HolHost.com Blog Server administrators blog

13Apr/11Off

How to change web host? Step-By-Step Guide

Every webmaster cringes at the thought of moving hosts. Like moving your home it can be messy and sometimes problems arise. But if you follow these simple steps, your move will be less painful.

Backup Backup Backup

If you’ve been diligent with your backups, you’ve got a lot of insurance to fall back on yet always make the latest backup. If you haven’t, before you do anything else, do a backup now. Backup anything and everything you can and don’t forget your database if your site relies on it. Save at least 2 copies and store them separately. One for you to work with, and the other as an archive. Do not underestimate how easy it is to copy over these files as you make changes or simply mess it up.

If you’re moving to a host who has as different control panel, make a manual backup by downloading all your files because different control panels may not be able to restore the backups made by your old host. They also have different directory structures so your file trees will be in a mess. If you need to, make a small note file with notepad with memos for you to remember the old server configurations. This will help you as you make changes on your new host server and save the confusion moving back and forth between hosts. Remember to make the correct transfer type (ASCII or Binary) as you download. If your download is not right chances are you’ll have a tough time getting your site to work on the new host server.

If server logs are especially important, remember to backup those too. There is no good way of moving logs yet because different hosts may log statistics differently. So the best thing to do is to download it and use a log analyzer on your computer to make references to later on.

Gather Odds & Ends

1. A Good FTP program which you should have by now
2. Get your new host server’s DNS
3. It’s also helpful to have a script that tells you the server environments installed on your new host server for quick references.
4. Get the temporary URL on your new host so you can check your site before you make a DNS change.
5. If you have your host control the domain inform them not to change your DNS until you tell them to.
6. If you run scripts:
- Get a copy of the original installation guide and the script. Sometimes after moving the scripts just do not work right so you might need to install the script from scratch.
- Get a list of all the server paths such as Perl, Sendmail and home directory on your new server.
- If your script needs special server modules or programs ensure they are installed and where. Even though these might be covered before you ordered the account with the host but sometimes your host has removed it or haven’t installed it yet.

Inform Your Visitors

It is common and good practice to inform your visitors and customers of the server move. If you run a e-store, this helps assure your customers you have not fled with their money if there is any downtime. Also give an alternate email so you won’t lose emails in the transfer. You might also want to give periodic updates prior, during (if there is downtime) and after. If your site is large, doing this is helpful because your visitors can alert you whenever there is a part of the site not working.

Moving Day

Try to schedule the move at a time where there’s least traffic. Backup again just before you do the move so you’ll have the latest data. Start by first copying or creating your custom error pages onto the new host server. Put a small note in there about the move. You can always remove it later. Then upload the most visible parts of the site first i.e the main pages then move on to the less critical parts of the site. If you have a large site with many divisions you might want to split them across different days and instead move the least critical first. Just ensure you always do a backup before you do any moving. Use the temporary URL to check your site, visiting as many pages as you can.

Changing DNS

Once you’re satisfied, change your DNS over. This typically takes about 24-48 hours so you have time to make some minor changes if need be. You might want to also take this time to modify your old site’s error pages to inform your visitors of the move and give a new URL if there are URL changes. To help you determine if the DNS has resolved, make a small change on the new pages to differentiate between the old and the new.

Monitor

After you’ve moved and the DNS resolved, do not release the old account yet. Keep it as long as two weeks running concurrently. Go back and check the old servers for activity. Check your old email account and if you have a web based contact method on the old server check to see if any communication is left there. Once you’re comfortable all email and traffic is correctly directed to the new host server, you can cancel that account.

13Apr/11Off

Find a Good Hosting Company

How Find a Good Hosting Company.

It’s a real dilemma these days as by spending some amount any hosting company can prevail at all possible location of customer search like google, yahoo, forums, market places etc. thus wherever you go you find few hosting companies haunting you.

The other aspect relates to huge, throw away costs some of the hosting companies offer, thus customer without knowing how much space and bandwidth really he needs gets engaged with these hosting companies.

To find a good hosting company, you can always search in Yahoo, google and msn for a while. May be you need to go to about 2 to3 pages depth.

While searching prefer key words like quality, performance, etc. Also you may like to prefer to mention your location with every key word, if you are keen to find a hosting company in your region (which is always a bonus).

Omit key words like “low cost”, “Cheaper” etc as firstly these are not indication of good web hosting services and secondly the hosting service providers have normally littered the net with these.

When you start analyzing the hosting companies, you can keep following points with you which not only explain what to look for but also how to ascertain its effectiveness:

*Feature Offered. These could be:

Space and Bandwidth. First determine how much you need, do not fall prey to big offers just for nothing. Most of these are very simple tricks. Based on years of experience hosting companies know that an average customer does not use more than 100 Mb space and 300 MB bandwidth thus whatever bigger than that is offered is just an offer to attract customers.
Email and Database.The number of emails per account should only effect you as per your needs, do not get over influenced by ‘unlimited” when you know you do not need more than 10 in any case. Use of mysql will be important if you need a data base driven site or contents.
Other Features These could be free scripts for guest boot, chat and web development etc. Most hosting companies do have these in their hosting panels. These make things easier for you if you are to use these. So give a plus to hosting company for that.

What kind of support they are offering ie email only, ticketing system, phone support and a toll free phone.  Give an additional point for each service offered. You may need only one of few of these, but eventually it may be important to have a hosting service provider with more kind of mechanisms to be reached to.

Note the response time to your sales requests. Better host respond within 4 hours. Note that the auto responder is not to be rated as response, though that does indicate a bit effort.

Do they have physical office location. It may be a indication of serious business, this also ensures that you do not run into part timer. You can always ascertain it from the contact us page, by calling them, seeing if only a mobile number is given and not a land number etc. Its not that a part timer or the one who cannot afford an office location cannot be good in provision of services, yet generally the one with physical offices may mean a bit more settled ones. This may not be totally true in all cases

Price / Cost. Not always the ones who are cheaper are good and not always ones who are expensive offer high quality services. Better is to stay away from two extremes in cost. Mostly one can think and expect that the ones asking a bit higher prices should be able to afford management of things better.

Popularity
A web host might have the best feature offered, unbeatable customer support and reliability in place but without an effective marketing plan, it will go bust too. Let’s face it. If a web hosting provider does not have sufficient members and steady growth of new members, it’s very difficult to survive in this highly competitive industry.

Do not go for the more than 2 to 3 pages in search engines. The hosting company should be effective enough to appear in these pages.
Sponsored listing shows interest of company to promote themselves but not always an indication of good hosting company.
Read reviews and see top 10 list. Though in most cases these are the ones haunting the net with their money and not always quality.

Reliability Every web hosting service provider will have more than 99% listed on their site. But few have the courage to provide independent prove of their uptime.  A hosting company should always have a monitoring service and should be able to provide you a report of the same.

These were some very basic things I could think of, there could be many coming up in subsequent discussion.
Regards

 

13Apr/11Off

What’s the Difference Between Unix and Windows Web Hosting?

So you're finally ready to publish your finished website and you're searching through the myriad of web hosting plans and providers. You may have noticed that most hosting companies use Linux or Unix operating systems on their web servers. Microsoft Windows is less commonly offered as a choice.  So what's the difference?Most people are familiar with Microsoft Windows having used it at home, work, or at school.  It is very easy to use for novices and it doesn't require command-line knowledge. In Windows Home and advanced Server editions, you can simply point and click your way to a different folder using your mouse.  Unix and Linux are open-source - meaning that the operating system is free and the source code is well documented and easily distributed. There are no major differences between Unix and Linux.  Unix is much older and cannot run on x86-based personal computers (like the one you're using now). In contrast, Linux can run on both high-powered servers and x86-based computers.

Linux is available in many flavors, though most hosting companies use Red Hat Linux, or Mandrake Linux, which are proven workhorses able to handle hundreds of websites and millions of hits per day.  FreeBSD and OpenBSD are versions of Unix which are also available. While ease-of-use is very important for a home or work computer, it is generally not a big issue when working with a web server. After all, you are doing most of your website design offline on your own computer. Unless you have very advanced programming or operating system-specific modules, you will not notice the difference between Windows and Unix servers.

Both Linux/Unix and Windows can handle high traffic websites and add-ons such as chat rooms, email and website statistics with ease. The biggest differences are price and software compatibility. Because Windows must be purchased and licenses renewed continuously, Windows hosting plans are usually more expensive than Unix-based plans. Also Unix-based plans often come with free email, databases (MySQL), statistic, and community programs. While Windows plans come with Microsoft software (MS SQL, for example) that must be purchased by the hosting company.

Both Linux and Windows platforms can run popular programming languages such as php, perl, or java. If your website uses active server pages, then it will be less risky hosting it on a Windows server. Well it still may function on a Unix server, there may be small glitches that are not immediately apparent. Similarly, if you are using with Microsoft SQL databases, these databases will be supported by most Windows plans. However, Linux or Unix plans often include MySQL which would require that your databases be converted to this format in order to function properly. If you are currently using any Microsoft programming (especially active server pages) or third-party applications (MS SQL 2000), you may want to play it safe and choose a Windows hosting plan.

From the average web designer's standpoint, there isn't much difference between hosting on Linux/Unix or Windows web servers. However, before signing up for a hosting plan, ensure that all facets of your site's design, programming, databases and the like will work with that plan. If you are unsure, ask the company's sales or technical staff before you commit.

13Apr/11Off

How Much Space and Bandwidth do i Need for my Site

There is lots of space and bandwidth talks going on these days with hosting companies trying to surpass each other, customer running after space and bandwidth, seems more of a fashion than any one really knowing what he/she needs in this area, May be this needs to be discussed:-

How much Space you need:

Think of your web hosting account as a sub-directory (or folder) on your hard drive. To determine how much disk space you will need, In Microsoft windows simply open explorer or my computer and click on the folder that contains your web sites files. Create a new folder for your web site if you don't have one and then move all of files you plan to host on the web server into that folder. All you have to do now is right click on your folder to check the size of that folder and now, you know how much disk space you will use on the server. This entire site is around two megs.

How much monthly (bandwidth)Data Transfer do you need:

Try using the following formula to estimate your site's monthly data transfer.

[Average size of your web page(s) + any graphics included within] * [number of visitors you expect each day * number of pages each visitor will view] * [30 days in a month] = Total Monthly Data Transfer Usage.

For example: if we had a site with 30 pages averaging 8 KB each, 50 KB worth of images in each page, and 50 visitors each day who viewed an average of 4 pages, you would have the following formula:[8 KB + 50 KB] * [50 visitors * 4 pages] * [30] = 348,000 KB So we would be using 348,000 KB, or approximately 340 MB, of bandwidth each month. Well within the limitations of our hosting plans.

It's hard to generalize how much data transfer a site will use without looking at it specifically, but in most cases it is very rare for a personal or small business site to use more than one gigabyte (GB) of data transfer in a month. Starting with a data transfer limit of one gigabyte per month is probably appropriate for most new sites. If your average web page is 20Kb in size. 1 Gig of transfer allows for well over 50,000 hits per month at that size! If your average page size is smaller obviously more hits per month.

12Apr/11Off

What is web hosting?

The Internet offers opportunities for anyone motivated enough to start a business of their own or "try" something different, and the opportunities are almost endless. Have you ever dreamed of running your own web site, your own piece of the "dot com" pie? It all starts with a great idea, but to get a successful website up and running it needs a little effort. Anyone can create a revenue-generating website with time, energy, and the few dollars a month it takes to host it. And, like creating a brick-and-mortar business, creating a website can be as much about expressing personal development and providing the world with a service as it is about earning a living.

So, to do business online you must have a website. Why? There are many answers to this question. Some of the most important reasons to establish an Internet presence are:

1. Increased credibility. It's a proven fact that a professional, well-designed site has a good impact on the customer's confidence in your company. It shows that you are up-to-date and you care about your customers by offering them a convenient way to contact you and to learn about your products and services. Using the Internet to search for services and products is much easier and faster than searching by hand through the Yellow Pages.

2. A 24/7 International presence. Your website is available for your potential customers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. With a website, you open yourself up to a world of opportunity in reaching people who might not otherwise find you. When your offices are closed you can be sure that your website is open to showcase your products and services and answer your customer's questions.

3. A powerful sales tool. Your customers will be able to reach your services and products in their own time. You can save money on printing costs for brochures, coupons, flyers, newsletters, and other mailings. Of course, a website doesn't exclude the traditional forms of marketing, but rather complements them.

But if you are here, chances are that you already have a website or considering having one, so let's proceed to the next step: hosting a website.

Hosting a website

A website is basically a set of files linked among them through a navigation system. More complex sites will have buttons, forms and extended functionality with a database to store emails, requests, products characteristics, etc. but in the end they come down to the same thing: a collection of files. So, hosting a website is the process of making those files available to the Internet users. To make the website available to the Internet users you need:

  • A computer connected to the Internet where the files will be stored;
  • A software called web server (for example Apache Web Server) that will "serve" the files to the visitors;
  • A way to make the visitors find your site.

Why can't you use your own computer to host your website? It has already an Internet connection and that Apache Server shouldn't be so hard to install. Well, it's not that simple. There are a few technical aspects to be considered. Hosting a website implies the following:

  1. Be Online. If you shut down your computer, your web server will also shut down, making the website inaccessible. If your computer's hardware or software fails and you need to change a component or restart it, the time until it's back up will count as downtime for your site.
  2. Have a dedicated IP address. If you are behind a router then you most likely don't have a "real" IP address so you have to forward the traffic. Also, your ISP (Internet Service Provider) might change the IP for your computer from time to time. More about this in the next article:  register a domain name.
  3. Resources. Hosting the website in a home server will use part of the hardware resources (disk space, memory, CPU power) and part of the total bandwidth that you pay for.
  4. The need for additional software. If a simple site needs only a web server running, more complex sites need additional software installed. For example, if you need a database you must install a SQL server (MySQL, Oracle, etc.), if you need functionality and forms processing, you need PHP, Perl, ASPx or other similar software installed.