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Web Design Fundamentals is a survey of Web design and development techniques and technologies, fundamental concepts, terms, and best practices involved in professional web design. Instructor James Williamson examines popular web development tools, server-side software solutions, content management solutions, and cloud-based software, providing a high-level overview of the world of Web publishing.
One of the most important decisions you will make as a web designer is which hosting company to use when creating sites for yourself and your clients. A quick search will reveal dozens of sites dedicated to comparing hosting companies and the plans that they offer. The sheer number of hosting companies, available plans and features and pricing options can be confusing and even overwhelming to a person choosing their first hosting company. In this movie, I'm going to cover some of the basics of choosing a hosting company and offer some advice on what to look for. First, you should take some time to think about what your needs are for a particular site.
Is it a commercial site, blog, portfolio, or is it simply a web presence? Will the site require e-commerce, databases, or server-side scripting? Knowing what a site's needs are and how those needs might grow in the future will help you understand which hosting plan is right for that particular site. If you know, for example, that you will be creating a site that involves e-commerce, a WordPress powered blog, and a PHP driven back-end, you can use those requirements to help you filter through hosting companies and their plans. When looking at hosting companies, here are a few things to consider.
First, almost everyone makes the mistake of looking at price first. I understand this. Hosting your personal site can be expensive, and many clients balk at the cost of some plans. I've had clients before that are bit leery of the hosting plan that I recommend, stating that they did a quick search and found some incredibly cheap hosting prices. There is nothing wrong with cheap hosting. Some of the lower priced hosting companies do a fine job and are extremely reputable. I would recommend however remembering that you often get what you pay for. And trust me, your client expects you to create a site that performs flawlessly, suffers from little to no down time, and one that has problems fixed quickly.
If you choose a hosting company based solely on price, you could be asking for trouble. Next, don't be fooled by plans that offer unlimited hosting space or unlimited data transfer. A hosting space is the amount of storage space that the hosting company provides for your site. Most sites don't need a lot of space, and unless you're creating a massive site or one that makes heavy use of assets such as video or larger images, you probably won't need a massive amount of storage. Data transfer refers to the amount of files requested and served by the server over the course of the period of time, usually a month.
This is something that you want to watch very closely. Most personal or commercial sites won't exceed what your hosting provider considers to be a nominal amount of data transfer. However, if you are creating a blog that you feel will someday be featured on Digg or an e-commerce site that will do heavy business, you can ignore that unlimited data transfer claim. Read the fine print of any hosting company and you'll see that the unlimited amounts that they claim are subject to their discretion. If you're going to host a site that will get heavy traffic, talk to the hosting company and find out how much bandwidth they'll allow before the extra charges kick in, and without a doubt, find out how much those charges are.
That is often a surprise that neither you nor your client wants. You also want a research hosting uptime. No system is flawless, and any hosting company that claims 100% uptime is probably lying. Again, read the fine print. But it is reasonable to expect a 99.9% uptime. If your hosting company can't guarantee that, look elsewhere. There are some great tools on the Web to check uptime. pingdom.com is the one that I use, but a quick search will give you a full list of sites to choose from.
Next, decide whether you need a dedicated or a shared server. A dedicated server means that your site is the only site hosted on it. As you can imagine, these are a bit more expensive than shared servers, but they are worth it for higher traffic or larger commercial sites. In fact, if you're doing a job for a larger client and expect heavy traffic, you should expect to use a dedicated server. For most sites, shared servers are fine but you do want to do some research about who you're sharing it with. In web hosting terms, you don't want to end up in what is called a bad neighborhood.
The term bad neighborhood means that you are sharing a server with sites that are known for spam, phishing, or other dubious activities. Search engines are quick to blacklist such sites, and often your site will suffer from association. Before choosing a hosting company, you should call them and discuss their policies on hosting such sites. After your site goes live, check out your neighbors by using some of the online tools that allow you to see who is hosting alongside you. I use Axandra's free Reverse IP Lookup, but it won't take you long to find a few sites that will do the trick for you.
Take a close look at available features and supporting software. Some hosting companies will allow you to install your own software while others only offer preinstalled solutions. Understanding what configurations you'll be using for your site is important when choosing which features to look for. At a minimum, you want to make sure that any server-side software like PHP, .NET or ColdFusion that you will be using is supported. Check out the support for database administrators like MySQL and PHPMyAdmin. Also, look to the level of e-mail support and what type of spam filtering they offer.
If you're going to be blogging, make sure that the blog engine that you want to use is either supported or that you are allowed to install it on their server. I would also recommend looking to have more control of your installations than less. Although you might not be comfortable at first going in and making changes to installs, you might want to make sure that you or your developer has those options. Not being able to configure your hypertext access files or PHP config files can cause portions of your sites to either not work or not be secure. That leaves to me to my last point. Support.
A good hosting company will have 24 hour support. Don't be fooled by 24 hour e-mail support. Yeah, you can send an e-mail at 2 a.m., but there is no guarantee this is going to read before 9 a.m. Test out a hosting company's support before you sign on with them and look for companies that have 24-hour phone or live online support. You may never need it, but if you do need it, you'll be very glad they have it. Finding a hosting company is an important decision. Don't be afraid to look up the hosting company through the Better Business Bureau, or to read client reviews and online forums. Ask other web designers and developers who they use and trust.
It doesn't matter how great the site is that you've designed, if the hosting company offers poor service and low uptime. As a professional designer, you want to find a hosting company that you can build a relationship with for both yourself and your clients.
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