A "web host" is a company that provides space for websites. It stores your website on computers connected to the Web for access by your website visitors.
Some web hosting companies provide free website space, some Internet service providers give website space as part of your account, and "professional hosting companies charge for website space and their support services.
The temptation to use a free or ISP-based host is a good one. However, for a commercial website, it is one to be ignored. Why?
While some free hosts allow the use of domain names (such as "Dianev.com"), most do not. Those that do usually charge a fee for domain names — so where is the savings?
With a free web host, your website address will usually be something like this: http://members.somefreehost.com/~yourname. This is not too tempting. Picture your business card with that plastered across it!
Regardless of what anyone may tell you about free hosting, free hosts are notoriously slow. It's likely that this is partially due to the fact that they can't afford not to put a gazillion websites on the same web serve. They also usually require that your pages display their ads, logos, and/or annoying popup windows advertising the host rather than your business. And this is "free"? You're paying them by advertising someone else's company, service or product on your site.
Maintaining a Professional Image
While free hosting is fine for personal and hobby pages, it does nothing to enhance the professional image of your company. What better way to advertise to your potential clients that your company simply cannot afford the $30 or so per month fee for a professional host, or to make them suffer a barrage of banners, frames, pop-ups and the like for some other company than yours?
Lastly, since free hosts generally do not provide most of the advanced services that may be required to do business on the Web, they are a poor choice for a business.
The worst case scenario is when your website becomes inaccessible or something else goes wrong. That's when you discover that your free web host cannot afford the kind of technical support — and fast action — you may need. Enough said.
Professional web hosts, on the other hand, have a range of services, options, and web hosting packages to meet your needs.
For instance, if you need interactive forms (such as a form your visitors can fill out to provide you with orders, credit card data, etc.), you'll need these advanced services.
The better web hosts will also provide technical support via email and, hopefully, a toll-free telephone number — 24/7/365. Aside from the faster speed of their servers (which make your website perform faster), they'll be able to help you when you need it most. That level of professional service is part of what you're paying for.
Your Present and Future Needs
It can be a painful experience to move a website from one web host to another, so it is important to choose a host with the kinds of services and support that you may need both now and in the future.
If you simply need a referral for a good web hosting company, we recommend Verio. Verio is likely the largest web hosting company in the world, with a wide range of services and packages. We've been using Verio services for years, and are nothing but happy with their services. If you have a simple website, we recommend the Basic Web Hosting Bronze plan.
And if, as time passes, you find you need more, a good web host will allow you to upgrade your account to get the more advanced services you need.
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