Web hosting; you get what you pay for but you don't have to pay much

Nobody in their right mind runs a production server at home. Sure I have a desktop machine here at home (do my development on it), but you are viewing this page off a server in Utah. Secure building, 24-hour monitoring, UPS, daily backups... You can't supply that at home for the prices these guys charge.

The cheapest hosting companies are cheap for a reason. Read the forums, see the complaints. I think it is worth paying a bit more for good service. There are a number of providers around. Because I use Drupal content management system, I looked at the Drupal forum for threads on hosting, plus a few other forums. You soon see who has happy users. Look for trends. One single post could be from anyone.

You don't need to use a local provider. New Zealand ISPs are obscenely expensive. I go 10,000 miles away to use WestHost: nice polite, reliable, staid people. Just who you want running your server. Very Salt Lake City - they have pretty tight policies about the kind of business you can run on the servers, so if you're into porn go elsewhere. Excellent support: round-the-clock email and live chat from good guys. Unfailingly patient with idiot beginners like me. And they've barely screwed up at all in 18 months: based on my experiences with tradesmen they are well above average. Not perfect but who is? But don't all go rushing to them or else my service will go to the dogs :-D

I started out with a Virtual Private Server hosting plan, meaning it looks like I have a Linux machine all to myself but in fact I'm sharing the box with about 20 others. This is a step up from the cheapest hosting services where you have only very limited control over the box. With WestHost you get control right down to the Apache install, but you also get lots of software packages available for automated install to make it easy.

VPS is fine if you don't mind performance being patchy when the neighbours are up to something. It is a bit like apartment living: there are economies but also inconveniences when you share real estate. But I think it is extraordinarily cheap for what you get: you start at around four bucks a month!.

Now I have a managed server all to myself: to continue the analogy I moved out of the apartment, now I rent a house. This costs a couple of hundred bucks a month so it is a considerable step up in investment: I saved a lot by checking out their specials. But I write it off on tax, and it forces me to work to earn some revenue. And I have a whole lot of box all to myself! To outgrow this machine is a problem I'd like to have.

WestHost aren't so flash on paperwork though. When I register domains now, I use GoDaddy. The biggest registrar, the easiest interface I've seen, good support, and just about the cheapest. I did use RegisterFly for domains I thought were "not important" because I saved a buck or too per domain: stupid. Guess how important I thought they were as soon as RegisterFly threatened to go belly up. And RegisterFly's interface and processing was s**t. So too was their support trying to unravel the mess they made of my payments. GoDaddy is approximately 20% of the cost of New Zealand registrars. If you are not in the USA don't be put off by a "foreign" registrar; check out GoDaddy (or other reputable registrars).

My advice: don't go with the cheapest, but check around (the whole planet) so you don't get ripped off either. Start with VPS, and grow into managed server later.