Viable Options for Beginning Web Developers

July 25, 2008 by Zach Dexter

If you`re fresh out of college with a computer science degree, or if you`re a coding whiz still in high school, you need to get involved in the ever-growing Web development market.  Since the dot-com bust, a new crop of slick, user-friendly web applications has sprung up to help you with everything from finding the closest Starbucks to creating online calendars for organizing your week. These applications generate tremendous profits from advertising, and there are always untapped markets for free web-based services. With a bit of planning, a lot of work and a lot of testing, you too can create one of these socially-interactive applications and begin to generate your own profits on the web. But what if you`re just starting out? Dedicated servers and virtual private servers are expensive. Do you really need that fifty-dollar-a-month "Developer" plan from a name-brand host? The answer to that question is a clear "no". As a developer, you have different criteria from the production applications that run on today`s high-end servers. Here are the six most important criteria for a beginning developer looking for hosting:
  1. Price. Just because it costs a lot doesn`t mean that it`s high-quality. There are free hosts and very low-costs hosts that provide equivalent service to high-end hosts.
  2. Support team. Developers must be able to count on a team of highly trained support staff to keep server software up to date. You want to focus on designing and creating your application, not on keeping the backend stuff current.
  3. Speed. If you can`t rely on your host to be super-fast, then you won`t know if your application loads slow because the host`s bandwidth quality is poor or because you made logic errors in your program design. Find a host that will give you access to at least a 1mbps line - and, if you have a very large applications, a 10mbps line.
  4. Reliability and uptime. Again, developers must be able to distinguish between host-caused downtime and downtime caused by server overloads placed by faulty program design.
  5. The quality of the control panel is one of the most important factors to consider. A no-go control panel makes it difficult to add, edit and delete databases, while a top-notch developer control panel makes it easy to do the same.
  6. Technology offered. Make sure that your host offers the latest version of PHP and MySQL, because the latest technology often means significant performance boosts for web-based applications and services.
So, given these six crucial criteria, which options are the most viable for beginning web developers? There are a couple, and each is a good choice. Let`s examine the ups and downs of each possibility.

Possibility #1 is a low-cost monthly hosting plan by a reliable, reputable host like LunarPages. For only a few dollars per month, customers receive a free domain name and multiple web languages on the same server. The capability to run Ruby, PHP and JSP/ASP side-by-side is extremely rare - even unique - among low-cost, high-quality web hosts. Developer-friendly tools like that are typically reserved for higher-cost virtual private servers.

Possibility #2 is a zero-cost high-quality, ad-supported free host like 512megs. With sufficient space to host any reasonably-sized application, and with enough bandwidth to test to your delight, this option is especially viable for the early stages of application development - when a small banner or a little footer link makes little impact on your application. This particular host runs the latest PHP technology and allows your own domain name - an important factor for testing various DNS services required by your application.

Ultimately, either option is viable for a beginning developer. Each particular recommendation in this article has high-quality bandwidth at their datacenter locations. Again, this is good showing the boss that your app will run as fast as lightning on the production server. And if you don`t have a boss yet, you will be able to play around for as long as you like without incurring significant charges. So hop into a high-quality, low-cost (or zero-cost) host, and start producing web software today.

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