[Courses] [Domains] Choosing a host

Akkana Peck akkana at shallowsky.com
Sun Jul 11 10:55:05 EST 2004

Replying a week late; but I wanted to mention a couple of issues
that have come up in my hosting experiences.

BTW, thanks, Mary, for this excellent course!

Mary writes:
> Your host may allow some or all of the following to be hosted on their server:

5. Mailing lists.  It's nice to be able to set up a mailing list for
a group of friends, for a particular interest, or perhaps to discuss
your product, if you're a company.  You can use services like Yahoo
groups, but that requires that every member join Yahoo, which not
wants to do; and a Yahoo group doesn't look very professional if
you're trying to project an image.  Some issues here are: 
- Does the provider allow mailing lists at all?
- What software (majordomo, mailman, other) is used?  How will you
  administer the list?
- Can the mailing list be named mylist at example.com, or does it have
  to look more like mylist at listserv.hostingprovider.net?  You want it
  in your own domain, in case you ever want to change providers.

> If you're using CGI scripts, check with your host that they have the
> interpretor for your language installed (or that compiled binaries of, for
> example, C programs, will run if you need them). Most seem to have Perl,
> Python and various shells. Ruby is less common but some hosts have it. Many
> Perl and Python CGIs require extra modules to be installed -- ask your host if
> they are prepared to do this on request.

Some providers used to require permission to install CGI scripts:
you send your script to an administrator, they approve it and
install it in a particular place.  I don't know if any still do
that.  It sounded like a major hassle.

> You'll almost certainly only need one
> mailbox for each *person* (not address) using the domain. If it's just you,

One slight modification of that is that it's really nice to be able
to use server-side filtering, like procmail.  You might consider it
a bonus to be able to run procmail on the server to filter out spam
before you download it, or to separate personal mail from mailing
list mail and put it all into separate mailboxes.  This is probably
most useful on hosts which allow IMAP access, since IMAP lets you
maintain a hierarchy of mailboxes and access them individually,
or if you're planning to read your mail on the server using mutt,
pine or another command-line mailer.

On most hosts, this may still count as "one mailbox" since the other
mail folders may just be files somewhere under your home directory.

> 8. Uptime and service guarantees

WARNING: Many ISPs do not provide reliable backups.  Even if
they do back up their system, don't count on their being able to
retrieve your web site in the event of a disaster.  (Yes, I learned
this the hard way.)

Always make your own backups; don't count on your ISP to do so.


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