No. of Recommendations: 1
A family member is starting a business and I am tasked with doing the research for the web site. I'm a programmer, and will be doing the development, artwork excluded. I've got some general questions for those of you who have experience dealing with web hosting services. Eventually there will be online ordering of products, but first the plan is to just establish a presence.

What's the best low cost web hosting service?
What e-commerce 'features' are important, required, overhyped?
What hidden costs will I need to worry about?
What is the one feature I can't do without?

Any answers to questions I haven't asked are welcome.

Thanks,
-obelix1
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 6
What's the best low cost web hosting service?

Haha!! You ask that question as though there might be a finite number of hosting services. I offer hosting and many, many associates of mine offer hosting. "Best" is in the eye of the beholder. While I can recommend a few, including my own, I'd advise you to be more specific - best for what?

For instance, there are Unix-based servers, Windows-based, etc. Since you will be doing development, a lot depends on what you'll be using for development. If it'll be straight html, you can probably use just about anything. If your eventual shopping cart needs a specific environment, you should plan ahead for that. For instance, i believe that Mals-e, which is free, uses MySQL which runs under Unix. Other shopping carts may use SQL Server, etc.

You may need a host that will charge a lower rate for high traffic. Or offer a faster backbone for graphics intensive pages. You get the idea - define your needs, then look for the provider that best meets them.

What e-commerce 'features' are important, required, overhyped?

Here I can't give any direct advice, but I can say that the cost varies widely, from free to thousands. And your family member will need to decide what types of payments will be accepted (credit card, PayPal, etc.). If credit cards will be accepted, then the "e-commerce solution" must be compatible with your family member's merchant account and vice versa.

What hidden costs will I need to worry about?

Incremental costs of extra storage and usage limits. DOWNTIME (too expensive at any cost, IMO). Technical issues/incompetence of your host.

What is the one feature I can't do without?

GOOD customer service. No matter what happens, you want someone who will be available to solve problems and/or provide guidance. If this is the first time you're doing a site yourself, a little extra $$ for good service may more than pay for itself in saved time and aggravation.

If you'd like specific recommendations of providers, contact me directly via email (I don't want to be accused of selling on the site). And no, I wouldn't recommend my own services. I don't cater to the "do-it-yourselfer," I'm a more "full-service" kinda gal.

SoftSimp

BTW, what sort of business will your family member be running? (Just curious.)
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 3
What's the best low cost web hosting service?

You'll probably get more responses to this question over on the "Webmaster's Corner" board here at TMF. You can even search the archives over there and find plenty of prior discussions.

You will likely get a variety of responses because different people like different hosting services.

I have used 5 different hosting services and currently have somewhere between 15-20 sites published.

Without hesitation, I recommend www.crystaltech.com

Just as important as low cost is good, prompt, technical support service. If you have a problem at 8PM on Friday of a 3-day holiday weekend, you want a prompt and useful response to your concerns. www.crystaltech.com has never let me down. After using the other services, I'm amazed sometimes how fast they are to respond to email support questions.

I originally learned about www.crystaltech.com through a post someone else put up on the Webmaster's Corner board, so I'm happy to pass the information on to you.



Eventually there will be online ordering of products, but first the plan is to just establish a presence.

Save yourself a lot of time & frustration - get your online ordering plans in place before you establish a presence. It will save you from doing things twice.

Depending on what you're selling, you might even want to start off with using PayPal for payment processing. They have some great options that are simple to implement.

Come on over to the Webmaster's Corner board and provide a brief explanation of what you'll be selling and you should get plenty of assistance.

ShelbyBoy
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
Here's a link to the Webmaster's Corner board - http://boards.fool.com/Messages.asp?mid=19223410&bid=115200&days=7


ShelbyBoy
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Thanks SoftSimp for the thought provoking response. These questions are basically what I want to bring forward to 'the customer' to develop the solution properly.

To answer your question about the type of business: the concept is a baked goods dealer targeted at the more upscale customer. You know, like the Seinfeld episode where the $29,000 piece of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor's wedding cake was sold... ;-) Well, not exactly...

-obelix1
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
<Just as important as low cost is good, prompt, technical support service. If you have a problem at 8PM on Friday of a 3-day holiday weekend, you want a prompt and useful response to your concerns. www.crystaltech.com has never let me down. After using the other services, I'm amazed sometimes how fast they are to respond to email support questions.>

Absolutely and this has got to be a prime issue for many aspects of services to small businesses. Paying more for prompt support may be more viable for the small business than paying less for unreliable support. I still remember phoning an insurance provider who supposedly offered a special service via my business association. My crime? Well I phoned at about 4.00pm on the Friday of a Bank Holiday Weekend (US readers substitute 'public holiday'). This may seem unsympathetic of me but I'm a retailer and a bank holiday often means a much busier weekend than usual. I and my staff certainly won't be going off on holiday - we have to do that at other times.

It was amazing. The person taking my call got all flappy, and - evidentally in despair - passed me onto someone clearly far above the level of employee I needed to contact. Who was he? Senior Manager? Or even the C.E.O. perhaps! But he was certainly panicked while also desperate to help BUT he explained if I needed insurance now what was he to do all the staff had already gone off on the bank holiday (I fear he was indeed the C.E.O.!). I explained several times over as I'd already done to the person taking the call that I didn't expect to insure that day and didn't need to insure that day I just wanted info and an application form and receiving it next week would be fine.

But he flapped on and on. I insured with my current insurer 10 days later instead. Not necessarily the best deal but at least they didn't flap!

Lynn
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Hi,

I use http://dutchit.hostway.com for myself and all my clients.

No problems with them and great support, although I only use their support to ask questions about features or "how to's".

Let me know if you have any other questions, I'd be happy to help you out.

To find out more about my business: http://www.dutch-it.com

Roger

Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
I use http://dutchit.hostway.com for myself and all my clients.

...To find out more about my business: http://www.dutch-it.com



Roger,

"dutchit" appears in the link for the hosting service and in your business link. Are you affiliated with hostway in some manner?

ShelbyBoy
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
To find out more about my business: http://www.dutch-it.com


Roger,

Welcome to the board.

FYI, TMF has a policy against advertising your business on the boards.

Further, people on the board generally avoid doing it anyway. It helps to keep the comments sincere as opposed to people just throwing in a comment here and there to get in a plug for the business.

ShelbyBoy
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
Well I'm offering my help for free.

http://www.hostway.com is the corporate website, I partnered with them.

The post will probably get yanked, sorry. But it wasn't my intention to advertise just to advice.

Roger

Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
I strongly recommend Ocean View Host (www.oceanviewhost.com). We've been with them over 5 years and it's been great. Super service and customer support.

Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 0
I spend much time on webmaster and webhosting forums. There is always the back&forth debate between price and service.

However, in general, there seems to be the basic agreement that you get what you pay for. IOW, if you pay $2.99/mo then you get $2.99 worth of service. Not necessarily a guarantee that $49.99/mo with always get you better service. But you have to think like a business: How can the host provide good equipment, up-to-date system software, quality support, even just keep the lights on, charging a mere $36 a year?!

One big point: always read the TOS (terms of service) and the fine print. And stay away from ANY host that claims to offer "unlimited" bandwidth, storage and/or POP3 emails. Those are the highest cost items in the hosting industry so there must be a limit somewhere. A good host will notify you when you reach the limit but some will (and have, the horro stories are too frequent) shut you down with no warning if you go over the fine-print limit.

ps- Also, be sure to keep FULL backups of your site and data just in case the host does go down or cancels your account w/o warning.
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
ps- Also, be sure to keep FULL backups of your site and data just in case the host does go down or cancels your account w/o warning.


FWIW, all my webs are in a folder.

I purchased a pen drive and each night, I just send the folder over to the pen drive. If I work on a site a lot during a day, I do the backup more often.

If you saw my post over on the HWTSC board, you'll know I called the pen drive the best thing since sliced bread. Easy, durable, inexpensive, transportable, small, and geeky-cool.

ShelbyBoy

Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 1
Pen drive?

OK, I guess I'm not a geek. What's a pen drive?
Print the post Back To Top
No. of Recommendations: 4
OK, I guess I'm not a geek. What's a pen drive?


Dave,

Picture a small plastic case about the length of your thumb, only flatter.

You pull a cap off the end, just like a pen, and it exposes a connection for a USB port on your computer.

Stick the pen drive in the port and presto, you have a place to send your data for backup and/or storage. Some are bootable and can be password protected. You can easily take it with you, easier than a CD IMO, even wear it around your neck if you want.

My first one was a an Apacer Handy Steno 64MB for $23.00 plus shipping from http://www.supermediastore.com Visit the link and to go "pen drives" to see a picture.

It came with a neck lanyard, extension cable, and driver/user manual on CD.

I don't need the extension cable with my laptop because the USB ports are on the side and easy to reach. If you used it with a PC with ports in the rear, the extension would come in handy.

Based on all I've read, you only need the driver installed if using Windows 98 or 98SE. I have 98 on this machine, installed the driver, and it works great.

ShelbyBoy
Print the post Back To Top