When I was first introduced to web hosting services, my
experience was easy and painless. With the help of a good
friend, who already knew hosting well, I was able to get started
and begin playing with what it had to offer in no time. However,
when you are a total newbie the processes and technology behind
web hosting could be a bit confusing. And you will end up
spending hours reading information about the technology, what
services to pick, searching for the reliable company and
learning what else is behind the closed door.
After 10 years of experience in web hosting and the world of
online in general, I`ve decided to create this free guide with
goal to help people with their journey online and encountering
web hosting world. This guide was written to explain web hosting
in detail using simple language. Regardless of whom your host is
and what your desires are, this guide will show you how to get
the most of the hosting account.
this section I`ll look at the whole system of web hosting and
explain it using real world examples. You`ll learn essential
terms and we`ll clear some of the beginner`s misconceptions.
What is web hosting?
hosting is the activity or service of providing storage space to
individuals or organizations, for the websites that are
accessible via World Wide Web.
Web hosting is a huge industry, with close
than a billion websites currently online and
millions of people all over the world getting into this new
world. The website hosting process can be intimidating and
confusing at first, but once you get your head around it,
you will understand how it works.
To start with, let`s cover some new terminology. You might
have heard different terms used to describe the process,
such as: web hosting, website hosting, site hosting, blog
hosting, self hosting etc. They all mean the same thing. You
have some server space where you store your website`s files
and you have a complete control over it.
website or blog. You could hear these terms and might think that
this is the same thing as the website hosting. However, these terms
are different from what we call “web hosting”. In this case the
hosting and most of its related functionalities are done by the
third party company.
You usually get the tool/software to create your website but
restricted to the functionality offered by that company. Another
downside of the
hosted solutions is that you can`t move your website anywhere else and it
could be difficult to expand. More about that later.
What else you need to know?
For any website to be available online, it has to be stored on some
server/computer that is connected to the Internet. That server where
store your website is your host. The host could be anywhere in the
world but it has to have these simple things: Power, Internet
and Dedicated IP address.
If you are missing just one of those things, your website
will not be available online:
Power source is a necessary element for the website to
be available online all the time. Just like with many
things we use in day-to-day life, if you don`t have the
power supply it simply won`t work.
Internet connection is infrastructure that you need to
connect with others. If you have your website on a
computer without internet connection, it is the same as
having your business on a deserted island without any
connection with a land. You are existing on an island,
but nobody can reach you.
IP address is literally an address of your website. IP
is short for “Internet Protocol” and it is a numerical
set of instructions that provide communication,
identification and location system for any computer that
is connected to the internet. A “Dedicated IP” simply
means that the address does not change with each
Note: You might
think, I could get my own dedicated IP address at home and host a
website on my own computer. But what about if your power
or internet goes down and you need to reboot your computer? All of the
sudden your website won`t be available to anyone. To solve this
problem web hosting companies own and operate dedicated machines that
exists solely to serve website. Servers are located in specialized
building called data centers. Data centers have all necessary
features to make your site available 24/7/365.
Think of your website as a real business
Web hosting sounds like something virtual and you are probably never
going to visit one of the data centers to see what is going on
closed doors. To make things easier we`ll look at each function of the web
host in the analogy of opening and running a real business.
Just like when opening your new business, you will need: name,
location, staff, and product. The same is true for starting a new
you will need the following: name (domain name), location (web
server), staff (you or webmaster), and product (website content).
Naming your business
Just like when opening a business you have to name it. When
signing up for your hosting account you will have to decide
on a name of your website, until then you won`t be able to
start creating your site. More on how to choose the right
domain name in the Part 2 of this guide.
hosting companies also offer domain registration services.
Some people keep their domain name with the registrar
company, separate from the hosting account. We recommend
keeping it all under your hosting account for the
trouble-free management and maintenance.
Finding the location for your business
If your website is your business, your hosting is a building
where your business is located. You can think of your host
providers as your landlords. They rent you a space, take
care of the essentials, you pay them rent, but everything
else is in your hands. Finding the right hosting company is
essential for your website success and can be tricky, but
more about that in Part 3 of the guide.
will find different web hosting offers online, starting from
free hosting and as big as buying your own dedicated server.
We suggest that you don`t try to go too big right away
(unless you know some secret of getting thousands of
visitors) and stay away from free hosting offers (free
cheese is only in a mousetrap). Start with basic
shared/personal hosting plan and move up as needed, your web
hosting plan can grow with your website.
Understand who is going to do all the work
This part does not need much of analogy. In both cases,
websites and businesses need personnel that will take care
of the business, get the new products or information on the
right place and keep it up-to-date. Even if you are not
selling physical products on your website, you will still
need to keep the content of your site updated.
not all websites need to be updated daily, it is good
practice to have new information on a regular basis. If you
need an update once a month, maybe you alone can take care
of it, but if you need to update it once a week, or even
once a day, you might want to hire additional staff.
Get your business and products ready
Getting new content on your website is the same as getting
new supplies in the physical store. You need to stay
current, fresh, and always stocked, or even the most
faithful customers will eventually stop coming. Although you
paid for hosting, filling
out your website with the content is
your responsibility, not your host's.
we go back to the landlord and building analogy, your host
needs to take care of your server. That means that the host
is responsible for the computer, power and internet
connection, just like the landlord is responsible for the
building he rents. The building and business exist
separately one from another, so do the server and website.
Sure, they work together, but you can freely move your
business elsewhere and the building will still stand. In the
same manner the server will exist even if you move your
Additional things you need for your site to operate
With four basic elements described above you should be able
to get your website up and running. However there are a few
more things that we need to mention and that might be needed
to run your website successfully. These are the items:
decor, office, key to get in, insurance, keep it updated,
security, advertising. These same things are available for
your website (more about it in Part 4 of this guide):
Decor = the design of your site
Office = hosting account control panel
Keys = username and password
Insurance = backup system
Updating = tools to update content
Security = keeping your login info updated
Avoid beginner's misconceptions
Making a website and buying hosting ARE things that are still new to
the most people. Knowing what comes first and who is responsible for
not come naturally. In this section we will explain your responsibility
and your host's responsibility. We will cover common misconceptions
What to expect from a web host
As we already discussed, your host is your landlord. Hosting
companies are responsible for the power, server space,
internet connection, and making sure the server is available
all the time. If one of those is malfunctioning, it is their
obligation to repair it. If you are having problems with
your website, it is your responsibility to take care of it.
Usually, web host support will work with you to determine if
the problem is on their side or yours.
Your web host's responsibility is to offer you support.
Support can come in various shapes such as phone, online
chat, email, community networking, FAQ base or something
else. Some hosts offer more than one option, but there is a
limited amount of things that they can do for you. As
always, you can get the most out of your support if you know
where the problem exists.
If the problem is with your website, most hosts will tell you to
find someone to fix it. Some of them may refer you to someone. A few
might have staff that will help you fix the problem, of course for
some extra fee. It would be silly to think that every landlord can
with every type of office, gallery or store, and it is the same with
web hosts. There are a number of tools and languages that you can
make your website and you can't expect that everyone knows how to fix
Your website is your responsibility
I've mentioned this a number of times, but it is worth
repeating: your website is your responsibility. However,
there can be thousands of ways to lose your data completely
or partially and thus your website. Fire, flood, explosions
or just bored hackers that decided to fiddle on the server,
that your website is on, are just a few reasons things might
go wrong. This is the part where we reinforce the idea and
necessity of a good backup plan. Patching up a few missed
details is much easier, than building your website from a
When it comes to taking care of your site, a few rules
should be applied. Backup your website is always a good idea
in case things go wrong. Keep your username and password in
safe place and not easy to guess, so hackers can't get in.
Keep the software that you will build your site on up to
hosting isn't very difficult to understand, but you have to know
basic terms to be able to navigate in web hosting services field.
Know what you need to host a website, know what your obligations are and
learn what your web hosting provider's responsibility is
Evaluating Available Technologies
this part, we are going to expand and explain some things in
more details, tell you more about domain names and how to choose
a good one, and explain web hosting technologies and available
What is a domain name?
A domain name, also called website address, is the name
that people type in the browser to open a certain
website. For example, domain name for Facebook is
facebook.com. It's the name by which your website will
be known online and the way people can find it.
Getting the right domain name is very important. Just
like the name of your business is one of the most
recognizable parts of your brand identity in the real
world, your domain name will be one of the most
of your online identity. It is the first thing that your
customers will type in their browser to get to your
website or discover it through search engines such as
Google or Bing.
Different types of domains
There are many different types of domain names also known as
TLD's (top level domains). We all see a few letters added at the
end of your website name for example .com, .net, .org. There are
also Country Code TLD's that represent code for each country,
for example .uk (United Kingdom), .us (United States) and so on.
You might also notice some websites have prefix www and you
might wonder if your website needs one. The prefix is simply a
personal choice and it won't make any difference if your website
has one or not. You can select your preference when installing
your software to build the website.
Note: If you
choose to go with some free hosting or try one of the hosted
website solutions very often you will see your website name will
be in this form: yoursitename.hostedsitename.com. This means
that you don't have a unique name for your website; rather it's
located under a subdomain of the hosted solution provider. You
let somebody else own your name and keeping your website name in
this form doesn't look very professional.
What is the best domain for my website?
It really comes down to how you want your website and business
to be represented online. When it comes to choosing
a domain name the
possibilities are endless. But there are few rules that we
suggest you follow.
Choose “.com” first - 52%
of all websites are
Pick a name that is unique - avoid naming your site
similar to existing sites.
Make it easy to type - you don't want your visitors
to incorrectly type in your name.
Try to make it brandable - your domain name will be
Shorter is better - instead of JennyTylerFlowers.com
go with JTFlowers.com.
Avoid trademark problems - do the search before you
register the name.
No numbers and hyphens - stay away from them at all
Marry your domain name - make sure that you love
your domain name.
Check social networks - always check social networks
for the same name.
Other domain tips
You might want to protect intellectual property. Domains are
relatively cheap; it's a good idea to buy different extensions
of that name. If you are buying .com get .net just in case and
maybe .us if you are living in United States.
You also might find that a domain name you want is already
taken, but not necessarily in use. These are usually referred to
as premium domain names. They are domains registered by someone
else and offered for sale. There's no way of telling how much a
domain is worth on the market. But you can check the auctions
like: Godaddy Auction or Sedo.
Or if it's not for sale through auctions, you might want to
contact the domain owner to see if you can make an offer to buy
it. You can use Whois
Tool to find the
domain owner's contact information.
hosting companies also offer domain registration services. Some
people keep their domain name with the registrar company,
separate from the hosting account. I believe it's easier to keep
it all under your hosting account for the trouble-free
management and maintenance. But whatever you do make sure your
domain is registered under your name, not your friend or web
designer who helped you. And if you choose to use separate
domain registrar you have login details to the control panel of
that registrar company.
Your web hosting plan/package, is a permission that
specifies how you are going to use your online space. It
does not matter what term you use, they mean the same
thing. Very often, web hosting plan is bought together
with the domain name, but they function independently,
just like your business and your workspace.
To make things more clear, if you think of your web host
as your landlord, then paying for your web hosting plan
is like paying your lease. Domain name is a part of your
business and you can move it any time you want, so you
can look at renewing your domain name as renewing your
business license. You need them both, and although very
often you can take care of them both at the same time,
they are two separate things.
New webmasters who are trying to choose a web host often find
that they are confronted with a plethora of web hosts that are
offering a wide variety of packages. Some web hosts give you a
choice of packages using the Linux Operating System (OS) and
still others Windows. As a newcomer you might wonder whether the
operating system of the package matters, and whether you should
choose a Linux or a Windows.
What kind of web hosting plan you choose depends on what your
website needs and what kind of technology your website rely on
(or will be built on). Just like you would first choose a
building, depending on your needs and then pay the rent, so you
should decide on your hosting needs and then buy it. With this
guide we will try to clear up the confusion that some people
Note: I often
hear people say that they are using a Mac, and ask whether there
is such a thing as a web host offering Mac packages. By the time
you are done with this part, you'll realize that you don't
really need to get a web host offering a Mac OS X web hosting
just because you're using a Mac. For what it's worth, I don't
know of any web host with Mac packages at the time we wrote this
The computer OS you're using is unrelated
Let me start by eliminating a common misconception among
newcomers. Just because you are using Windows or Mac OS X or
something else, it does not mean that you need to get a web host
that happens to be running the same platform. Your web host
system has nothing to do with the computer you're using. They
are two different things altogether. Let me break this down into
the two aspects that new webmasters worry about, where this
issue is concerned.
Some people are concerned that if they use a system that is
different from that of their web host, the two systems will
not be “compatible”. This is a needless worry. Things that
run on your web host have to be specially crafted for your
website, and they won't be run on your own computer.
Perhaps you're thinking to yourself, “I'm familiar with
Windows (or Mac) systems, so it'll be easier to get a
Windows (or Mac) web hosting account”. The interface you are
dealing with will be similar whichever operating system your
web host offers. How easy or hard the user interface depends
on the company not the OS.
The real criteria for choosing the right OS
Now you know that the computer you use has nothing to do
with your web hosting package. But why do you need to
decide whether to go with a Windows or a Linux hosting.
The reason why you need to choose a system first is
because hosts are also running on some sort of software.
What you want to avoid is building a website or getting
it built for you, buying a hosting plan and in the end
finding out that those two are not compatible. Thus your
decision will be rather, on the basis of what your
website needs (we will talk more about that in Part 3).
Do you need Windows hosting?
Basically, the question is, will your website rely on
Windows-specific technologies like ASP, or .NET or Microsoft
Access, or Microsoft SQL Server (MSSQL)? We're not asking
whether you need these technologies on your own computer, but
whether your website will be coded using ASP or .NET. If you
don't understand any of this, chances are small that you're
going to use them. If someone is helping you to create a website
you can ask them what technology they use, so you understand
your hosting needs.
Do you need Linux hosting?
At this point, some of you are probably shaking your heads. All
you want is to create a simple website, or start
a blog, or to sell something online. What's up with all these
web jargon anyway? For the person looking to just setup a blog,
or sell things with a shopping cart, or just create a standard
website like firstsiteguide.com,
and don't have any special requirements, in 99% of the cases you
will find it easier to use a Linux based host.
majority of free/open source and commercial software (WordPress, Joomla,
Drupal, etc.) that most websites are made of today, be it
A small business, blog, or e-commerce site, were built using a
Linux based system.. Likewise, the majority of tutorials on the
web, especially those on configuring your web server, assume
that your website is running on a Linux based system.
What else do you need to know about the hosting company?
To pick a good reliable host you will have to go through a
number of questions and decide if it's a good fit. Below we will
provide you with
the list of some general and technical questions you should ask to check
Can you trust the company and is it legit?
What kind of customer support do they offer?
What is the availability of the support?
Where is their customer support located?
Is their customer support outsourced?
What is the average uptime?
Where are the servers located?
Can you choose server location?
Do they offer any additional technical services and
to what cost?
What kind of features do they offer?
What are their security measures?
What are their backup measures?
How do they upgrade their servers?
Do they have any software limitations?
Can you expand/reduce your hosting plan?
What do they offer under their "unlimited" plan?
Are they a hosting provider or just reselling?
What payment plans are available?
Are there any offers for new customers?
Do they offer a free trial period?
What are the renewal terms and fees?
What is their refund policy?
What are requirements for cancelling web hosting
How do they manage personal data?
What are the terms for bandwidth and space?
How long has the web host been in business?
How many customers they serve?
What are current customer's testimonials?
How to choose the best web hosting company for your needs
this section we are going to help you choose the right hosting
solution. We'll talk about different types of web hosting, show
how to choose the right hosting plan, and finally clear up any
confusion you may have.
Web hosting server types
We previously discussed the different types of operating
systems, but there is more to learn. We are now going to take a
look at different hosting types that are offered. Like we've
briefly mentioned in Part 1, hosting can be roughly separated in
following categories: shared, VPS and dedicated servers. These
options differ by the server space size and hardware packages,
unlike previous Windows and Linux choices.
On a shared server you share space with other users. It
is the equivalent of doing your business at a farmers
market, meaning that you have some restrictions and what
you do may affect others and vice versa. However, it is
cheaper than a dedicated server and everything you need
for a small business website is included in the plan.
The price of a shared hosting plan is very affordable
and may vary between $5 and $15 with the good providers.
Virtual private server
A “virtual private server” (VPS) is a hybrid of
dedicated and shared servers, but you can also look at
it as a higher class of shared server. It is equivalent
of having your business in a mall. Unlike shared
servers, where you share all of the resources, a VPS is
divided into sections and each website resides within
its assigned section. Each section is separated and they
act independently of one another. Pricing is somewhere
in between dedicated and shared hosting (from $15 to
$100) and might be a good solution if you run a high
Dedicated servers are the easiest to explain. They are,
as their name says, dedicated. It is a physical server
that you do not share with anyone else and no one else
has access to. You can host one or more websites, it is
up to you. It is the equivalent of having your own
business on your own piece of land. They are the most
powerful option, you can do virtually anything, but also
the most expensive option, ranging from $50 to $2,000
per month. Unlike the other options you will need to
have some IT skills, or hire someone who has them,
because everything you do with your website is up to
Cloud hosting essentially
means that multiple servers are joined together to provide
better and faster hosting performance. Having cloud hosting
means that websites load faster and their workload is
balanced. There is a small question of security for the most
conscious users, because multiple websites share the same
cloud. However, for the majority of users, the pros outweigh
Colocated hosting is
similar to dedicated hosting, it literally means co-located
hosting. It allows you to place your own server on the
service provider's location. It is the same as having a
server in your own office, but located in a place
specifically designed for servers.
Managed hosting is
almost the same as the dedicated hosting. You get your own
server; the only difference is that you do not have full
control over it. This way service providers prevent users
from potentially changing configuration or modifying the
server. But don't worry, you can still manage all of your
Reseller hosting is
where you (as a client) can become a web host yourself. What
it means is that you buy a provider's services and sell them
(for a profit) to third party. This option can include any
other type of hosting, but it requires that you have IT
knowledge since you will become a host, meaning that you
will have to solve all hosting problems.
Clustered hosting is
where you have multiple servers that host the same content.
That way even if one server needs a reboot or goes down,
your site will still be online. This option is for sites
with very high traffic.
Grid hosting utilizes
several server clusters that act like a grid and is composed
of multiple nodes. That way multiple servers serve to one
cause or in this instance one site and different parts of
the website can operate independently of each other.
Note: In the
most cases a “shared server” hosting plan would be enough to run
your small business website or blog. But it is always good to
keep in mind what other options exist, in case your site starts
to grow and you start getting 1,000s of visitors per month.
Evaluate the web hosting company and its services
Occasionally, we receive emails from our readers asking
us which web hosting company and plan/package they
should choose for their upcoming website. Most web hosts
that you will find offer different plans/packages to
choose from. You also might be asking, “Can I trust a
certain hosting company? What will happen with my
website if it attracts a lot of visitors? Should I sign
up for the biggest package right away? Etc.”. Let's
answer these questions and look at the most common
questions you should have in mind when choosing a
Checking to see if the company is trustworthy
The most important thing you have to check is whether
you can trust the company. A good reputation is
paramount. The rule of thumb is to check the website of
the service provider for general signs of trust such as
physical address, phone number, general company
information, and testimonials. Ask yourself: “Would I
trust and give this company my personal information”.
The truth about web hosting review sites
Let's talk about web hosting review and “top 10” sites.
If you do your search for specific company reviews you
will find many sites providing this information. As a
newcomer you might find this info useful and decide to
go with one or the other company based on the
information found. But this is not always the case as
many times the recommendations are fabricated by the
website owner. These are sometimes based on the
compensation he is getting from specific hosting
providers, and not by actually displaying reviews from
the real customers who are using the services. Simply
put, you will see a lot of fake reviews and “top 10”
lists, so be careful with that info.
What if my website grows?
Many newbies don't want to agree with the fact that
their new website will hardly have any traffic. We're
not saying that you won't be there one day; we simply
say that it will take some time. If you are not some
celebrity or planning to spend big money on advertising,
we recommend you go with the basic shared plan. When
your traffic exceeds your current site's allocation, and
you're certain that this new traffic level is going to
be permanent, simply upgrade to a higher package that
meets your needs. Don't rush to upgrade on the first
hint of traffic, sometimes that burst of traffic is just
where some popular website or blog notices your site and
talks about it, sending some of their visitors to you.
In other words, as long as your web host allows you to
upgrade your packages without issue, you don't have to
worry about your site's future expansion. We have
upgraded packages numerous times since we've launched
FirstSiteGuide, without any problems or intervention on
Read the terms and conditions
We all do it, check the box with the fine print that
says, “Terms and Conditions” without ever opening it.
Nobody has time to read these endless pages. Web hosts'
terms and conditions can be slightly different from one
another but they all usually sum up to this: By reading
this, you agree to our terms and conditions, where we
listed an enormous number of things that we find illegal
and/or unacceptable, and if we find you in any kind of
violation of any of those, we will take actions and
suspend and/or even delete your account without any
upfront notice. The good news is that usually this won't
Price and payment options
As in any industry, you can find extremely cheap and
extremely expensive offers. The trick here is to make
sure you get a web host that lets you upgrade or
downgrade your web hosting package without any problems.
If your web host requires you to pay an additional fee
simply because you need to switch your shared hosting
plan, I suggest you look for another host. Obviously if
you upgrade to a new plan, you will have to pay some
extra for the new package. I'm referring to some sort of
penalty or transfer fee that is charged simply because
you want to change from one plan to another. As a rule
of thumb you will end up paying somewhere around $5–15
per month for your shared hosting plan plus your yearly
domain registration fee.
Promos and up sells
If you do your research online you will find amazing
deals and offers that go as low as $1.00/mo for web
hosting. If you read the Terms and Conditions for this
kind of offer you will understand that this is just a
promo price to get you in and after the first year with
the company that rate will usually go up significantly.
I've seen people caught by surprise when the renewal
date comes so we want you to be aware of that. Also with
the low offers, watch for the up sells that company
might offer to get more money out of you. Keep this in
mind, search for the company that will suit your needs
and don't rush to buy the cheapest plan out there or
even go with free option.
Most companies offer certain full money back periods
(30, 45, 90 days) and in that period you will get a full
refund. You might see “Anytime money back guarantee”
claims from some companies. This usually means that you
will get the prorated amount back after the suggested
period passes. Make sure you read their “Terms of
Does the company's technical support function 24 hours a
day, 7 days a week? Note that I will not accept a host
which does not have staff working on weekends or public
holidays. You will be surprised at how often things go
wrong at the most inconvenient times. Incidentally, just
because a host advertises that it has 24/7 support does
not necessarily mean that it really has that kind of
support. Test them out by emailing at midnight and on
Saturday nights, Sunday mornings, etc. Check out how
long they take to respond. Besides the speed of
responses, check to see if they are technically
competent. You wouldn't want to sign up with a host that
is run by a bunch of salesmen who only know how to sell
and not fix problems.
Unlimited is not always unlimited
Web hosts usually offer “unlimited” plans for your
website. However, nothing is unlimited and it's just a
simple math formula where the host knows what the
average customer uses. Two main things that you need to
know here are: disk space and bandwidth. Hosts know that
while one customer might be using more than average
space and bandwidth of the server (basically being
unprofitable to them) there are hundreds of customers
that are using very little to none.
Disk space is
a space for your website and you can think of it as a
size of your business place. You can get “unlimited”
disk space because web hosts know that web pages are
very small, 40-50 KB in average. 20 MB is more than
enough for average websites. To put things in
perspective, today you can buy fairly cheap external
disk drive, and on one that is 1 TB in size you can
store 500,000 average sites.
Bandwidth is the
amount of data that can be transferred from the web server your
website is on to the browser of a person that is viewing your
website. You can look at it like the number of customers that
can go through your business space. Majority of websites use
less than 2 GB of bandwidth a month. Those are the ones without
uploads and/or downloads of software, audio or video material.
If you do that, your consumption will probably be around 50 GB.
Of course, here we do not take in account websites that are
designed specifically for upload and download.
There are many websites that are under-performing. By
under-performing we mean websites that don't use up too much
server space and don't get too many visitors. When you take that
into account there is always some free space if somebody needs a
bit more than average disk space or bandwidth.
Reliability and uptime
What is uptime? It is a measure of time that tells us
how much a machine, in this case server, is available
and working. The opposite of that is called downtime and
it is a measure of time when the machine is not working.
Any web host that offers below 99.9% uptime should not
be considered. But why should you not ask for a 100%
uptime? The reality is that every server needs a time to
reboot and fix eventual hardware fails.
0.01% of downtime means that your server could be
unavailable about eight and a half hours over the course
of a year. If we take in account that servers should be
rebooted every month for maintenance, and let's say that
reboot takes about a half an hour that leaves about four
more hours. Maybe this does not sound terrible, but for
some business websites each minute counts. The reality
is that servers are pieces of hardware and, though quite
reliable, need maintenance from time to time.
Location of the company and servers
If you don't stay in the USA, you have the option of
hosting your site with some local provider. The
advantage here is the ease of dealing with them (they
are after all easily accessible by phone call or a
visit), your familiarity with the local laws and easy
recourse to those laws should it be necessary. It should
be your choice if your target audience is local (e.g. a
local fast food delivery service). On the other hand,
hosting it in USA has the advantage of faster access for
what is probably the largest number of your overseas
visitors (particularly if you have an English-speaking
audience). You also have a large number of hosting
companies to choose from, and as a result, cheaper
The Internet is global and you can see everything on it
no matter where the servers are located. For example if
a website has a French web address that does not mean
that the website is actually on a server that is located
in France. Although data is traveling at exceedingly
high speed, there will always be a bigger time delay
with a bigger geographical distance of a server and
user's computer. The best solution would be to locate
your website on a server that is geographically closest
to your audience, so do not forget to check where web
host actually locates their servers.
Web server and operating system
We have discussed this issue in the previous part of
this guide. In general, most people will want to sign up
for a web host offering a Linux based system and running
the Apache web server. Most web-based software assumes
your website is running on such a system, and you will
usually experience fewer compatibility issues with it.
In my opinion, the only time you want to use a Windows
server is if your site will be running Windows specific
programs, like ASP.
One thing that we mentioned before and we will mention
again is backup. here can be A huge difference between
web hosts' backup options. It is important to have a
good backup plan, so the best option would be a host
that performs daily backups. The worst option would be
to go with a host that has no backup plan. Many web
hosts offer backups for some additional fee, so check
that out. If price seems reasonable then it is most
definitively worth the cost. Remember, if your website
goes down and you have no backup, there is no way you
can get it back. To repeat once more: regular backups
are a must!
Different hosting control panels
With hosting control panels, you do not manage content
of your website, but you manage everything
administrative that is associated with your web hosting
plan. Inside a control panel you will find sections to
manage email accounts, users, file management, security
and different applications. There are number of
variations, but for now, we are going to mention a few
of the most popular ones and describe them in detail in
cPanel–the most popular and widely used, very
Plesk–similar in functions to cPanel but with
ISPConfig–open source, with the ability to
manage multiple servers
OpenPanel–open source, very user friendly and
easy to navigate
SSL (secure server)
If you are planning on selling any goods or services
through your website, you may want to see if the web
host lets you set up SSL (a secure server). You may have
seen this on other websites where their web address
begins with an “https://” instead of “http://”. Setting
this up will normally involve additional charges or a
higher priced package. At this point, the main thing to
do is to check if they are available at all before you
commit to the host. You will definitely need to have as
SSL if you plan to collect credit card payments
yourself. If you're relying on a payment gateway
instead, like PayPal, and are not otherwise collecting
sensitive or private information from your customers,
it's possible that you don't need this facility.
Programming languages and other features
If you are paying for a web hosting account, you want to
make sure it supports multiple programming languages and
other features. Some of the most common are: FTP, PHP,
Perl, SSI, .htaccess, SSH, MySQL, Cron. If you are not
planning to develop a custom website from scratch you
probably won't be dealing with many of these. However,
if you are hiring a developer to help you with some of
work he might need some of these features.
Confusion between “Web Hosting” and “Web Platforms”
To add another important dimension to web hosting, we must talk
about platforms or web tools. Sometimes, they are also called
apps, applications, scripts, programs, widget, etc. but they all
mean the same thing. “Web platforms” are the software that you
install on your hosting account to build your website. The term
“platform” usually refers to the script that makes a whole site,
while the rest of the terms are used for smaller programs. A
platform is the basic skeleton that will help you in designing
your website. Essentially, it is a group of multiple files and
one or two databases that work together.
Like your domain name, your platform is not tied to your web
host. If you change your location, you can take all of your
stuff with you. This means if you change your server, you can
take all your files and databases with you. The domain name,
platforms, and host make your website available online, but you
can change each one of them independently of one another any
time you want. We will talk about different platforms later in
Ultimately, when designing and publishing your website, the user
interface that you'll be working with most is the tool that lets
you design your website. If you get one that doesn't work the
way you're accustomed to, then you'll probably struggle to
create your website. In other words, the “easy-to-use” aspect
that newcomers are looking for lies not with your web host's
operating system, but with the tools that you choose to use to
build your website.
What type of a website are you planning to build?
In order to pick the perfect tool to build your website,
you first need to know what type of website you want.
Keep in mind that you can create whatever you want.
Maybe you need a portfolio or a blog website, or you
just want to primarily sell your goods. To make it
easier for you we have the following recommendations:
Creating a standard website or a blog
Web builders (not offered by every host)
Creating an e-commerce website
What kind of website you need depends on what are you trying to
do with it. For authors, an informational/blog hybrid is one of
the most popular choices. If you are an artsy individual, a
portfolio/e-commerce with a hint of blog could be a way to go.
If you are working on a project with a team, a
directory/community hybrid can make things go smoothly. The
possibilities are endless. We'll describe the most popular
Building a website or blog
Once you have settled your domain name and web host, the
next step is to build the website itself. The
possibilities of creating a website are endless and it
can be done from scratch using HTML and CSS or by using
design tools and then apply it to the web. However, as a
business owner you probably don't have time to learn how
to code. In this section, I will assume that you will be
doing this yourself and using one of the recommended
tools. If you are hiring a web designer to do it for
you, I recommend you still get familiar with it since
you are going to manage it.
The tools that you will be working with are called CMSes
(Content Management Systems). It is a platform that will
allow you to publish, edit, modify, organize, delete and
maintain your content on your website from one central
interface. Although essentially all of them do the same
thing and have many similar features, it is up to you to
choose which one suits you the best. Think of a CMS as a
car. They will all take you from point A to point B, but
you will choose the one that you feel most comfortable
with. Let's look at the most popular.
WordPress–there is no CMS list that exists without
having this entry. It started in 2003 as a blogging platform,
but in over a decade it became one of the most
popular open source CMSs in
the world. Approximately, it is used by whooping 50% of users.
The main reasons are that it is really easy to use and it is
very flexible. It is completely free with hundreds of templates
and thousands of plugins. The visual editor allows you to
immediately see all the changes that you have made. WP Community
is huge and very helpful, meaning that it is almost guaranteed
that you will get an answer to your troubling question, within
hours of you asking.
Joomla–depending on whom you ask, it is second
most used CMS in the
world. It is open source, free and one of the most user friendly
solutions out there. It is powerful and good choice if you are
planning on having a heavy article content. Joomla is a CMS that
is somewhere in-between WordPress and Drupal.
PrestaShop–is a free open-source ecommerce solution
used by over 165,000 online stores. It has support in 160
countries and 63 languages. Any graphic tool that you will
potentially need is integrated. It presents the tools clearly,
and the rest of the dashboard is easy to use. A big plus is
seamless integration with PayPal. There are many free modules
and templates, but you may need to pay for specific upgrades.
Beside the above recommendations, there are other CMSes that are
somewhat less popular, but that does not mean that you shouldn't
Drupal–free and open source, originally created as
a community based website
MODx–very versatile, good SEO management tools, but
interface is not the simplest
Concrete5–quite unique visual interface, but it
takes some time to get used to it
TextPattern–very flexible and fast, open source,
but has a learning curve
TYPO3–for advanced users, very versatile, with
great modularity and expandability
Magento–very powerful with steep learning curve,
but excellent for e-commerce
OpenCart–for beginners in e-commerce, easy to set
up, SEO friendly
are also web builders, tools that will allow you to build pages
without any knowledge of coding. They are separated in two
categories: Online proprietary tools which are provided by your
web hosting company, or third party apps that you can install.
Offline builders sometimes require basic understanding of HTML
and CSS. They work on a principle of creating a page offline on
your computer and then publishing it to your host server.
Hosted website solutions
Hosted website solutions, both free and freemium, are
something different and have nothing to do with getting
a hosting account. In this case the hosting and most of
its related functionalities are done by another company.
You usually get the tools to create your website but are
restricted to the functionality offered by that company.
Another downside of the hosted solutions is that you
can't move your website anywhere else and it could be
difficult to expand. If your goal is to make a personal
website, perhaps you do not need more than the most
basic option. Usually you will have an access and do
everything from the online dashboard.
Most popular hosted website builders
Wix–once known as a flash website builder it
changed to HTML5, very flexible, editor is simple
drag-and-drop, there are multiple templates, there is an
app store, however SEO is not integrated as it should be
and there are hiccups with mobile versions.
Weebly–drag and drop editor with multiple
templates, integrated solid e-commerce tool and
multimedia tools, it is easy to use even for the total
beginners and extremely flexible, but beware, there is
no “undo” button.
Squarespace–flexible, but a bit more complex
editor, although minimalistic, sometimes it takes time
to figure it out, however, it is visually stunning,
features are very well integrated with each other and
they have excellent customer support (14 days free
All three tools are popular on the web. You can sign up for free
and pay a premium later if you want to get rid of the subdomain
addition to your site name (free version will look like this
yourwebsite.wix.com or yourwebsite.weebly.com). The SquareSpace
offers 14 days free trial option after that if you are planning
to keep your website you will have to pay a set fee. Again with
these tools you will be limited to the features offered by each
popular hosted blogging platforms
WordPress.com–not to be confused with previous
WordPress CMS, although they come from the same place. Its
dashboard is easy to use but it has far less options than
its CMS counterpart.
Blogger–now owned by Google. A bit elementary and
design options are somewhat crude for today's standards;
however, it is very well integrated from programming
Tumblr–youngest, and popular because of its reblog
option. Now owned by Yahoo it is popular among blog
beginners. Simplistic in design, it is great for art display
and community buildup.
On all three products you can pay a small premium to get rid of
the wordpress, blogger or tumblr addition in your hosting name.
There are many more, but these three are excellent if you wanna
have some fun. If you are serious about your business, you
should go with self-hosted website options.
Note: A web
builders and blogging
platforms are really
popular options among newcomers. If you just want a simple
personal website or blog, you might have fewer complications
with one of the options mentioned above. They are also great for
newbies, where you have the ability to play with these tools and
get comfortable with building a website for free. If you are
serious about your website, it is better to invest a little more
financially and learn a bit more about CMSes, in the long run.
Getting to know essential services and how to use them
Summary: In this
part, we are going to explain how to install and use some of the
essential services like personal emails, FTP, SSL, auto installers
Branded/personalized email address
When it comes to personal and business correspondence, there
are very few things that can compare to email. There are
other means of video, sound and text exchange, but when it
comes to everyday use of important and less important
things, we all overuse and love/hate email. It almost
completely filled in for the regular snail mail in the areas
of personal and business correspondence and the only area
that is safe is delivery of physical packages. The rest can
be handled over the email.
Most people know how to use email and what the address looks
like. You are familiar with the popular email extensions
that are named after some of the popular free email client
providers, like @gmail.com; @aol.com; @yahoo.com; or @hotmail.com.
They are logical choices when you are starting out because
they are free and easy to use.
However, when it comes down to you owning a domain, a whole new
world of possibilities opens. You may have hosted emails with your
own email extension. For example, if your domain is mydomain.com
your email address can be firstname.lastname@example.org. It is much more
personal than having an extension of any of the popular email
providers (gmail, yahoo, aol, etc.).
Note: Branding not
only gives a boost to your professional image, it gives your
customers confidence that you believe in your business and are here
to stay. Even if you do not have a business site, personalized email
extension gives you instant recognition and a certain amount of
Creating email address
You can create your email address in your web hosting
control panel. With some web hosting plans, you can have
more than one email address. This is useful if you have a
need for multiple email addresses. It allows you to assign
unique email addresses to each of your employees, family
members or whomever you want to give it to. To create an
email address you need to determine:
name of the email address
There is usually a section dedicated to email in the web
hosting control panel. There you will have a few simple
steps for creating an email and be asked to enter the three
things we mentioned.
choosing a name for your email address there are few things to
consider. Make your address memorable, concise and simple. Do not
make it too long or complicated because people will not remember it.
The most obvious email address is email@example.com. You can
also have more than one email address in case if you have more than
one employee or different addresses for different purposes (customer
support, billing, etc.)
is a word or string of characters used to prove the user's identity
or to gain access to a resource. It's important not to use a simple
password because it can be easily guessed and cracked. You may have
the option to use a password generator to create highly secure
passwords. Remember to save your password in a safe place. In the
worst case if you lose it you can always replace it.
size–will depend on your hosting plan. Each email that
comes or goes has a physical size that depends on its structure.
Let's say that your mailbox size is 200MB. If it is pure text,
average email may be about 10K in size, but if it has one picture it
may grow to an average size of 2MB. The size limit you will pick is
up to you and your needs. You can also select “unlimited” to have a
big inbox, but do not forget that the “unlimited” is usually limited
by your web hosting plan space. No matter what size you choose, do
not forget to delete unnecessary emails.
Reading and writing with email clients
After you are finished creating an email address and want to
use it, you have two options:
Webmail–is quite popular and widely used. In short,
it is a browser interface for your email. You usually go to
webmail.yourdomainname.com or some variation of it and log
in with your username and password. There are some
advantages and disadvantages. Most hosts have several
interfaces. After you login in your webmail, you can choose
between them. You are not bound to one and it is nice to
have a choice. Since your mail is stored on a server, you
can use your email on any computer that has internet
connection. The biggest disadvantage is that you cannot use
your email account if you do not have internet connection.
client–there are many email clients, but choose carefully
because most of them are built to work with a certain operating
system. Additionally, you will have to configure it to be able to
connect it to your server. One advantage of email client over
webmail is that it has the ability to download your email onto your
computer, so you can access it even if you are not online. There are
two ways in which email clients work and they essentially do the
same thing in a different way:
Office Protocol 3)–downloads your emails on your computer and
removes it from the server by default. However, the drawback of this
configuration is obvious if you use more than one device. The other
devices would not be able to see the emails since they have already
been removed from the server. Each client has its own records of
what have you done, and they do not synchronize with each other.
That means if you have two email clients connecting to the same
email account, for example one at work and one at home, their
inboxes can be completely different. Each client will not
synchronize with each other. POP3 is not recommended if you use more
than one device to connect to an email account. You can configure
POP3 to leave the email on the server so this configuration can be a
handy failsafe. This way, if you accidentally deleted an email, all
you have to do is to login on your server and re-download the email.
Message Access Protocol)–synchronizes your email client with your
server. The client acts as a window displaying the contents of the
email account located on the server. This is great if you have more
devices, but it is also less of a failsafe. The synchronization
means when you delete an email in your client, IMAP will also delete
it from the server. In short, once you delete an email, it is gone
and you will not be able to retrieve it from any device or server.
IMAP is the preferred method for checking an email account from
Note: Do not
forget about your mobile devices. No matter if it is a smartphone,
tablet or whatever they invent in the future, it is handy to have
fully fledged email functionality on the go. Checking emails on your
mobile device is the primary way to check your inbox nowadays. Some
devices come with preinstalled email clients but you can download
any client you want. Just remember to check if they are compatible
with your device. If you prefer webmail, most of providers have
already developed official apps, so be sure to search for them in
your application store.
Email tips and tricks
Now that you know how email works, here are few helpful tips
and tricks that you may want to use in your email.
There are many reasons why you should use mail forwarding.
The main thing is that it will definitely simplify your
email experience. You should use forwarding when:
You have multiple domains/email addresses–you
have multiple domains (mydomain.com, mydomain.net etc.).
It is handy if you are having one primary inbox, for
example firstname.lastname@example.org. People can send you
emails to other addresses, like email@example.com but
you will still get them all in your primary inbox.
prefer to use your personal email inbox, but you want a domain
email address–Simply forward all of your mail from your
business domain email address and deal with it in your private
change email address–Perhaps your older customers are
not aware of your address change and still send emails to the
old one. This way you will not miss any mail that is sent to
your old address.
want to forward emails to certain address–This is
useful if you have multiple personnel and business hierarchy
that demands certain people see certain emails. For example, you
have a customer service but as a boss, you want to be informed
of every complaint. You can set up so that each email addressed
to customer support be forwarded to your mail.
Note: The best
part about creating additional forwarder addresses is that they do
not have to occupy any physical space on your server unless you want
Another time-saving tool is an auto-responder, which will
automatically reply to every mail with a previously composed reply.
You should compose an email that is neither too long nor gives too
little information. Be short and concise with auto-responding
emails. You would want to activate this option if you:
a vacation/business trip–You want people to know how
long you will be out of reach.
a project that takes a lot of your time–You can inform
your correspondents that you will answer with a little bit of
a customer service–You want to inform our customers in
what time they can expect an answer.
are many more reasons to set an autoresponder, but do not forget
about them after you activate it. You want to deactivate it when it
is no longer needed.
Managing website files
When it comes to managing your website files, two things
that you want to pay close attention to are uploading files
and downloading backups. This is where FTP (File Transfer
Protocol) will be helpful. It simply allows your computer
and server to transfer files without displaying or executing
them. To connect to your FTP client you will require
username and password, thus this form of connection is
Installing and using FTP client
FTP is the standard for transferring files. To use it you need four
FTP login username and password
FTP address for your server
Port for connecting through FTP
And FTP client
FTP login details are provided by your web host, usually via email.
If by any chance you lose that email, there is usually a section for
FTP in your hosting control panel with that information. After you
get the login details, you should download and install an FTP
client. There are free and commercial options and the most popular
FileZilla–Free, open source client for Windows, Mac OS
and Linux, one of the most used ones and highly recommendable
Cyberduck–Free, open source client for Windows and Mac
OS, one of the best features is remote editing with your text
editor of choice.
WinSCP–Free, open source FTP and SFTP client, for
Windows users, relatively simple to use without diminishing some
of the more advanced features.
Transmit–Commercial client for Mac OS, sleek and very
fast, packed with options that are outside standard Mac centric
SmartFTP–Windows client, free for non-commercial usage,
but somewhat overwhelming for beginners.
Again, it is up to your preferences and compatibility. After you
open your client, besides your username and password, you will need
the FTP address for the server. It usually comes in one of these
domain FTP address–Your domain preceded with ftp, for
server's IP address
host's FTP address–Your host�s domain preceded with
ftp, for example ftp.hostname.com
Lastly, you will need a port number to connect to. Ports are simple
connections that programs use to connect to your server. FTP
configured ports are used only for FTP and are open only while you
transfer data via FTP. If your host has not designated specific
port, it is usually number 21 for FTP and 22 for SFTP. That is not
always the case, so check that out with your hosting provider.
After you made a FTP connection with your server you will be able to
see exactly what files you have on your server and on your personal
computer. Usually, you will see two columns, one on your server and
one for your computer. There, like in your OS, you can copy, paste,
move, delete and create files and folders that you need. Many hosts'
control panels have a section that is dedicated to FTP but they are
usually limited when it comes to some more advanced features and
have them labeled in various ways. However, you will need to use the
control panel if you want to create additional FTP accounts or give
someone else FTP access to manage (part of) your site.
Before you manage your files you should know about file permissions.
They are tools that give you the ability to determine who can read,
write and execute any file. There are three user levels of
level of permission, usually the creator of the file and/or
or less permission level than the owner, depending on your
Public–Anybody who has access to your system, meaning
all users are in the public group.
Each file has its own permissions. All three of them are applicable
on mentioned users and they are:
to read the contents.
to write, overwrite or delete the file.
Execute–Permission to execute the file (permission to
activate the file to do what it is made for)
There are textual and numeric forms of assigning permissions, but we
are going to skip them because FTP clients have a simpler way of
setting them up in 99.99% of the cases.
Backing up your website
Once again, backups. There is no better failsafe for your
website. It is best to do the backups daily, but let's be
honest, nobody has time for that. It is not enough to have a
backup of your original site. Weekly or monthly full website
backups are sufficient and easy to do. A backup may take a
while, but after it is finished, if possible, make a copy on
your backup drive or USB stick. It is never too soon to make
a backup and there are never too many backup copies.
Manual backup with FTP
You just simply login into your FTP client and drag
everything from the document root to a folder on your
computer. But what is a document root? Simply, it is a
folder that is open to the internet and is protected from
the view of anyone online. It is usually named html or
public_html. Most of the hosts automatically take you there
after you login into your FTP client.
If you do not have time to make a manual backup, you can get an
automated backup solution. They usually work through FTP, SFTP or
MySQL and are efficient. There is a question of a small fee and
usually hosting providers will offer automatic backups. So check
with the provider or search for a third-party solution.
A control panel, in web hosting, is a web-based interface
provided by the hosting company that allows customers to
manage their various hosted services in a single place. One
of the widely used and well known control panel is cPanel.
There are also other alternatives that you could consider
such as Plesk, ISPConfig, etc., depending on your needs.
Overview of cPanel
cPanel is one of the most widely used control panels for web
hosting. It is easy to use, highly customizable and majority
of the hosts are configured to serve its multiple layouts
that are available. It comes with various pre-installed
options, and from it you can manage email and FTP accounts,
your add-on and sub domains, MySQL database, applications,
security, and statistics. Everything that we've talked about
in this guide you can find in cPanel.
After installing and answering a few questions to customize your
cPanel, you are ready to use it. It has an interface for website
owners and server owners. Besides the already mentioned pre
installed options, you can add almost anything you want to.
In the Web Host Manager part of the cPanel, you can do all things
that are related to administrative server hosting. There you can add
and manage your accounts, create hosting plans, reseller accounts,
change security features, configure server, scale your hosting
capabilities and much more.
While it is easy and intuitive enough for beginners, cPanel is
powerful enough to meet the needs of more advanced users.
It is most probably the most used control panel tool after cPanel.
It is also a commercial control panel and similar in many aspects,
from versatility to robust options. There is a number of people that
will recommend Plesk over cPanel because of somewhat cheaper price
in the long run, but in the end it all comes down to user interface
and whether it suits you or not.
Unlike previous two, ISPConfig is a free open source control panel.
It is stable, massive and mostly aimed at internet service
providers, but it is suited for other users too. Its main selling
point is managing several servers from one control panel. It is
secure and fast enough with numerous options that are attractive to
regular customers, including multi language support.
With different terminology, Kloxo is visually similar to cPanel, but
it is free and open source. Although there are some that say it is
buggy, there have been a lot of updates and patches that solved
them. Considering that, it is still one of the best free
alternatives to cPanel. It not only covers the basics, it is equally
robust, advanced and easy to use.
ZPanel is one of the most often updated control panels. Besides the
developers, the user community is also quick to help out. Free, open
source and written in PHP, it is very versatile and easy to modify.
Probably not the first choice or recommendation for beginners, but
great for personal items and once you figure it out, it allows you
to do quite a lot.
Other web hosting control panels that you should also consider are:
Installing web tools/platforms
While CMSs refer to the platforms that makes the whole
website, like Wordpress, Joomla or Drupal that we've
mentioned in Part 3 of this guide, there are number of
smaller and bigger web tools that are built to do a specific
thing on your website. When it comes to installing any tools
you will have two option: manually with FTP and with the use
of third party installers. Most web hosts offer easy to use
installer inside their control panels which will help you
upload any tools/platforms you need.
If you are installing a tool that you downloaded from the internet
manually you will need to use your FTP client. You should find
installation instructions for the tool. It is usually a text file
labeled readme.txt or install instructions.txt that you can find
after you downloaded the files. If there are no instructions, you
should probably skip the script because it is probably badly written
or potential dangerous. Usually the process involves uploading the
files to your server via FTP client to a certain folder. There may
be some additional instructions, so look for them in the
installation instructions text files that you downloaded with the
To make your life faster and easier, there are one-click installers.
They will enable you to install almost any tool/platform fast and
easy so you can dedicate more time to learning how a certain tool
works, rather than spending time on installing them. These one-click
installers are free third party software that is incorporated into
your host control panel. You just need to follow the instructions
for installing the tool of your choice (WordPress, Joomla, Drupal,
etc.). The installation process is really simple and with one-click
any software can be easy uploaded to your website. There are
numerous one-click installers and each hosting provider offers
different options. The most popular are:
Those are the most popular and they all have dozens of dozens of
free tools that could come in handy.
tool/platform can be installed on your server manually with FTP but
these one-click installers were specifically created to make your
Website security is a concern for many people. If you search
the web for How to hack a website, you will literally get
millions of hits. Taking the necessary precautions now with
your website will help prevent a big headache later on in
the event anything does happen to your website.
While it is not possible to cover every security issue for
every program and case, we'll talk about the main areas you
should focus on in order to prevent any problems.
Vulnerability in software you use
The security of your hosting account is very important. Having a
totally secure system would be impractical, so there are few things
that you should look after.
access–At some point you will probably add another person
that could use your account. Make sure that they are to be trusted
and give them a unique username and password that are not easily
deciphered. Limiting access means limiting possible entry points and
restricting the user's database privileges.
versions of the software–It is not advisable to immediately
download the latest version of any software, because they may have
bugs and flaws in them. They may be minor hiccups, but it is best to
wait for patched-up version so you don't have any problems. However,
exceptions are security updates, you should update those
sources–Choose only trusted themes, plugins and apps,
meaning that they are certified and that you can identify who or
what is behind its creation. Getting them from untrusted sources can
lead to various problems.
and password–A strong password and username will help avoid
much vulnerability. For username do not use any variation of your
real name, company name, or website name. For passwords do not use
only numeric or only letters and don't make it too short.
Common ways sites are hacked
happen when untrusted data tricks the system to execute it without
proper authorization so it can access and manipulate the data. They
usually occur through SQL or OS and the most sensitive parts for
this kind of intrusion are login screens, search forms and browser
address fields. You can avoid this by sanitizing your user inputs.
Site Scripting (XSS)–Another major issue happens when an
app receives and sends untrusted data to the browser and that data
then bypasses proper validating. It can redirect users to malicious
websites, hijack sessions, steal personal information and much more.
It is hard to detect and stop, so it is used by malicious hackers to
mess up things and by good hackers to check security and help in
repairing the weakness.
authentication and session management–By exploiting
weaknesses in your authentication system, somebody can literally
steal your identity. They obtain passwords, session IDs, cookies and
other things that can allow hackers to access your site from any
computer. It is one thing when you forget to logout from social
networks, but a whole other thing when it is your bank account. You
can prevent this by setting sessions to expire after a specific
time, so users are logged out after some inactive time
Distribute Denial of Service (DDoS)–although not
technically a hack, it is a method of bringing a website down. It
will make the system unusable or very slow for legitimate users by
overloading the resources so no one can access them. It can be used
to compromise part or the entire website. To prevent this, plan
ahead, strengthen your network and application infrastructure and
especially DNS, since DDoS attacks are large and often sending tons
of URL requests in a very small time frame.
Forcing–Also known as password cracking. This happens if
you have your encrypted usernames/passwords floating on the internet
in the unprotected file. That means that everyone with access to
Google and password deciphering tools for encoding passwords can
find your sensitive information. There are many methods for
preventing this kind of attack and some of them are account lockout
or throttle requests like typing in captcha.
The instructions to transfer a domain from one hosting
company to another are different for each company. It is
best to contact the new hosting company for their specific
instructions. The same thing applies if you want to change
your domain registrar, meaning that you want to change your
If you are transferring hosts, be sure that you transfer and
download all of your website files, because you do not want
to leave something behind. As a precaution, it is wise to
download all of your files to your computer or a backup
drive. However, do not forget about password protected
folders or hidden files because you will need those too.
Also, this is a good time to get rid of unwanted things,
like additional or unused email or FTP accounts or
Schedule your move when you have least traffic. It would not be wise
to have your move during your busiest hours, because there will be
some hiccups and delays until everything is set up. You probably
want to warn your customers too.
Before you make an actual move, make a checklist so you do not
forget something. Usernames, passwords, all kinds of accounts,
subdomains, databases, SSL certificates, applications are just a few
to name. If you want to have the same website on your new host, you
can't forget anything!
If you are transferring registrars, the move is somewhat easy
because it is usually less invasive. In short, you will have to
obtain the authentication code from the old registrar and deliver it
to the new registrar. Then the old registrar will ask you for the
authentication and after you confirm it, it will release the
authority to the new registrar. Then you will be notified when the
transfer is complete. If you are using cPanel, you can do all of
this in the “Domain Manager” section.
However there is one thing that you should be aware of. A domain
transfer could take up to several days, so do not wait for the last
day of your domain registration. If you do that, it could result in
incomplete transfer before the registration expires, which could
result in loss of the domain name registration and failure of the
Speeding up your site
Having seconds, or even milliseconds shaved off your site's loading
time can be crucial. Sluggish pages are an annoyance to both repeat
and new visitors, and can certainly cause you to lose customers.
Here are few tricks to speed up your site.
homepage–The first page your customers see is your homepage
and should load as fast as possible. Reduce the number of posts,
show excerpts instead of full posts and remove unnecessary widgets
and plugins. Incorporate them only where they are necessary, because
they slow the site.
images–Simple, yet a lot of people forget about it. Scale
and crop the images to the actual size, remove comments and adapt
the color depth. Acceptable formats are JPEG, PNG and GIF. You can
even use one of the image optimizer plugins that reduce size, but
not the quality of images.
redundant code–Code can sometimes get messy with useless
extra parts. You should remove them whenever possible, including
line breaks and empty spaces because they add up to the size of the
page. There are a lot of tools that can help you with that, and if
caching–With caching, elements of the pages are stored on
visitor's hard drive in a cache, so the next time you visit that
page, it loads quicker. This is useful if you want to have returning
visitors and it shaves off seconds.
HTTP requests–A big part of loading of the page falls under
downloading different pieces of the page. HTTP request is made for
each and every one, so more elements you have, more time it takes to
load. Have a simple design and framework, optimize and use CSS
instead of images whenever possible, reduce scripts and redirects,
etc. In this case, minimalistic is better.
Content Delivery Network (CDN)–It essentially takes all
your static files, like images, and lets visitors download them from
the physically closest server. There are many tools for this, and as
we already said, the closer the server, the faster the download.
Stylesheets at the top, scripts lower/at the bottom–Putting
stylesheets at the top of your pages will make them appear to load
faster, because they will load progressively from top to bottom.
Scripts are tricky because they block parallel downloads so, if they
start early, the page will take longer to download than the rest of
Note: To have a
fast loading page, you should remove all unnecessary and redundant
parts, optimize what you can, minimize the size where you can
without the suffering of the quality and have as little parts as you
must. More isn't always better.
SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificates are useful if you
have a website that requires personal and/or confidential
information. They prove that you are a trustworthy and
legitimate person or business. They encrypt the data, so
they can prevent the interception and stealing of that data.
You do not require a SSL certificate if your website is
purely informational, however, if you require name or
username, ID, phone number, address or credit card
information, you definitely need one.
It is easy to see if the website is using an SSL
certificate. Since it uses connection protocol known as
Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure, the web address starts
with https:// instead of http://. If the website is using
the protocol, but their certificate is expired, not valid or
not recognized, https:// will be colored red. So beware
because the connection may not be secure. Sites with lower
level verification will have a padlock after the https://
and higher level verification websites will have a company
name or a whole address bar colored green.
There are different security levels and you should choose the one
that serves you and your customers. They vary from Basic to Extended
Validation (EV). Consider your customer size and the sensitivity of
the data you require. If you are only requiring a name and address,
EV level of certificate is overkill.
Buying SSL certificates is easy and you can buy them from different
places. However, buying a certificate from your host is sometimes
the most practical, because you will usually get help with
installing them. Installation can be tricky and sometimes you will
not be able to install it without your host. Installation is
different for every Certificate Authority (CA), brand and
certificate level. By making it complicated, it makes it difficult
for fake websites to trick browsers into believing there is a valid
certificate where there isn't one. There is no one universal guide
for certificate installation and you should follow the certificate
provider's instructions to the last letter or your certificate won't
And there you have it. You made it to the end. Well, almost, because
there is also a web hosting glossary for refreshing your memory. In
this guide we presented essential things that you should know about
web hosting. Now do not be afraid and take on the journey called
What is Server Hardware?
A server might look quite different to a laptop computer, but to
your audience, it won’t matter. A server is a computer, in simple
It accepts messages and signals from other computers, and if
it’s running correctly, it should reply – and never switch off.
Easy explanation: The server is like a telephone. It receives
messages and replies to them.
What is Server Software?
If the server hardware is the telephone, the software is the person
that answers the call.
The server software responds to queries from a web browser and
relays the requested information. Normally, this works smoothly
the information isn’t known, an error message is sent.
Easy explanation: The server software processes the telephone
call and provides answers to the caller’s questions.
What is Bandwidth?
Bandwidth is often explained using analogies that involve water and
pipes; how much water can flow through a pipe, and so on.
The telephone analogy also works reasonably well here too.
Easy explanation: Just as a telephone and a person can only
handle so many calls at once, a network and a server can only
respond to a limited number of connections. When there are too many
connections, some ‘calls’ are placed on hold.
The one key difference is that both parties pay for the ‘call’.
What is DNS?
If the server is the telephone, DNS is the telephone directory.
The computer obtains the number for a website from a DNS server.
When the site changes its IP address, it takes a while for the DNS
server to be updated – just as the phone book goes out of date
Easy explanation: When you make a call, you have to convert the
recipient’s name to a telephone number. DNS works the
same way. It
converts the name of a site to its IP address.
What is a Database? And a CMS?
When a telephone call is made, responses can be provided by the
recipient in two ways.
- The first is to simply know the answer and respond
- The second is to research each answer before it is relayed
back to the caller.
While the first approach may be faster, it’s inflexible. The person
responding would need to know everything, remember everything
relay it quickly.
The second may be slower, but it allows the person answering the
questions to keep data up-to-date and provide better answers.
Easy explanation: The database and the CMS hold the information
the caller wants. Most sites mix answers from both sources
provide an efficient response.
Does the Analogy Work?
The telephone analogy may help your non-technical audience to
the web works.
If you want to take this further, you can easily apply the same
analogy to other concepts. For example, the TCP/IP handshake,
two computers establish a connection before transmitting data, is
much like how humans confirm who they are talking
to on the phone
before they start the conversation. TCP/IP itself is a lot like how
humans have to use a common language
(English, French, Spanish,
etc.) in order to exchange information verbally.
Try using analogies in complex articles to help your readers grasp
the theme of the post.