OK, so you’ve chosen which content management system (CMS) or service to use and now you have to do the dirty work: get it up and running. Here comes design, content, defining its purpose and more. But if you’ve chosen a CMS or service (such as WordPress.org) that requires you to host it and purchase your own domain, you must begin with those needs. If you’re like me, you learn as you go. However, taking a few pointers doesn’t hurt either. Below are a few pointers, from personal experience, on choosing a hosting company and buying a custom domain:
1. Always do your research first. If you know you need a certain script to be running on your host server, find out which companies offer it. If you can, talk to others who use the company you’re considering–nothing speaks louder or more truthfully than a happy (or upset) customer. Also, try to assess how available their customer service is. Is there a phone number? Live chat? There’s nothing worse than to have your Web site in limbo due to a consistent error message and have no way to contact your host. (Speaking from experience.)
2. Decide where you’ll buy your domain. If you buy it through a company separate from your host, you may be able to get a great deal (I saw $1.99 yesterday), but it may be cheaper to purchase it through your host as a package (some companies offer the first year of your domain free with purchased server space).
3. Know how much server space you need. If you can find unlimited for a decent price, that’s what I’d suggest. It’s more common to find unlimited than limited, but don’t get stuck with a small amount of server space. As you familiarize yourself with the whole process, start running e-mail and begin to build your Web site, you’ll be glad you have the room to grow.
4. Decide beforehand what you want to pay per month and choose accordingly. You can sign up with a quality host for a mere $5-6 a month. Generally, the longer you sign up for, the cheaper it is per month. (For example, the price may drop $1/month for every year you sign up; $5.95/month for 12 months, $4.95/month for 24 months or $3.95/month for 36 months.) Don’t lock yourself in, but if you’re confident in your choice, go ahead and pay for the longer amount of time–you’ll save yourself a few pretty pennies.
5. Get to know your control panel. Once you’re up and running, your host will send you a link for your control panel. It is accessed through a Web browser and controls things like running scripts, webmail, and FTP accounts. You’re better off knowing where everything is before you have a problem. One of the most common control panels is cPanel (access a demo version here). You may want to check out what kind of control panel your host runs before committing–this may or may not break the deal for you.