For somebody who has never started a website or has no experience in this field, selecting the right web hosting can be a big challenge or even the first mistake. Not because it is hard to find a web hosting service, but because it is hard to select proper web hosting for particular website. There are many cheap deals, many free hosting offers and many possibilities for wrong decision. Selecting free web hosting is a very common mistake. There is no free lunch. Free web hosting is fine for some type of websites, but you should always check terms of service and reputation of this web hosting provider.
There are some technical terms connected with web hosting that you should understand and check. You don’t have to go into details and understand the theory and all the details. It is enough to know the basics and to distinguish various hosting plans. Before you start looking for hosting you should have a clear vision of your website. What is the website type (personal homepage, blog, forum, sales letter, e-commerce, etc.), how many databases do you need, how many domains you will use, any special requirements,…
There are many free web hosting offers around the web. Some will place an ad on your pages, others will require some membership, while some are really free without any special requirements. If your website will be a blog or personal website then free hosting is probably fine. However, do not select free web hosting for any commercial website. For commercial website hosting you need a reliable hosting provider with prompt support.
Domain is the name that identifies your website, e.g. mycoolwebsite.com. This domain will be part of the url or web address of your website. The domain name is the most important element of the website if you intend to do some online business. If you will have a simple blog or personal homepage then the domain is not so important. Almost all web hosting providers offer domain registration services. You will have to decide for how long you will register the domain, from 1 year to 10 years. After that period you will have the possibility to extend the registration. There is no rule for the registration period, select according to your needs. You might also already have some domain registered. When you will have access to control panel of your hosting you will simply enter the domain details. Many hosting providers offer plans with unlimited number of domains. If you select plan which is limited with only one domain make sure you will have no needs for additional domains.
You need some disk space to store your web pages or blog script. The space you will need depends on the pages you will host. Since most hosting providers offer quite a lot of disk space even for the smallest hosting plan, disk space should not be a problem. Some providers offer also unlimited disk space. Of course, it is limited, but the limit is the actual limit of the web server disk space (which is also shared among all the websites on this server).
When visitors will come to your site they will actually download each page including all supporting files and images that are needed to display this page. This downloading consumes some bandwidth. If your website will not have more than thousands of visitors each (very unlikely) day then this should not be a concern for you.
Many popular scripts like WordPress and Joomla need one MySQL database. Database is storage for the content of your pages. Usually you will need only one, but you should check this first. It is a good idea to have a hosting plan which offers more than one database because sooner or later you will install some new script and you will need a testing database.
PHP is a scripting language which is used to dynamically create web pages. Most popular scripts are based on PHP so your hosting plan should support it. There are different versions of PHP. Check which version your script needs. There are also some other features that your web hosting provider will offer like CGI, Fast CGI, Ruby on rails, SSH, Perl, Chilisoft, ASP, Python, SSI, Cron, etc. Check what your script needs to work properly.