Saving money on add-ons
You'll also need to consider "transfer volume," which is also called bandwidth. Your bandwidth determines how many visitors will be able to visit your site and how much data they'll be able to access. Go over your limits and you may face a hefty bill.
"All hosts have a set amount of disk space and bandwidth that is included in the price of your plan. If you need more disk space or bandwidth, they will usually charge you based on the additional disk space or bandwidth that you use," Herskovitz says. "However, many of the big hosting companies offer unlimited disk space and unlimited bandwidth. You should check with the host to see if there are any restrictions with their unlimited offer."
Roskilly says that most small businesses use approximately 1GB in transfer volume per month.
Web hosting is a commodity industry, and prices don't vary much among the major players.
The most common type of Web hosting is "shared hosting," which means your site is stored on the same server with many other sites. This allows the hosting company to cut costs and offer low prices on their plans.
"These days, most shared hosting providers charge $4 to $8 a month," Herskovitz says.
Hosts don't make much money on their basic services, so they'll be eager to load you up with add-ons and extras. Some are worth grabbing. Many hosts now offer a $50 credit for Googe's AdWords advertising program, a perk Herskovitz likes.
"It's just like $50 cash back," he says. "You are not obligated to use it, and it does not activate any hidden account. As a Web site owner, you may want to advertise your goods or services on Google (GOOG, Fortune 500). When you open your account and they ask you if you have a coupon code, you type in the coupon code and your first $50 is free."
Before agreeing to any charges for extra features, check to see if they can be found elsewhere. Some hosts tack on fees for blogs, polls and survey applications that you can add on yourself for free.
Your domain name will also be cheap, ranging from $7 to $10 each year. There are some hidden advantages to buying for multiple years up front: Search engines like Google give higher rankings to sites with multiyear registration terms. (With one-year registration fees so low, spammers pick up and discard domains like tissues.) But if you're not sure about your long-term plans, you can register your name for a low-cost, one-year term and get your feet wet before committing.
You can buy your domain name through your Web host, but you're often better off registering it independently. When they register the name for you, some hosts add in fine print preventing you from moving the domain to another host if you want to change providers.
Roskilly has seen the problem bite his clients: "We work with people who want to get off those providers," he says. "Make sure your company has access to that domain name and the login rights to it."
Part II: Web hosting 201: Power options