A Halloween Host Story

By Vince Barnes

Host Hunting on the Net.

The time of year comes around when we start to think about hosts. We've been reading and studying, turning out tables, and tags, and links. We've started with <head>s and created new <body>s and filled them with life and suddenly we wake to the realization: "Hello -- we've even created our site!" As the brilliance fades and darkness falls, our minds fill with grimmer thoughts of the web, and spiders, and hosts! Where can we go? Who can help us? How do let our creation loose on the world (wide web)? Our magnificent creation mustn't die right here! It must live! LIVE! But the world is full of hosts -- how do we choose? Which is the best? Which? WHICH?!! Are they all the same? Would any one do the trick, or treat us fairly? And as the gloom gathers and presses us further down and down we see it! There, right in front of us. A specter?  No! A ray of light -- we expect, a glimmer of hope! All Saints be praised, there were Goodies before, and now, when we need an answer, there are Goodies again! And just in time -- one more bad pun and we'd have to find that author and carve his head and put a candle in it!


I have mentioned a couple of forms of hosting before in my "Beginning" article. These are frequently good solutions for personal or smaller sites, but often there are extra requirements that these services do not fill. This is when one of the specialized web hosting service companies will be needed. There are so many of these services that selecting one can be a daunting task. The process can be greatly simplified by approaching it systematically.

The first thing to do is to write down a list of features that you will need. Once you have the list, you can use it to locate only those service providers that can offer all the features you need. I'll show you how that is done later. To help you along, here is a list of key features with a brief explanation of each for you to use as a checklist.

Windows Server vs UNIX/Linux Server

Here's a hot button! The Windows aficionados will tell you it is the only way to go while the UNIX/Linux aficionados will say the exact opposite. ASP calls for Windows, although there are now third party implementations of it available for Unix/Linux; "shell" CGI scripts and Telnet Access call for UNIX/Linux; FrontPage extensions seem to work better on Windows most of the time; PERL CGI works great on either, but is almost always available on a UNIX/Linux system and must be added to a Windows system - bear in mind though, that there may be differences with regard to available email services.

Adult Content Allowed.

This speaks for itself. If it's what you need you should check to see if it's ok. Most service providers are reluctant for obvious (and some not so obvious) reasons.


This would be a concern if your content or databases are updated by site visitors. If you are the site update person, then you can make your own backup when you make changes.

CGI Forms

There are various software solutions that can provide special form handling capabilities. If you have designed your site to use one of these then you already know what requirement you have of your service provider. If you haven't done so, then you probably don't need this! If the service provider you look at offers it, however, take a look at it because it might be something pretty useful.  Possibly the best way to handle forms in today's common environments however, may be by using PHP scripts (see this article) PERL or ASP scripts (see this article) or even FrontPage Extensions.

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