Eric Mandel, CEO and Founder, Blackmesh
Selecting Your New Web Host
[Editor’s input – Sometimes you simply need to find a new web host. Maybe the customer service was not quite up to par with your needs. Maybe your web site kept going down due to the web host. Or maybe you needed features on your web site that the web host could not provide. It’s time to change your web host]
Selecting a new Web host can be a daunting task. The available options range from a few dollars a month for a shared account to thousands of dollars a month for an extremely high traffic Web site. The wide discrepancy in prices mirrors the wide range of available services. Determining which services and which price tag is best for you depend on your business requirements.
At the beginning of the selection process, it’s helpful to have an understanding of basic levels of host offerings.
• Shared Hosting Accounts
Inexpensive, shared hosting accounts’ best feature is their price. For only a few dollars per month, your site is online. Their downside is a lack of options and flexibility. In addition, most limit the available customer support options to email with response times measured in days.
• Dedicated Hosts
In the middle, are unmanaged, dedicated hosts. An unmanaged, dedicated host offers you root or administrator access on a server along with the related services such as bandwidth and low level monitoring.
• Managed Service Provider
A managed service provider is the opposite end of the spectrum. It offers the customer complete control over their infrastructure, as well as plans for growth. Managed service providers all offer much more responsive support, often immediately.
When selecting a new Web host that is the best fit for your needs, the following questions are helpful in getting through the process:
1. How much money does downtime cost me?
2. Can I resolve my own technical problems, or will I need my host’s support team?
3. Can I support my solution on a 24/7 basis on my own?
4. Can I afford to hire a staff to managed and maintain my infrastructure?
Downtime can cost you money in a variety of ways. Obviously, if you make money on your Web site, either through selling goods or advertising revenue, then any downtime will cut into your profits. Money can also be lost when a server is down and a team of developers or designers cannot access their files. In this case, the costs grow rapidly as people are paid to wait.
If downtime costs you money, but you are technically savvy and experienced at solving your own technical issues, then an unmanaged, dedicated host may be the correct option for you. Although this will ultimately save money, it can cause unwanted stress as you support the solution on a 24/7 basis.
For those without technical expertise, who just want your site to work without worrying about the technology behind it, a managed service provider may be the best option.
After Selecting Your New Host Provider
Once you have selected a new host, there are two steps you must take to transfer your site from your current host to your new host. First, you build your site on your new host. Once you confirm that everything works, you update your Domain Name System (DNS) record so the rest of the Internet knows you have moved. This allows you time to test and confirm that your site is functioning properly before your end-users start to use the application in the new environment.
Which type of host you select will also determine how you deploy your site on your new host. On a shared host or a dedicated server, they typically have a Web interface to transfer the current Web site (all of the files and databases) from your existing host to your new host. You will be responsible for getting all of the information from your current host. If you are moving from similar server configurations, the moved files should work the same on the new host as they did on the old host and there is nothing more for you to do. Some migrations, however require a few changes to the actual files before the site will work as it had.
A managed hosting provider will usually perform this complete migration, including getting the current information from your current host, for you.
Updating your DNS means telling your authoritative name servers — the servers that host your domain — that they need to change the IP address associated with the domain name. All of the large registrars such as GoDaddy, Network Solutions, and DNSMadeEasy have simple to use Web interfaces that allow the user to update these IP addresses.
Even though the process for selecting a new host provider and moving your site can seem quite challenging at first, if you take a moment to step back and break it down into a few easy steps and ask the right questions, the process will be more manageable and you are more likely to end up with the Web host provider that best meets your needs.
Eric Mandel is the CEO and co-founder of BlackMesh, a provider of information technology solutions for small and mid-sized businesses. Mandel is an authority on building, implementing, and maintaining a wide range of technologies, with experience at various levels of software development and in-depth knowledge of existing and emerging methodologies.