Setting Up Your First Web Hosting Account

By: Russ Mate

The Basics

Setting up a web hosting account for the first time can be confusing and frustrating for the novice. This article will guide you through the steps of setting up a new web hosting account for your website.

Setting up your web hosting account will depend upon many things, the first of which is:

Do you already have a website built and ready to be hosted?

If the answer to that question is yes, then your next set of questions should be:

How was your website designed? Did you design it yourself using Microsoft FrontPage, or did you use some other WYSIWYG website building software? Did a professional designer build your site for you? Did they use Microsoft FrontPage, or did they use some other WYSIWYG website building software? Did your designer use a database driven software, such as Cold Fusion? Maybe they coded your site using a text editor – you’ll need the answers to these questions.

If you have a FrontPage website, you’ll need a web host who supports FrontPage. If your site was developed with Cold Fusion, you’ll need a web host who supports Cold Fusion. This also applies to other design software not mentioned here. Check with your web designer and/or web design program’s documentation for further help with this.

Maybe you haven’t yet designed your website. Many web hosts offer online website building software that requires no programming or HTML knowledge. If this is your strategy, make sure your web host offers such software, and find out if there’s a cost for you to use it.

Finding The Right Web Host

Locating a web host that gives you the reliability you need, plus excellent customer service, and that offers all the features you’re going to need, can be challenging.

You can begin your search by asking business associates, friends and relatives who have websites of their own, who they use. Just as you would get a recommendation for a good restaurant, word of mouth can sometimes steer you in the right direction.

You can also check out the many web hosting directories on the web. These directories are set up to allow you to search using the features that you’re looking for in a web host. Keep in mind though, that many of the listings you see may also be paid listings that are pushed your way for obvious reasons.

Once you narrow down your search to a few potential web hosts, your next step will be to visit the many web hosting message boards and forums on the web. Perform a search on each of the potential web hosts that you have in mind – read through the posts and see what other people’s experiences have been with the hosts you have in mind. If you see too many negative comments or experiences by others, you might want to take a hint from that and rule out that particular hosting company.

Once you’ve narrowed down your search to a few web hosts, you should make contact with them and get answers to any questions you have. Since you’re a beginner at this, you might strongly consider using a web host that provides telephone support. A web host that provides only email support may not be able to fully answer questions that you have – this applies to sales questions as well as support questions.

When you make your inquires, keep track of which host responds to you the quickest. Which of these hosts answers your questions patiently and takes the time to go over details with you? Do they seem more interested in getting you to sign up, or do they address topics you have no concern about, beware of those danger signs.

Signing Up For Your Web Hosting Account

Most web hosts have multiple plans that you can choose from. The trick is to choose a web hosting plan that provides you the features you actually need, without choosing a plan that offers you features you don’t need, or may never use. This is probably the most difficult thing a novice will be faced with when choosing a web host. You’ll need to choose a plan that strikes an even balance between what you need right now and what you may need a month or two down the road. Your website might remain the same size as it is today, by next year; however, your site may grow quickly, requiring additional resources in a relatively short period of time.

Consult with your web designer and with your potential new web host about these issues. Ask you potential web host if it’s easy it is to upgrade your account if you need additional services. Ask if there are any additional charges if you upgrade your account.

The last thing you should do before signing up for a web hosting account is to read your web host’s AUP (Acceptable Use Policy), and/or their TOS (Terms Of Service), and/or their SLA (Service Level Agreement). Make certain that you understand and agree with your new web host’s policies, and that your website does not break any of your new web host’s rules and regulations. By not reviewing your new host’s contracts with you, you may find your website and email shut down without prior notice for breaking a rule you were not aware of, or you might end up paying for fees you didn’t know you were liable for.

The majority of web hosts require you to sign up for a hosting account by using your credit or debit card. Some hosts offer online check payment, as well as paper check payments. Many web hosts accept PayPal. You might want to ask if your host offers discounts for advance payment. Some hosts offer substantial discounts if you prepay a year in advance. I don’t recommend this until after you’ve had some time to experience your new host’s level of service and support.

Most importantly, don’t rush into signing up. Wait until you get all of your questions answered to your satisfaction.

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