Web hosting can be tough to figure out sometimes but it's not rocket science. Do you need PHP or ASP? My SQL or MS SQL? CVS or SVN? Basic web host features (like operating system and disk space) are explained on a separate page. Here we tackle some of the more advanced features. It is also helpful to understand all the features a web host offers so you can choose the best host and not lose time and money switching hosts later on. Here are the features that you should know about:
Using a scripting language can help make your site more dynamic and interactive and give your site more value. For example, you can install scripts for polls, forums, blogs, content management systems, shopping carts, surveys, mailing lists, photo galleries, and chat. Many scripts are available for different scripting languages but you will want to make sure your host supports a scripting language if you plan on using a particular script. Scripting languages include Microsoft's .NET, Classic ASP, PHP, CGI, Ruby on Rails, Python, Perl, SSI (Server Side Includes), and JSP.
Databases allow you to store almost any kind of information such as visitor contact information, blog posts, and e-commerce product data. Many scripts rely on a particular type of database so make sure that your web host supports the type of database that you need. Also make sure that they don't limit the size of your databases if you need to have a large one. Database types include MySQL, PostgreSQL, MS SQL.
SSH or Shell Access (remote access on Windows) means you can connect to your web server and execute commands via a command prompt or even a user interface. This is occasionally useful but most hosts have a robust control panel so that this feature isn't necessary. If you get a VPS or dedicated server, you will be likely to use this feature often.
A control panel lets you manage your web hosting. It lets you do anything from add domains, email accounts, databases and files to viewing server logs, installing scripts, and checking statistics. The most popular control panels include cPanel, DirectAdmin, vDesk, Helm, Plesk, and Virtuozzo Power Panel. Some control panels are more robust than others but they all allow you to do the basics.
Script installation software allows you to easily and automatically install different scripts such as blogs, and content management systems and even keep them up to date so that your site doesn't get hacked. The most common is Fantastico but there are others that may update the scripts more often.
CVS, SVN, Git, and Mercurial are versioning systems so that you can keep track of different versions of your website files. Only advanced developers will really need this feature and only a few hosts offer it.
If you need to sell things online or accept sensitive information on your website then you need to secure your site with an SSL Certificate. Few shared hosts support SSL because you also need a unique IP address in order for our site to work on older computers like Windowx XP. Most will let you purchase a unique IP address and install an SSL certificate for an additional fee but some hosting plans won't allow a dedicated SSL certificate at all. Make sure to pick a hosting package that will support a dedicated SSL certificate if you need it. If you need to buy an SSL Certificate, you can compare SSL certificates at SSL Shopper.
Support can be very important when it comes to web hosting. Practically all web hosts offer phone and email support (with varying degrees of quality) and some even allow chat support if you aren't near a phone but want to talk to (or scream at) a live person.
Now that you know about all the different web host features, use the Hosting Wizard to find a web hosting plan that is best for you.