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Taking the Website to the Next Generation (Choosing A Web Host)

What Are You Going To Do With That Website?

Well, there certainly have been a lot of changes since we built our first website. We started by using a company called Webcom.com out of Santa Cruz California. We were very pleased with their service until NTT’s Verio bought out their business and let the business go dormant in 1999. We switched to a company called Pair Networks out of Pennsylvania. We were pretty happy with their service but found them expensive, their control panel a bit hard to understand if you weren’t a Unix guy, and nickeling and diming you for various services (a dollar for a domain, $12 to set up, etc.).
About this time, the masses of hosting companies had come online. We were impressed with Hostmysite.com. They had 24 hour telephone support (you had to pay $24.95 a month with Pair just to get 8AM-5PM EST). They even helped us get Japanese webmail working. We were very impressed, until we decided to take our servers in internally. It took weeks to get a refund for the remaining months for the 2 years that they made us pay for to get the best monthly price. It seemed their president had to approve refunding money for services they would not provide. Their quick answering operators started blowing us off when it came time to return our account balance.

Bringing our servers into our own network (at our headquarters office) was brilliant. No more shared services with hundreds of other users. Mail popped into the inbox from engineers onsite and even from customers. We noticed major changes in performance.

For our non-profit organization (NPO) we continued to host our sites. We were disappointed with Hostmysite so we went back to Pair Networks. We concluded that Pair was better as inspite of their lack of telephone support, their team knew better how to service the customers. Hostmysite seem more intent on answering the phone, even if they didn’t know what to say after the initial ‘hello’.

In the process of running the NPO website into the upgrade stage, we discovered some great things. Commonly known as Web 2.0, websites had gone from the HTML, Dreamweaver (ouch!) editor type of work to content management systems (CMS). We no longer had to fiddle around with HTML tables, graphics going out of wack, and pain every time you wanted to upgrade the site. We discovered CMS was a software that runs on the web-server can help you focus more on content and less on coding webpages. Our first experience was with Expression Engine (EE). We had our site template built by a great designer in Australia, then we began to focus on filling in the details (events calendar, blog, audios, etc.).

Before we got the site live we had to decide on whether to keep using Pair or try another service. We took the leap and decided to use Bluehost with our designer. What a great decision! Rather than using a proprietary hosting service, we found that they used Cpanel and open source control panel for setting up databases, creating email accounts, and probably most convenient is the Fantatisco feature. Fantatisco is a feature in Control panel that allows you to install

Content management Systems
Web Logging (Blog) Software
Mailing List Software
Helpdesk Ticketing software
Online Guestbooks
Online Photo Albums

Many other open source applications are available. The keywords these days are MYSQL and PHP. They are musts for running the Web 2.0 software on your web server.

In a nutshell, we are really happy with Bluehost. Their interface is really more useful than any other hosts. They don’t really try to nickel and dime you as the other companies tend to do. Their control does seem a little bit stitched together, but it works very well. My only concern was to hear that they have 800 users on each server. But frankly, you don’t feel there is anyone else on that box.

It is amazing how you can just install WordPress or whatever application via the control panel. It is just a few clicks before you have your own blog, website, or online photo gallery.

If you are looking for a webhost, look for someone who has Cpanel, Fantasico and a lot of good standard web applications that will make your website more complimentary to your content.

We have heard that www.dreamhost.com and www.liquidweb.com are good but have no experience with them. Any recommendations on good web hosting companies? Please leave a comment if you like as a lot of people are looking reading up on hosting companies.

There are so many choices out there, so feedback on good hosts would be helpful.

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