Understanding hosting episodes 3 and 4 - Environments and other factors
As I've said so many times, understanding hosting is a crucial part of becoming a success on the Internet (to any level) and to do anything you need to know about the environment and some other practicalities.
I'm not talking about saving the forests; I'm talking about programming languages, databases, shell scripting and other important aspects. This may seem overly technical but it doesn't have to be. All hosting will allow you to create (X)HTML websites but it's quite likely that you'll want some dynamic functionality (blogging, e-commerce etc). That's why understanding your environment is important.
Wordpress, Joomla and Drupal all use PHP/MySQL which is the easiest environment to find when looking for hosting. It's also the cheapest. PHP is a well supported programming language and almost every blogger in the world is using it as their environment.
Practicalities of hosting
There are loads of good points to having your own hosting: once you've got it you can buy more domains (for a few dollars each) and host them all on your single hosting package. So the cost for me to run one website (with hosting) is around $130-140 a year. The cost for running two would be $134-145, so you get the picture. You can also install pretty much whatever you like on it too.
You have to concede that once in a while your server will go down - it's an unavoidable truth of hosting (certainly lower-cost shared hosting).
So how can I check what the host is like?
You need to do your research: Google for the host and find people who have written blog posts about it. What you're looking for is people explaining what has gone wrong and how the host dealt with it - because all hosts look good when their servers are working. It's only when things go wrong that you see how good they are. Money back guarantees are always worthwhile (Dreamhost have a 97 day guarantee) because if you're not happy then you're okay.
Ultimately you just need to know what you're looking for and (as with all purchases) do your research. Just check that they offer good customer service for the money and you're away. I personally recommend you own some hosting because it's crucial for running your own websites. I hope this awkwardly short and disjointed double episode rounds of what was a useful series.
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