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Chapter 7. The Host with the Most: Choos... > A Buyer's Guide to Web Hosting - Pg. 77

The Host with the Most: Choosing a Web Hosting Provider 77 · E-mail forwarding--This service enables you to have messages that are sent to your web host address rerouted to some other e-mail address. · Shared server--If the host offers this type of server (it's also called a virtual server ), it means that you'll be sharing the server with other websites (there could be dozens or even hundreds of them). The web host takes care of all the highly technical server management chores, so all you have to do is maintain your site. This is by far the best (and cheapest) choice for individuals or small business types. · Dedicated server--This type of server means that you get your very own server computer on the host. That may sound like a good thing, but it's usually up to you to manage the server, which can be a dauntingly technical task. Also, dedicated servers are hideously expensive (they usually start at a few hundred dollars a month). · Operating system--This refers to the operating system on the web server. You usually have two choices: Unix (or Linux) and Windows (NT or 2000). Unix systems have the reputation of being very reliable and fast, even under heavy traffic loads, so they're usually the best choice for a shared server. Windows systems are a better choice for dedicated servers because they're easier to administer than their Unix brethren. Note, too, that Unix servers are case sensitive in terms of file and directory names, but Windows servers are not. · Ad requirements--Almost all free web hosts require you to display some type of advertising on your pages. This could be a banner ad across the top of the page, a "pop-up" ad that appears each time a person accesses your pages, or a "watermark" ad, usually a semitransparent logo that "hovers" over your page. Escaping these annoying ads is the number one reason, by far, that webmasters switch to a commercial host. · Uptime--This refers to the percentage of time that the host's server is up and serving. There's no such thing as 100 percent uptime because all servers re quire maintenance and upgrades at some point. However, the best hosts will have uptime numbers over 99 percent. (If a host doesn't advertise its uptime, it's probably because it's very low. Be sure to ask before committing yourself.) Webmaster Wisdom People often ask me if I can supply them with a script or some other means to disable or hide the ads displayed by their free web host. My answer is always an emphatic "No!" because those ads are how the host makes its money. If enough people circumvent the ads, the host will eventually lose money and will no longer be able to offer free hosting. · Tech support--If you have problems setting up or accessing your site, you want to know that help is just around the corner. Therefore, the best hosts offer "24/7" tech support, which means that you can contact the company--either by phone or e-mail--24 hours a day, seven days a week.