Choosing a Web Site Host and Domain Names
With your web site designed, you need a place to stow it so that visitors can access it--and you have hundreds of choices. Many hosts are free, and few cost more than $20 per month. Truth is, setting up your own host--a dedicated computer that's permanently wired into the net--wastes money and time and, for most small businesses, is a bad idea. Better to outsource hosting to folks who specialize in it.
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When picking a host, you first and foremost want to know if a host can handle e-commerce activities. Some of the most barebones companies simply aren't equipped. Other criteria that are important to most users: setup and monthly fees (a typical range for basic web hosting is $9.95 to $49.95 monthly, but the price usually goes up when adding e-commerce functionality, with a setup fee equal to one month's fee); amount of available storage space (you want at least 10 to 25MB to start as well as the option to add more space as your needs expand); and connection speed (some very low-budget hosts rely on slow 56K modems, while most business-level hosts have high-speed T1 or T3 connections.
Comparing hosts is difficult, so a good policy is to quietly set up an account and test the host--kick the tires, so to speak--for several weeks before announcing your presence to the world. Isn't that expensive? You bet, when setup fees are factored in. But more expensive--and embarrassing--is to make a big push for traffic, only to have your host drop the ball and leave you with cranky visitors who can't quite make it in. Better to know your host is operating smoothly before inviting guests to the party.
Master of Your Domain
Before setting up your site, you also need to stake out your domain name, which is the word in between "www" and "com" or "net" in web addresses. So what name suits you? Come up with some possibilities, then surf to Network Solutions. Other businesses now offer domain registration, but this place was the first, and it has the technology down pat.
The drill is simple: You type in a name, and Network Solutions tells you if it's available. When you strike out--that is, the names you want are taken--Network Solutions then offers possibilities that are available for registration. Network Solutions traffics in the main U.S. top-level domains--"com," "net" and "org" as well as newer domains, such as info, biz, us, cc, bz and tv. Find a name that suits you, and the charge is $25 for three years. After that, you own the rights to the name.
There's wide agreement that nothing matters as much as a good name. Yet who would have thought Amazon was one? What most matters in a name is that it's easy to spell and easy to remember. For my money, that's an argument against using a catchy name with an unorthodox country code suffix. Most U.S.-based computer users just automatically type "com", "net", "edu" or "gov." Throw a weird ending at them, and you may lose them. So I would recommend a clunky name with a "com" or "net" ending over a catchy name with an unorthodox ending.