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Finding the Right Web Host 

The selection of the web host is extremely important, because after all it provides the foundation of a website. In this way, he determines what can be achieved: which functions are available, how many visitors the site can cope with, whether the customer gets meaningful answers to questions in a timely manner, how quickly an emergency is responded to and even how well one does in search engines.

At the same time, the web hosting market is diverse and sometimes difficult to understand. This guide provides you with the most important terms and explains step by step how to find the right hoster. We wrote it

Requirements for a hoster

The German portal webhostlist  knows over 110 providers for web hosting alone. Such a large selection makes it difficult to “just” choose a hoster. After all, the business relationship should ideally last for several years. With this guide, we want to show you which requirements you should definitely consider when choosing your web host.

For this we look at six topics that play an important role in the selection:

  1. The history

Knowing the history of a hoster seems superfluous. Because it's not about previous performance, it's about current performance - isn't it? In fact, the history of a company says a lot about its current performance. Individual milestones also show how the company could develop in the future.

Setting up a server itself is not all that complicated. On the other hand, it is difficult to provide competent and quickly reacting support, to offer an uninterrupted connection that is quickly available again in an emergency, to develop it in a sensible and future-oriented manner and at the same time to keep an eye on the customer's requirements. Years of experience also help to establish secure processes in programming and quality assurance.

In the history, always note any takeovers or management changes at managing directors. Both points indicate that the basic attitude of the company in the coming months and years could differ from the previous career.

  1. Resonance on the web

Amazon and eBay have shown the way: one of the biggest advantages on the internet are independent ratings. These also play an important role when looking for a hoster. As a rule, hosters refer from their websites to rating portals, such as B. Trusted Shops. Others show customer quotes. But if you want to be sure that the results actually reflect reality, you can start your own search.

A few clicks with Google are enough to get a list of forum entries, rating and comparison portals, blog articles and news. To do this, you combine the name of the hoster with the term "experience" or "evaluation" and can now deal with a wide variety of reports.

When researching, you should always pay attention to the relevant date. You can find positive or negative entries from 2005, for example, which are no longer relevant today. Therefore, limit the search to the current year (possible via the search options on Google) and get results that reflect the current situation.

In addition to ratings from the web, certificates and awards play an important role. The Trusted Shops seal has established itself as the standard, and TÜV certificates and awards from independent surveys and tests are also relevant. If you put these many pieces of the puzzle together, the path to the next hoster looks much clearer.

  1. Flexibility – Tariffs that grow with you

Regardless of whether you are an agency, create websites as a freelancer or are planning an online magazine: Flexibility with tariffs is important. In this way, you do not pay more than you need at the beginning, but you can easily switch to a more powerful tariff later if necessary.

But not only flexible tariffs, but also flexible accounts play an important role: If you have accommodated several projects in one hosting package and one of them receives a permanent traffic increase, it can make sense to move this to a separate hosting tariff. In such cases, it is good to know that the hoster not only allows this, but also supports the move.

  1. Test server and support

As mentioned, ideally there is a long-term business relationship between the host and the customer. Before you go into this, however, you should take plenty of time to test the services. Many hosters offer test packages for this, with which you can get to know the administration environment, the services of the hosting tariff and more. A good test duration is 30 days, some hosters extend it if necessary.

If you take advantage of such a trial package, be sure to use the support. Because this is where you will call if something doesn't work with your hosting package and there are questions. If your own customers then call, write and ask for explanations, you realize how important it is for the hoster to have support that is always available quickly.

  1. The data center: location & power supply

A question that is unavoidable when choosing a hoster: does the hoster have its own data center? This is the best basis for secure, individual and high-performance hosting that will continue to bring quality with it in the future.

Many hosters rely on rented space in third-party data centers. Although this reduces costs, it makes it difficult to react quickly in an emergency. At the same time, the hoster is very limited in terms of monitoring, expanding and improving the hosting.

Once this question has been answered, find out the location of the data center. With a data center in Germany, increased data protection is created, which is particularly important for operators of online shops. In addition, the associated website benefits from a better rating by search engines.

If you like to take a closer look, you can also look at the power supply of the data center. After all, the servers consume a lot of energy, and the same applies to the cooling systems, which ensure increased efficiency in the data center. An environmentally friendly solution can be found in hydroelectric power plants. This "green" energy ensures that your own website leaves a smaller carbon footprint .

  1. Worst case scenarios: How is the host equipped?

There are various situations that can take a website offline. An error in the database can destroy the entire content, a presentation of the website on television can cause unmanageable visitor numbers, or a deleted file with orders for an online shop can become a real problem.

You can solve many obstacles around the website on your own - but not all of them. Here again it is good to know that support can be reached quickly. In addition, some hosters also offer additional services. This includes e.g. Varnish: This is a web accelerator that stores the content of websites in the main memory and thus makes them accessible much faster (caching). In addition, the server is relieved and peak loads, such as e.g. B. a mention of the website on TV, can be intercepted.

In addition to regular automatic backups, some hosters support the creation of restore points. For example, the system can be backed up before a CMS update and restored in the event of complications.

With all of these mentioned points in case of an emergency, it becomes clear how important good support is. Because it is this person who reacts promptly in an emergency or who explains and advises before major changes.

Summarized

So in order to get to know a hoster, we recommend examining their history and taking a look at the response on the web. You can then subject the hoster to a more detailed check. Here you can find out whether there are tariffs that grow with you, test servers and support, learn more about the data center and check what measures are available in the event of an emergency. This gives you a valuable basis for choosing the right hoster.

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Managed or Root?

Choosing a hosting package also means making a fundamental technical decision: "Managed" or "Root"? In this part of our web hosting guide, we take a closer look at the differences between these two worlds.

  1. The technical differences explained

Before we look at the respective areas of application of managed and root servers, it is important to clarify the general definition.

If one speaks of managed servers, these are servers that are largely monitored and maintained by the hoster. This limit ends with the maintenance and installation of the actual website. This is up to you. However, updating and monitoring system services that make the server ready for use remains with the hoster.

With the root server, on the other hand, almost every control is done directly by you. This starts with the choice of the operating system, continues with the setup and administration of the e-mail mailboxes and extends to the individual setting of the required server software.

It is important to understand that between managed and root there is a further distinction between shared hosting and hosting on your own server. Shared hosting describes a technique in which the resources of a server are shared among several customers. Since web projects can usually run without problems with far less than half the hardware performance, shared hosting is widespread.

The advantages of shared hosting are clear: since hardware is shared between multiple users, a hosting package can be offered at a much lower price. It must be kept in mind: If several particularly resource-heavy web projects are on one server, the overall performance can suffer.

The most important server specifications

Storage space Photos, videos but also the actual files of a CMS need to be at home somewhere. Similar to the hard drive on your own computer, a hosting package has storage space. 10 GB is enough to start a website.

Memory The short-term memory of the hosting package. A high value is ideal for larger web projects or for several parallel projects. Depending on the CMS and the configuration, at least 256 MB up to several gigabytes (larger online shops) are recommended.

Database Databases manage information ranging from prices and descriptions in online stores to the content of blog articles. Multiple databases are handy for neatly and securely separating web projects.

Processor The heart of the hosting package determines the speed and amount of requests that can be processed. The processor becomes active when a page is called up. With increasing visitor numbers and more complex functions, more power is required.

Traffic In the past, hosting packages were billed according to the data volume generated by page views. Today, more and more hosters have a traffic flat rate as standard. Similar to a mobile phone contract, you don't have to worry about the costs.

  1. Managed: Just lean back

Managed packages are the best choice for anyone who has little technical knowledge or little time for hosting. Here you only have to take care of the administration of your respective CMS. You install it, maintain the content and import updates.

Many of the daily tasks are played directly in the customer center or a similar one, an environment you can log into. E-mail addresses can be created and maintained there, but PHP versions can also be adjusted or applications installed. It is therefore not surprising that managed hosting is chosen for most web projects. It offers the most stable performance with minimal administration - ideal for rarely changed websites, such as e.g. B. from the bakery around the corner or the online business card of the freelancer.

Managed packages are the perfect choice for users who want to have as little to do with maintaining their hosting as possible. However, since maintenance is necessary, managed services are more expensive compared to root servers. On the other hand, this also means that managed packages set certain limits. The hoster's specifications regarding the configuration are usually binding. What is not a problem for technically inexperienced users may be an obstacle for experienced users. Then the root server comes into play.

  1. Root server: The creative freedom

Welcome to a world where anything is possible: root servers. In fact, root servers give their users a lot of freedom. They understand each other a bit like a Lego building set: the building blocks are standardized, but the users have almost endless possibilities for use.

But with the freedom comes a certain responsibility: Now it is no longer the hoster who ensures stable availability and good performance, but the user himself operation is necessary.

With increased responsibility, the time required increases. Because more and more special solutions mean more contingencies that can lead to a conflict in accessibility. A root server is the perfect choice when it comes to implementing complex web projects. Where some managed hosting only has limited options, a root server is open to everything.

The CMS at the hoster

Powerful hardware is an argument for choosing a hoster, but it is not entirely convincing. In addition, it is important to ask: What does a hoster do to create an optimal environment for a content management system (CMS)?

The importance of good support for a CMS from the hoster is often underestimated. Because this CMS will be used every day - whether consciously or in the background to deliver the website. It therefore only makes sense to consider this point when choosing a hoster.

CMS hosting - more than just providing servers

It is not without reason that there are many hosters on the German market: Providing the hardware itself is done quickly. However, the wheat is separated from the chaff when it comes to well thought-out functions that make everyday work and frequently performed steps easier.

For example, Mittwald has specialized in agencies and freelancers and bundles its additional functions in the so-called "Agency Toolbox", a collection of practical helpers for everyday life. These allow, among other things, the following:

  • Copy entire web pages to use as templates for new projects
  • Create accounts to manage customer projects and allocate individual server resources
  • Easy updating of CMS of several accounts by mouse click
  • Test CMS updates in a copied environment before going live to resolve any conflicts

Benefits like these make it possible to save minutes in everyday life and, extrapolated to months, hours.

In addition to general extras for better handling of CMS installations, many hosters offer individual functions specifically for individual CMS. These include themes or templates, your own plugins or special server configurations for even more performance. In addition to looking at the website, a direct call to the hoster will help.

The software manager – knowing how

Many hosters allow their customers to install a CMS with just a few clicks. You do not run the actual installation script for this, but a few steps in the administration interface are sufficient.

However, if you offer such a function, you also have to maintain it well. So it is important that the latest version of the CMS is always available, or at least one that is as up-to-date as possible. Otherwise known security gaps can quickly get into the installation, which is particularly critical for online shops.

If the hoster allows the CMS to be updated directly via the administration interface, a current version is even more important. Here it is good to know that the hoster imports new versions promptly and websites do not have to struggle with security gaps or bugs for long.

The most popular CMS

WordPress WordPress is undisputedly the most popular CMS in the world. Known as the blog system, it is also used for numerous other websites today. It is characterized by user-friendly application ung and numerous expansion options.

Joomla! With its ease of use, Joomla! good as a CMS for small to medium-sized websites. Extensions, different user roles and more make it a valued CMS.

TYPO3 Numerous companies rely on TYPO3 as a CMS when creating their website. It can be expanded in many ways with new functions and is a good basis, especially for static pages.

Never to be underestimated: reliable support

The website is no longer accessible after an update? A plugin requested by the customer causes problems during installation? These and similar problems can sometimes not be solved alone. Here it is good to know that there is reliable support available that reacts promptly.

But what about the software competence of the support staff? There are big differences here. While some hosters train their support staff in individual CMS at the beginning, others rely on their support staff having already gained the appropriate experience, e.g. in day-to-day agency work or as a freelancer.

Either way: A spontaneous call to the hoster within the test period allows you to quickly determine whether a CMS-specific question can be answered competently - even if it is a bit more complex.

Support does not always have to be provided by phone and ticket system. Some hosters offer blog articles, an FAQ, PDF documentation, online seminars and e-books for their customers. This concentrated knowledge helps you to keep learning new things and to stay up to date - regardless of whether you are a beginner or interested in advanced topics.

24/7 support

There are always cases in which a server cannot be reached outside of normal office hours. If it is an online shop or a similar site with ongoing income, quick action is important.

If you plan to operate commercial sites, it is advisable to choose a hoster with 24/7 support. This could be chargeable on weekends and at night, but this is often irrelevant compared to the otherwise lost income.

A look into the community

Most CMS are open source and are provided free of charge. This applies to TYPO3, WordPress, Neos and Joomla!, among others. Some hosters honor the work of the developers by investing in the community themselves: This can include sponsoring meetups and conferences, organizing meetings or providing their own plugins and templates free of charge.

Such a plugin can be found, for example, in the Mittwald Security Tools, an extension for Shopware. But also some templates or themes for TYPO3, Neos and other CMS come from hosters. As a customer, you not only receive support for the hosting, but also directly for the template or the theme.

In addition to a short search with Google, a look at Twitter and Facebook will help. Are visits and sponsoring reported here again and again? This shows: The hoster gives something back to the community.

Incidentally, the community is also a good choice to get some recommendations for hosters. If you are looking for a hoster for WordPress, you will find recommendations at WordCamps. Looking for a TYPO3 hoster? A visit to the TYPO3camp is recommended.

Summarized

Since the chosen CMS is the foundation for the website, the good performance of a hoster plays a particularly important role here. Most hosters offer their customers the option of installing a CMS with just a few mouse clicks from the administration interface. However, the function alone is not enough, it also has to be maintained and the latest versions of the CMS must be used.

With good and reliable support, you as the operator of a website are always on the safe side. If you have made the site unavailable due to an error or if you need help somewhere else, competent support is worth a lot.

Finally, it is nice to see when hosters not only leave their financial resources in the company, but also give some of them back, e.g. through sponsorships. This shows that the company appreciates the work of the many developers.

The perfect hoster for agencies and freelancers

Agencies and freelancers have special requirements when it comes to choosing a hoster. Because unlike a company or hobby website, you don't just work on the CMS alone, but work much more directly with the hoster. In this part, we explain what agencies and freelancers should look out for when making their selection – and what special offers hosters have in store.

Act as your own hoster: white label and reseller solutions

The basis of good hosting for agencies and freelancers can be found in so-called reseller hosting. With this model, a company books a tariff with a hoster appears to its customers as an independent hoster. So you can assign individual server services, create invoices, maintain your own ticket system and thus support customers not only during website creation, but also afterwards in everyday maintenance.

It is important to understand that hosters differentiate between those with and without white label environments for reseller offers.

If reseller hosting is also available as a white label, freelancers and agencies can adapt the design to their own name and brand. The customer does not even notice that he is using the services of another company when logging in, maintaining contact data or creating new tickets.

White label solutions are particularly interesting when agencies and freelancers want to establish a second mainstay. As a hoster for their customers, they create additional sources of income, regardless of whether they have finished developing the web project or not (keyword: customer loyalty).

With reseller hosting, it should always be noted that both the possibilities and the limitations of the hoster are passed on to the customers. If the maximum size of e-mail mailboxes is 3 GB, no e-mail mailboxes with 5 GB can be offered, even if customers request it. A comparison is therefore worthwhile.

A sensible structure in the administration environment

The structure of the administration environment is closely linked to reseller hosting. This designates the area that agencies and freelancers call up to maintain the hosting tariff.

Hosting service providers who specialize in agencies and freelancers not only offer the server in the administration environment, but also customer accounts. This might seem unusual at first, but proves to be extremely practical in everyday life.

 

The advantage of such a structure is that agencies and freelancers can manage their customers much better. Each customer account has its own CMS and is individually maintained with PHP versions, analysis tools, server services and more. If the customer then asks for an update of the PHP version, a few clicks are sufficient. Other customer accounts remain completely unaffected. The same applies to importing backups or performing updates.

Many agencies and freelancers already know how valuable an administration environment with customer accounts can be: With such an interface, you can easily maintain customers and save a lot of time considering dependencies and eliminating interactions.

The function of the affiliate program

After the completion of a website, customers of freelancers and agencies are always faced with a choice: Do I let the agency do the hosting or do I choose a hoster myself and maintain my own hosting environment there?

If a client makes the latter choice, agencies and freelancers can still benefit from an affiliate program. If a customer concludes a hosting package, the agency or freelancer receives a one-off commission. Depending on the package selected, this is in the two to three-digit range.

While some hosters limit their affiliate program solely to the commission payment, some go a step further. For example, Mittwald offers a partner program that offers agencies and freelancers not only commission payments but also inclusion in a database: If a customer asks Mittwald about an agency or freelancer who offers services for a specific CMS, we as a hoster give a recommendation . Factors such as proximity to the customer, budget and size of the project are taken into account.

When hosters think one click ahead

More and more hosters are developing into providers who relieve their customers of as much work as possible and make it easier. What used to take a lot of time and expertise can now be done with just a few clicks via the hoster's administration environment.

Anyone looking for a hoster as an agency or freelancer should see what they offer for their individual everyday life. For example, Mittwald manages the already mentioned “Agency Toolbox”, which provides, among other things, white label hosting, uncomplicated updates with a click and much more.

Choosing a hoster affects many areas of work, because moving customer projects often involves a lot of effort. It is therefore worth taking a test period, getting to know the support, looking at what individual services can support everyday life and what other customers say about the provider. If the hoster then offers a relocation service that does everything for you, nothing can go wrong. Anyone who has made a good choice based on the previous considerations is likely to make this choice in the coming months d years do not regret.

Summarized

Some hosters have specialized in agencies and freelancers and offer them valuable functions for everyday use. Anyone who belongs to the group should look out for a partner program and check whether the workflow offered by the hoster fits their everyday life.

E-mail at the hoster

 

If you book a hosting tariff, you not only get access to storage space, a domain and the like. As a rule, various services are also included that are intended to enable communication by e-mail. With them, the customer receives a suitable e-mail address for his domain.

What goes with an email service

The foundation of any email inbox is storage. Hosters have a wide variety of sizes in the three to four-digit megabyte range. How much memory is needed depends on the habits of digital communication. It is natural for some people to send numerous e-mails with large attachments. Others deliberately reduce attachments to the smallest possible size before sending them.

Added to this is their own way of working when it comes to archiving or deleting e-mails. While some regularly go through their mailbox and delete messages that are no longer needed, others archive all messages. Sooner or later, 6,000 megabytes can be exceeded.

The previous e-mail provider provides a good orientation when it comes to the question of storage space: How much storage space has been required here in recent years?

There are also other services related to e-mail, which are explained in more detail in the following overview:

Services related to the e-mail inbox

Number of mailboxes Depending on the package selected, a limited number of mailboxes are available. With an unlimited number, any number of mailboxes can be created with the selected domain extension (e.g. kontakt@meinedomain.de, mail@meinedomain.de etc.).

Automatic reply A well-known feature offered by many providers is the automatic reply, also known as an out-of-office reply. It allows, for example, to reply to all incoming e-mails with a specified message while on vacation. This can show the expected duration of the absence and the contact to a substitute employee.

Spam protection A good spam filter for email communication should not be underestimated. Especially if e-mail addresses are given on websites, they are quickly used automatically to send advertising. Without a filter, in some cases it would be four-digit spam messages every day.

Forwarding In some cases it can make sense to have all messages forwarded from one mailbox to another. For example, if an employee's email address is changed, but they still want to receive messages at the old address.

If the hoster offers a trial period, this would be ideal for trying out common tasks. How easy is it to create new mailboxes? And how can forwarding and automatic replies be defined?

Edit e-mails in the web browser or e-mail client?

Anyone who uses the e-mail service from a hoster can choose between two work areas: either via an e-mail service in the web browser provided by the hoster, or via a client on the computer. Clients include Microsoft Outlook, Apple's Mail, Thunderbird, and the like. They communicate with the host's server and bring e-mails to the computer.

If e-mails are to be called up via web browser, it is also important to get to know and check this during the test period.

E-mail communication one step further: Microsoft Exchange

In addition to conventional e-mail mailboxes, hosters' websites often also include Microsoft Exchange, which comes at an additional cost. It sees itself as an application for more efficient e-mail communication in companies. It allows, among other things, the joint maintenance and management of appointments, contacts and tasks. Private individuals or the self-employed, on the other hand, will very likely find all the functions they need in everyday life in the conventional e-mail service.

Summarized

Communicating by e-mail is part of everyday life for many people today. It should therefore also be checked when choosing the hosting package. This is quite possible within a test period. An important point is the size of the e-mail inbox. Here you can use the previous use to derive which size would be useful for everyday use.

Checklist for choosing the next hosting package

The previous chapters of the web hosting guide provide a good basis for choosing the next host. When it comes to the actual test, the checklist on the next page can provide quick orientation. So the criteria don't advise you out of sight.

✔ History Does the hoster have many years of experience?

✔ Resonance on the web What do opinions and comments in comparison and rating portals show?

✔ Support How competently does the support respond to general and CMS-specific inquiries?

✔ Data center Where is the data center and how is it supplied with energy?

✔ Emergency plan What does the hoster offer to react to critical situations, such as malicious code on the site, an urgent backup or a sudden increase in traffic?

✔ Managed or Root Which hosting type corresponds to my programming knowledge, experience and the planned application?

✔ CMS installation Does the hoster offer a software manager for easy installation?

✔ CMS administration What services are there for installing updates and other maintenance of the CMS?

✔ CMS support How experienced is the support when it comes to questions about the preferred CMS?

✔ CMS community Does the host show itself as a sponsor and thus a supporter of the community, maybe even offering its own e-books or online seminars?

✔ White label solution For agencies and freelancers: Does the hoster offer a white label solution and allow me to appear as a reseller?

✔ Affiliate program If I plan to refer customers and would like commissions for this: Is an affiliate program offered?

✔ Agency services Are there any other offers that the hoster has specifically for agencies and freelancers?

✔ Mailbox size Does the size of the e-mail inbox correspond to my planned application?

 


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