Most Web hosts offer a range of features to attract potential customers to their hosting plans. These features may include disk space, free bandwidth, e-mail boxes, auto responders, FTP access, templates, and more. The customer must then decide which of the available packages best suits their needs.
The first requirement to consider is space. The Web site will require a certain amount of disk space based on the volume of content it will contain, with concern given for potential future growth. If the site is not already designed, a designer should be able to give a specific target range to look for.
The second big requirement is bandwidth. It is absolutely critical to buy sufficient bandwidth to cover the traffic generated by the Web site. In the early years of the Internet there simply wasn’t very much bandwidth available at any price. Today the technology has caught up and some Web hosts offer as much as 1,000 GB of data transfer free each month. Again, the required amount is something a Web designer should be able to predict.
Some Web hosts also offer Web analytics. This very useful service provides an insight into the way a Web site is being used, showing the where the traffic is originating and the pages that are being read. It can even display the amount of time a visitor is spending on the site and the search engines that are sending the traffic. While not usually provided for free, this information is usually considered invaluable to Web site owners.
The disadvantage of this is that the log files used to do traffic analysis take up valuable space. With daily logs, it is possible download and delete them every day, but if monthly logs are preferred it will not be possible to delete them until the end of each month. It’s important to clarify where the Web host will store these files or several megabytes of log files may begin crowding the Web site’s designated storage space as information builds up.
Also check to see where the storage for the e-mail boxes will go. If it will go to the same limited area provided for the Web site a maximum limit for each mailbox should be set. This will prevent incoming mail from causing the site to exceed the storage limit, resulting in an overage fee.
If the Web site is going to be a business site, auto responders should be required. This software allows for visitors who show interest in the site to have and automated reply sent to them. Additionally, the inclusion of forwarding aliases can be useful by allowing email to be sent to a filtering program for sorting prior to final delivery.
Finally, FTP access is another of the things a host absolutely must provide. Very few Web hosts charge for FTP access, since without it hosting of most content becomes very difficult if not impossible.