Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Which Web Hosting should I take?

Thats the most frequent query that I see in most startup forums. No wonder it is, as setting up a domain is the first thing that any tech startup needs to tackle. Hence I decided to write a post on this, giving my answers. This post will help you with the following:
Registering the Domain
While many hosting providers provide free domains, I believe it is always better to buy your primary domain individually rather than tied to any hosting plan. That ways even if you have to switch your hosting provider anytime, you need not worry about the domain. And with domains costing around $10/year, this is a pretty cheap investment.
There is not much of customer service needed from any Domain Registrar, so I simply looked for the cheapest I could find and registered the domains I needed. I used www.domainsearchindia.com, and while the website looks unprofessional and I had to call them to get things done, it got the job done at pretty much the cheapest prices I have seen so far. Lots of registrars would offer you Email Forwarding or Managed DNS hosting services, but you would not need them. The only thing you need after buying the domain name is an ability to change its nameserver to point to your hosting provider, and that comes for free.

Web Hosting
Web Hosting is a different beast. Here you need reliable servers, high uptime, good customer service and cheap prices on top of that. My first advice is to look for hosting in US. 2 reasons for that - first, bandwidth is cheaper in US and hence you can find a cheaper deal. Second, in general the reliability of US hosting providers and their customer care is better than the Indian ones.
There are 3 kinds of hosting - Shared Hosting, VPS Hosting and Dedicated Servers.

Shared Hosting
- The cheapest option available and is around $5-10 per month. Basically the server hardware on which your website would reside would also have 400-500 other websites hosted. Such a setup is in general used for hosting blogs or simple sites with low traffic. The hosting provider would offer huge bandwidth and harddisk, however there would be no promises on website loading speed. You can start with this for initial testing as well as till your traffic is low. A lot of people recommend Dreamhost for this. We used Lunarpages, and their service wasn't all that great but it was kind of okay. One piece of advice - look for SSH access. The web admin interface they provide isn't meant for techies.

VPS (Virtual Private Server) Hosting - The server hardware is sliced into 4-5 virtual servers using a virtualization software. So effectively you have your own machine with root access. Internally all the slices still use the same hardware but there are some gurantees on your share of CPU and memory. My friend Prateek suggested an excellent VPS hosting provider VpsFarm. Check out his blog post on why he recommends it. This type of hosting costs around $40 per month and works of medium traffic. A lot of people recommend buying multiple VPS slices for horizontal scaling as your traffic grows.

Dedicated Hosting - You own the whole server hardware. Costs start around $160. We have been using SoftLayer and have been pretty satisfied with that. We moved directly from Shared hosting to Dedicated hosting, primarily because I didn't know abt VPS hosting at that time. My website on Indian Tourism serves quite a lot of static content and VPS may have worked out well for us.

Another advice - Most US sites give out discount coupons/special offers from time to time. Do look out for offers and you may be able to get a good deal.

Setting up Email
Use Google Apps for your domain. Thats free and simplest way to setup your own email@domain-name. You would need to put some CNAME records and MX records in the DNS entries of the Web Hosting provider. If you are on shared hosting, you would need to ask the customer support to do the same for you.

This should solve some of the basic pains of setting up your own domain. One thing to notice is that cost of initial setup is pretty low. A domain name with shared hosting would set you back around Rs. 3000 for an year. That would give you enough time to test your new idea :-)


  1. Good post. Slicehost ( http://www.slicehost.com/ ) is another VPS provider worth considering.

  2. Hi Sanjay,

    Excellent and very relevant article. Lot of people go through this confusion. Thanks for putting things into perspective.

  3. Hi Sanjay, in case you havent noticed already, this post was featured at DesiPundit last week. A BIG congrats to you for that!

    Bye the way, Manu from TechSutra has also written on similar lines and this post has also been recommended to DesiPundit.

  4. Hey Kiran, thanks a lot man. Whatever publicity this blog gets is all due to you :-)
    I should be taking you out for coffee sometime :-)

  5. Sanjay - the publicity your blog gets is purely because of its content. Having said that - I accept the invitation for that treat :D

  6. Hi Sanjay...Yahoo is also a good one... http://in.business.yahoo.com/.. your post is popular.. good one..

  7. You are correct if some one is looking for low cost hosting must go to us hosts, but if some one is looking for high availability he must have a web server in India. If you look around you will find lots of site hosted in India now days just because they need high speed sites. Indian hosts are reliable as well. Just need to look around and search a little more.

  8. if you want a cheap domain name with one year free web Hosting then you can register your domain at www.registermydomain.co in Rs. 99/- I think this is the best deal ever