A Halloween Host Story
This usually refers to UNIX Shell scripts, but also includes PERL. If you have any doubts here, check out our PERL & CGI Primer.
Chat Software is not needed too often on a small personal site. This is another one where you probably already know what you need if you need it. If you are intending to create a chat capability you might want to research that first, and then find a service that can accommodate your solution.
If you are going to doing some e-commerce and need credit card processing, chances are that you will get your software interfaces from your processing company. There may be some hosting service providers, however, who are set up with a processing company to help you painlessly establish your on-line merchant processing capability. If this is something you think you would need, add it to your list.
This may be very important. If you need a database backend, support is essential. You will need support for the specific database system you intend to use, for example, MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server, Access, Oracle, etc. There are frequently special requirements of the host system that only the system administrator can set up.
If you intend to use CGI scripts or other mechanisms to send email from within your web pages you will need your host service to provide support for the method you intend to use. Note that the email capabilities you see in FrontPage can be configured to use pretty much any SMPT (mail) server and that "off the shelf" PHP, PERL and CGI scripts frequently assume that sendmail (a UNIX/Linux based mail server) is available on the system where the script is running. You need to check these details carefully.
An autoresponder is a mechanism that automatically sends out a reply when mail is received at a specific address. This could be an acknowledgement of the receipt of an inquiry, or a boilerplate informational message or other similar email response.
This is obviously essential if you intend to use the facilities of FrontPage or any other program designed to use the FrontPage extensions. Note that the fact that you use FrontPage to create pages does not necessarily mean that the host must have the server extensions in place. That depends on the features that you have used or intend to use. For more about FrontPage, click here.
Logs keep a record of visitors to your site. There are various formats for log files, each retaining slightly different bits of information about your visitors. This item would be closely associated with the next item, and it is the features there that are probably most important to you. All you need to know here would be that the log contains enough data to enable the reporting that you are looking for. If you intend to use your own analysis and reporting software, then you would need to ensure that these logs retain all the elements you would be looking for.
Traffic Analysis Reports
If you want to know how many visitors you have had to your site and obtain demographic information related to those visitors. If you find a host that provides everything else you want but is lacking this feature, you can also solve the problem by the use of third party services -- check this out.
There are other things that you will want to keep your eyes on. For example, the type of internet connection the host is using is important. Ideally it should be big (a single T1 is not considered "big" anymore!) and redundant (meaning that there is more than one path from the host to the internet). If you don't have Domain Name Service (DNS) from anywhere else you will need your host to provide that also.
By now you should have your checklist in hand. Now go to The List of Web Hosts. The List includes all the better service providers in its database and lets you search according to your needs. You are most likely to need "Shared Web Hosting", although if you intend to build sites for some clients, you might need "Reseller Hosting - it's worth looking into!. When you look under these headings you will see check boxes that you can use along with your check list to search The List's database. You may still come up with quite a few providers to choose from, but your list will have been culled from the thousands of service providers out there, thereby saving you from a great deal of aggravation.
Recent issues of the Goodies To Go Newsletter (you can subscribe over there on the right!) have included information about hosting opportunities. Check out issue #356 and follow the trail. HTML Goodies can also provide you with a soup to nuts description of the task of setting up a server at home, should you wish to consider being your own host. You can find that piece here.
.Learning to use resources such as The List is key to making the net work for you. Shop around the globe in a matter of moments and get yourself a ghoul deal -- er, a good deal!