What are the most important things you need to pay attention to when selecting a webhosting plan?

As more and more people are thinking about getting their own homepage, we would like to explain the fundamentals of webhosting and will give insight information on what you need to look out for when choosing a webhosting provider and plan for your personal homepage.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to pick the perfect webhosting provider as there are more and more of them out there who are trying to win you as a customer. Also the number of available webhosting plans has increased significantly these last years - making it difficult for consumers to choose one.

You need to pay attention to the following aspects when deciding whether you will choose a paid or a free webhosting plan:

Features: Make sure that the offered features suffice to fulfill your needs. Free hosting providers usually only offer basic features; advanced functionalities such as data bases, automatic backups, guestbooks, blogs or eCommerce solutions are mostly not part of the deal.

Domains: Every professional homepage does need their own domain name (e.g. www.mysite.com). Such a domain name is usually included in the webhosting plans of the leading providers. This is not the case with free hosting plans.

Support: Whenever you need help with technical or administrative questions, you will be pretty much on your own with free webhosting providers. If you are lucky they are offering a well-used discussion board where you can discuss your problem with other users. Paid hosting providers however do offer email and/or telephone support, sometimes even free of charge and around the clock and on week-ends.

Advertising: How do providers of free webhosting services earn money? Exactly: Through advertising. Without your prior permission they will therefore place all sorts of online advertising (e.g. banners, pop-ups, layers, ad frames etc.) on your website. You should carefully consider if you are willing to accept this.

Performance: Due to cost reasons, free-hosters will try to put as many customer websites on one (cheap) root server as possible. The logical consequence is that performance (up- and responsetime) will suffer. It will be less comfortable for your users to navigate through your website and in case of hardware problems your site might even be unreachable for a longer period of time.

Conclusion: For those of you looking to build a commercial website it was probably clear before reading this post that free webhosting providers are not an option for you. You will definitely opt for a premium webhosting plan or even vServer. But even users who only want to publish a private homepage should evaluate if they really want to use one of these. Especially with respect to the fact that the prices of quality webhosting have been decreasing for years and will continue to do so, a premium hosting plan might be the smarter alternative.