Choosing a hosting company There are many hosting companies in the Internet industry. Many are known as ISPs — general Internet service providers that offer various services. Hosting companies typically bundle their services and may offer e-mail, statistics, database management and e-commerce. Each of the services offered by hosting companies may or may not be necessary for an individual practice. It is important to identify which technologies and capabilities are crucial to the practice's Web presence so that the appropriate platform can be selected. (Hosting companies use two main platforms: Unix and Microsoft. Microsoft is considered more restrictive.) If all capability issues between the Web site and the platform are not satisfied, some portions of the Web site may not work. The practice will also need to judge the scalability of the hosting company's facility.
Here are just some of the questions to ask the hosting company:
Understanding the process that translates a domain name to an associated number is difficult, and all kinds of information will be needed by the hosting company in order to make this happen.
In order to host the Web site on its server, the hosting company will need various pieces of information in addition to the domain name itself. The company will likely begin by asking questions about the practice's "DNS host." Be prepared to provide this information.
Also remember that the domain name needs to be registered each year. As a result, it is important to ask the firm, "Do you provide automatic renewal, or will I need to manage this renewal myself?"
In addition, find out if there are any safeguards to prevent the domain name from being "hijacked" or stolen.
E-mail When considering e-mail, first find out how many free e-mail addresses a hosting company provides and whether it has mailbox restrictions.
Mailbox restrictions can include: 1) the inability to add additional e-mail addresses if your practice grows; 2) a limitation on the number of messages that can be transferred each month; and 3) a limitation on the size of outgoing messages. (A good e-mail package should allow you to send messages of up to 10 megabytes. This is the equivalent to 500 one-page Word documents.) Also, avoid any e-mail package with limitations on the number of messages that can go out in a given period of time (messages per time unit).