By Christopher Pace

Choosing a Linux host provider can be one of the biggest decisions that you make with an online business or website. Given the current rate of unreliable hosting operations, it is difficult to find a reputable, professional Linux host that doesn’t charge an arm and a leg. Finding a reliable host should be at the top of your priority list whether starting a new website, or growing an existing online presence. If your Linux hosting provider has even minutes of downtime, it can seriously affect your business. Because this is such an important decision, I have written this short tutorial on how to properly choose a Linux host provider, based on my years of experience as a freelance Linux server consultant.

The first and utmost consideration needs to be the reliability of a potential Linux hosting provider. Don’t be tricked into buying a Linux hosting account that is cheap, if the Linux hosting provider doesn’t have a stable network. Fortunately, the research on hosting reliability has already been done for you. Netcraft is the premier voice in network reliability surveys. Every month, Netcraft publishes a list of the top 50 Linux host providers with the best network reliability based on their tests. In addition, Netcraft also ranks the top hosting providers based on their network performance, which brings us to our next consideration.

Network performance is just as important as network reliability when selecting a hosting provider. If your hosting provider has a slow network, or intermittent network performance issues, you are going to lose customers and visitors to your website. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to browse a slow website, when you have high speed Internet access. Before you choose your Linux host provider, be sure and run a few network performance benchmarks at some of the Linux provider’s websites. The biggest tool to use for this is to search for the provider on Netcraft’s website- they’ve done all of the benchmarks for you!

Third, you need to consider the support available through your potential hosting provider. Some Linux hosts are overly expensive for what they are, and some Linux host providers (for instance, Rackspace) are worth the cost. What this all boils down to is support- how available is the hosting provider if there is an issue? Is their support phone number clearly posted on their website? Do they have a support ticket system that works? What are their guaranteed response times? All of these questions must be answered before you select a Linux host provider.

Finally, you can now look at what most people look at when selecting a Linux host- the final cost. Everything else being equal, feel free to browse around for the best bargain. This is the easiest step of choosing a Linux host provider, and perhaps the most fun as well (no one enjoys staring at uptime reports, network response time charts, and bandwidth speeds). Most of the time, you can also save some money by prepaying for several months to a year at a time.

Christopher J. Pace is a freelance Linux consultant who has worked with Linux since 2001. He provides remote Linux support for Linux servers, and posts articles about problems that he sees on a daily basis, working as a remote Linux admin.

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