like kids--they just grow up sooo fast. If your website becomes successful, you will need a host which allows you room to grow. Find out if your host can provide very large accounts, or just small ones. If you choose a host that gives you no room to grow, you will have to start your search for the perfect web host all over again. Find out if the web host can provide accounts with more than 10 GB bandwidth per month, or dedicated servers.
4. Hey, Isn't That My Domain - You want to be able to take your domain with you when you go. When you register your domain through your host, make sure it is actually you that owns the domain.
Do a WHOIS search and look at the "Administrative Contact."
Is it you? It should be.
5. Hardware Low-down - Find out what kind of hardware a web host is using before you sign up. Some hosts keep prices low by using cheap hardware, or by overloading their servers. Does your host use quality hardware and SCSI drives? Is enough RAM available? How many accounts are on a single server? Ask them.
Also, you should never commit to a host until you've asked about their SSL (secure server), MySQL, and Shopping Cart capabilities.
If you are planning to do any sort of business or e-commerce through your website, you need to get the low-down. Some hosts only provide these services with a higher priced option, while others charge extra for them. You don't want to end up paying too much for these facilities, or signing on with a web host that doesn't even offer them.
6. Super Support -- Before signing up with any web host, be sure they offer good technical support. Many frequently asked questions can be answered by listing FAQ on a web page, but be sure they also offer an email address or other method for contacting their technical support staff. Any company that claims they have good tech support but offers no way to get personalized help isn't worth your time (or money).
7. Money Back Guarantee - After all your careful deliberations, there is still a chance you'll choose a web host who can't provide the kind of service you need. That's when a money back guarantee really comes in handy. No truly professional web host would be without an unconditional money back guarantee.

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