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Web Hosting Administration?
The major difference between one hosting company and another — and the thing you are going to notice day after day — is the experience of website administration. Basic tasks that you, as the website owner, will need to do. This is everything from setting up your site in the first place to dealing with domain registration to what happens if everything breaks.
High powered technology, state of the art servers, bleeding-edge coolant systems — all of this stuff is good and sometimes worth paying for. But the real test of quality in a hosting company is whether you can do what you need to get done and get back to business.
If logging into your hosting account fills you with dread or confusion, you will avoid taking care of things that really need doing. If your hosting plan is easy to use, even fun, then you’ll take care of your website and have fewer problems. That is worth paying an extra dollar or two a month for.
Web Hosting Administration Features
We've broken down web hosting administration tools & features into the following categories. Click through to read more detailed descriptions about each and also find hosts that offer specific features:
Control Panels - The control panel is the primary interface between you and your hosting account. It is where you will deal with account management issues, handle payment, set up email accounts, transfer domains, and pretty much every other task you can imagine.
Most hosting companies only provide one, but some offer a few options to choose from. If you are looking at several different hosting companies, and you have the option to try a demo of the control panel, you should try it out before you make a decision. This will have a huge impact on your experience as a web hosting customer.
One Click Installs aka "easy installs" or "install wizards" - One Click Installs are the web hosting equivalent of desktop installation wizards. If you plan to use a popular app like WordPress, Drupal, or Magento, a One Click Installer will help you get up and running very quickly. Learn about the most common script installers such as Fantastico, Scriptalicious and others here.
Website Analytics - Website analytics tools help you know how many people are visiting your site, how they got there, and what they are doing once they arrive.
Email Hosting Features - You don’t have to run your domain-based email through your web hosting account, but you might want to. Need to find a host that offers specialized email services such as auto responders or SMTP support? Check here.
Server Administration - Basic server tasks should be easy to perform from the Control Panel. If you are technically savvy, you may want more advanced access. Make sure, in that case, that the company doesn’t block access. Compare hosts and learn more about server admin features like SSH Access.
Security - It is more important than ever to be mindful of security issues, especially if you collect any form of user data. This is even more true in the case of eCommerce sites. Security can not be an afterthought; you need to include concerns about security at every stage of development, including the selection of a web hosting company. Compare host that offer SSL certificates, firewalls and other security features.
Support - A good support plan — backed up by a good support team — is possibly the single, most important feature of a web hosting company. Learn more about what to look for in technical support and compare hosts that offers support in your preferred method, whether that be email, phone or live chat.
Sales & Marketing - Many web hosting companies provide tools and services to assist in your sales and marketing efforts. These “freebies” are usually not a good reason to select one host over another, but you should take advantage of them if they are available.
Payments & Billing - Sometimes, it's the most basic things that matter — like how easy or complicated billing is, or whether the company will take payment the way you want. Need to find a host that accepts Bitcoin and which have Money-Back Guarantees? Check here.
Domain Administration - The amount and ease of domain name control varies between web hosting companies. If you manage more than one domain, this can be a critical factor in choosing a web host.
Hosting Administration - Other Considerations:
Do any of these administration features matter if I’m just setting up a WordPress site?
That depends on what other features you plan on using. With few exceptions, any web host that offers one-click installation will offer it for WordPress. They will usually call this out in their marketing material or features list. If they don’t, you should ask before purchasing a plan.
Once you install WordPress, there won’t be much need to access your control panel if you just want to edit your website or write a blog post. All of that will be handled through the WordPress control panel, so if that’s all you need your host for, maybe none of these other features matter.
But even so, take some time to consider how else you might use your hosting account. Will you set up an email account for that domain? Do you plan on promoting your website? Is it essential that your site remain online as much as possible? Do you have any security concerns? If so, you need to consider what email features you need (IMAP or POP? Webmail?). Does it come with a Google Ads credit? Uptime guarantee? If you’re on a shared hosting plan, can you purchase a dedicated firewall or an SSL certificate?
If you’re just looking for a site to host your blog and you love your Gmail account, maybe the admin features don’t matter. But you should still compare a few plans before making that decision, because even if they don’t matter today, they might be important six months from now.
How do administrative features vary between Shared, VPS and Dedicated hosting?
With shared hosting, you can expect restrictions to be in place compared to VPS and Dedicated server hosting. You will not have root access, because that would give you access to everyone else sharing that server.
You should be able to manage most setup and website tasks, such as creating a site, accessing server files (either through the control panel or via FTP), setting up email accounts, installing web applications, and pulling analytics.
You may not have database access or some email features available to private plans, a number of security features either won’t be available or will require an additional fee, and you may also receive less support than clients on higher priced plans. Access and options can vary widely for shared plans, so take the time to decide what features or important for you, and do lots of comparisons.
You will have considerably more access with VPS and dedicated hosting plans. In most cases, with this level hosting you have complete access to your server, and can utilize any available administrative tool, whether provided by the host or installed manually.
You can even install a brand new control panel, if you don’t like the one the host has provided or simply want greater control over your server. In some cases, VPS plans will have restrictions placed on the level of access and customization available, so it’s a good idea to read the host’s terms of service carefully.
Google Analytics, Webalizer and AWStats - What’s the difference?
All of these tools will help you track the number of visitors your website gets, but not in the same way.
Google Analytics tracks visitor information using code placed on each of your sites pages and cookies. If that code fails to load, isn’t present on every page of your website, or gets blocked by your visitor’s browser, it may not catch every visit. Webalizer and AWStats both use server logs to track visitors, so they are unaffected by loading issues or browsers.
On the other hand, Google Analytics provides many more data points then either Webalizer or AWStats. Webalizer focuses on tracking pages, files, and hits. AWStats adds tracking for the types of browsers used, unique visits, and location (based on IP address). Google Analytics does all of these things, but adds information such as how users travel through your pages, how long they stay on your pages, what sites they came from, and much more.
Because Google Analytics does not rely on server logs, it can easily be set up independent of your host.
How do the various one-click installation programs compare to one another?
The big three script libraries, Fantastico, Softaculous, and SimpleScripts, are all fairly similar. They all offer the most commonly used applications, provide some sort of upgrade support, and make your life much easier. The differences are mostly in terms of how quickly they introduce product upgrades and how many scripts they offer.
Fantastico tends to be the most limited in terms of upgrades. Softaculous offers over 345 scripts and daily upgrade checks. SimpleScripts only offers around 70 scripts, but promises to update their scripts within minutes of public releases.
The real question is, do you need 345 scripts, or is 70 more than enough for most people? And just how quickly do you need to get those updates? For most people, the specific script library offered shouldn’t be a critical factor in choosing a web host. The real key is, do they offer one with your plan? If not, find a different host.
How can I find out what type of payment a host accepts and their billing process?
In some cases, a host will list the forms of payment they accept on their order page. If they won’t, you can assume they take at least MasterCard and Visa. Other types of payment card will vary by host, but you can usually find out by checking their terms of service and frequently asked questions page (if they have one). If you can’t find that information in any of those places, use the live chat feature, send them an email, or give them a call.
Most other billing specifics, such as when payments are due, what the procedure is if you’re late paying, and how to cancel, can usually be found in the host’s terms of service.
Or, if you want to save yourself some time and the headache of wading through all that terms of service legalize, you could check out the host’s profile on our site or browse hosts by specific payment type here.