The first questions you have to ask yourself are: how much space and bandwidth do I need; do I want one site or several sites; how much will I have to spend; am I going to use an SQL database; how much uptime does the web host offer; does this site host spammy adult sites; what extras are offered; are there script limitations; do they provide a control panel; and if my site gets too big, what is the next level and how much does it cost?
Let's take bandwidth for instance. If you are starting a brand new site and don't have a lot of other sites to link to it, which, by the way, is becoming increasingly less efficient due to changing search engine rules, it may take over a year to build any real traffic to even worry about this point. But, with bandwidth being a lot more reasonable lately, why not go ahead and pay the 6-10 dollars a month for 1 - 4 gigabytes currently available. After all, your goal is to grow right? So get something a few sizes too big and grow into it. Don't think that you necessarily have to pay a lot of money to get a good web host. You could just as easily spend 20 dollars or more a month and have terrible uptime and any number of hassles. Now if your site is going to be filled with images, especially wallpaper size images, then get as much bandwidth as your budget will allow. If you plan on having a growing site and it becomes even moderately popular, you'll need all the bandwidth traffic allowable you can get. Watch out for hosts that claim they have unmetered bandwidth. Read carefully, especially if we're talking about a host that charges below 5 dollars a month. It's better to have a clear number that you can keep track of in your control panel. You don't won't them to come up and give you a generic excuse like "Your site is using an unfair amount of system resources or traffic as compared to our other customers so therefore we have to shut you down". Please note that system resources and bandwidth are two different issues when dealing with a web host. For instance a script that locks up and has a bug could cause a server to use a great deal of system resources that could cause problems between you and your web host if you are on a shared account versus a dedicated server. So do your research on the type of script you want to run. Bandwidth is the amount of traffic going out from your site including your images, clips, pages, etc. As far as images, sounds, and clips this is easily monitored in your control panel as long as you have a clear number of what you are allowed to use. Unmetered bandwidth could mean anything and really is worthless in the long run if you plan on getting a lot of traffic sometime in the future. And why wouldn't you want to get as much traffic as possible for your site?
One Domain or More
Some hosts allow to host more than one domain on your account. This could be a very great way to cut costs especially with new sites that may take a while to build up traffic. Once any of your sites grows too large you can always move it. Please be cautious though heavy interlinking between sites on the same i.p. address may get you dinged by search engines.
For the most part 6-10 dollars per month is what I consider great area to be in cost wise. Anything lower than 6 and I would get nervous. Anything higher than 10-15 per month and it better have a lot to offer that I can't get anywhere else like bandwidth, space, etc. That's a very basic rule of thumb from my own experience, but it all depends mainly on what your site needs are.
Scripts, Databases, etc
You need to know if there are any script limitations. Are there scripts like cgi, php, etc you want to use that your web host doesn't allow? Of course most are going to work with php and cgi with no problem. Also find out about how many SQL databases you can get and if they offer it at all. Databases can be a very powerful tool that can save you tons of time and are usually necessary for forums.
Uptime and Customer Reviews
Do research. Check out sites with reviews from actual customers. You need to see what your average joe says about the uptime and other factors of the web host you're thinking about using. Remember, most people will complain more than take the time to praise, but a really good host will have a lot more praise then criticism.
Spam and Adult Sites
A new thing is starting to come up. Certain search engines may penalize sites that are on a server with red flag sites like gambling, spam sites, adult, etc. Gambling and adult sites tend to spam a lot so search engines may be penalizing whole servers that house these sites. Make sure your web host will put you on a server free of these types of websites.
Always think ahead to save time and money having to movie to another web host. Always get as much bandwidth and web space you can get at an affordable price. Ask yourself if your site grows faster than you predicted what is the next level with the web host your using? How much is it going to cost to upgrade if necessary, and what do they offer? Some companies that offer reasonable rates and good plans only offer one plan, but they tend to increase their plan's offerings every year or so. So keep that in mind as well when considering how much bandwidth and space your going to need in the coming year or so.
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