While PHP has become the language of choice for most amateur web developersand many professional ones, those that are looking for a language or framework with a big-name backing will look to the .NET framework and Microsoft as their development solution. While not quite as widespread as PHP, .NET has gained enough popularity to be offered by many web hosts and is now the primary development language used by Windows web developers. There are many aspects to finding good .NET hosting and in this article we will look at several of those factors as well as several hosts that offer .NET hosting.
Before we delve into hosting specifics, I would like to explain what .NET actually is. Many people refer to .NET as a programming language. This is a mistake as .NET is a framework that a variety of languages use. The main languages(in terms of web development) for the .NET framework are C# and VB.NET. Since I’ve always been a fan of C++ myself and never much of a fan of VB, I prefer C# as it is generally more powerful and flexible than its VB.NET counterpart(much like how C++ was superior to VB). There is also Jscript, which looks promising, but I have yet to use it or seen anyone else use it within the .NET framework. While newbies might want to start out with VB.NET, if you are an experienced developer, I suggest you start directly with C#.
When looking for .NET hosting, you need to first look for which version of theWindows IIS the host is running on. Whether they are running on 2000, 2003, or a later version will effect what you can and can’t do as later versions have significant advantages over earlier versions. If you are just starting out now and don’t have to worry about any backward compatibility issues, I’d suggest finding a host that runs on 2003 or later as that will provide you with the latest features. The version of the .NET framework is also important as many new functions and capabilities were added with each subsequent version of the framework. The three different .NET frameworks generally mentioned are 1.0,1.1, and 2.0. If you are starting from scratch, I highly recommend a host running .NET 2.0 as that has significant advantages over the 1.x versions. If you do have some old scripts, I still suggest moving to 2.0 as soon as possible but you will have to edit and re-write some parts of your .NET programs to ensure backwards compatibility. If you have Visual Studio, this should not be an overly difficult task to do.
After getting the versions of the Windows IIS and the .NET version nailed down, you will need to find out what kind of database your host offers with the .NET hosting. Usually this boils down to one of three types: MYSQL, POST SQL, and MSSQL. While there are generally no size and cost restrictions on MYSQL and POST SQL, MSSQL is priced by the size of the database. If you should need MSSQL, take a close look at the pricing structure as it varies greatly from host to host. Hosts will usually include a small MSSQL database with each account but each additional MB of MSSQL space will cost extra money. MSACCESS is also usually listed as an option with any .NET hosting, but I would stay away from this database as much as possible as it is far inferior to SQL-based databases and does not possess the ability to store and process large amounts of data.
After the technical features of hosting are handled, you need to check with the host on their CPU/RAM usage policies. If you are looking for serious .NET application hosting, know that your site will probably eat up a decent amount of CPU/RAM and you may get suspended for resource over-usage. You should look for a host that runs on Quad-core processors with 4GB DDR ram with less than 150 clients per machine for best performance. You can also look for application specific hosts which generally have a lower client to server ratio or look for a host that uses a load-balanced cluster instead of a single server to handle hosting clients. Technical support is also a key component to good hosting as every host will have downtime and server malfunctions. When these things happen, good technical support staff are needed to bring the server and the sites on it back up and running. Technical support should also know how to answer at least basic server configuration questions, basic scripting questions, be able to know some shell commands to check up on server load, and be able to pinpoint the script or programs that are causing problems. Look for a company that offers a guarantee time in answering support tickets, has a toll-free support line you can call, and runs and 24/7 technical support center. I also try to look for a host that does not outsource its technical support as I’ve found that tends to lead to inferior technical support staff.
Now that we have looked at the needs of ASP.NET hosting, lets look at some companies that offer ASP.NET hosting.
1.Godaddy– Godaddy is the premier company for domain name registration and offers ASP.NET hosting starting at just $3.99 per month. Their plans come packed with features and include support for both .NET 1.0 and 2.0, MSACCESS databases, MYSQL, and a 200mb MSSQL database. The economy plan also comes with 5GB space and 250 GB data transfer as well as a Godaddy control panel. There are also many 1-click scripts such as DotNet nuke that are available through quick install with Godaddy’shosting plan. While Godaddy is a great place to register domains, my advice is to not go with their hosting. Reports on Godaddy’s hosting by current and former customers claim that their servers are at times unstable and that their technical support has a long response time and is generally not very knowledgable. Looks like they are sending too much money on their marketing department and not enough on their technical support department.
2.Aplus.net– Aplus.net is a large host that offers both Linux and Windows hosting plans. Windows hosting plans start from $5.95 a month and include 500mb space and 40GB transfer. To get .NET support, you will have to buy their $9.95/month or higher plan and to get ADO.NET, you will have to pay $19.95/month for an even higher hosting plan. Also included are PHP, AJAX, PERL, and CGI scripting. MSACCESS is offered with all their hosting plans but MSSQL is only offered with their $19.95 and above plans. Support is 24/7 and the level of service is quite good. Although this company is more expensive than Godaddy, the value you get is more than worth the money. Reviews for Aplus have generally been positive with several customers on both review sites and forums stating that they give excellent service. If your looking for serious .NET hosting, I would give aplus.net a chance.
3.JodoHost – Jodohost is a smaller ASP.NET host that provides excellent value with great technical support and customer service. .NET hosting plans start at $6.95/month with 750mb space and 10GB bandwidth. All plans are hosted on Windows 2003 IIS and support ASP.NET 1.0 and 2.0 as well as PHP and PERL. All plans come with MSACCESS, MSSQL,MYSQL, and POST SQL. Control panel and 1-click auto install of scripts such as DotNet Nuke are also included with every hosting plan. Support is 24/7 and the response time is pretty fast. Customer both present and past say that these guys give excellent service and are friendly and helpful when you run into problems. If you looking for good .NET hosting, these guys should be in your list of hosts to consider.
4.DiscountASP– Discount ASP offers ASP.NET starting at $10/month. The plan comes with 1GB space and 80GB bandwidth with up to 3 FTP users being able to connect at the same time. Hosting supports both .NET 1.0 and 2.0 and has auto install scripts ready and available. The downside to this hosting company is that the plan only comes with MSACCESS. MSSQL and MYSQL are both available but only at an additional cost. However, they do offer a variety of options and controllers for MSSQL including full-text searches. ADO an ADO.NET are supported as are PHP4, SOAP, and a lot of other development options. You can also try out new versions of .NET as they do offer beta servers for Microsoft’s new IIS and versions of .NET(do not run production stuff on these beta servers). Most reviews about this service are pretty decent but there were a lot of complaints in June on this host when they were the target of several large DDOS attacks. Customer supports seems to be good most of the time although 1 or 2 users have reported unhelpful answers. I think this host is worth taking a shot at if you are looking for .NET hosting.
These are four hosts that are fairly known in the .NET hosting world. I would personally recommend Jodohost as they have the best overall reputations among reviews sites and on web hosting forums. Godaddy provides the most bang for the buck but their service is questionable. When looking for an ASP.NET host, always put customer service above the amount of space and bandwidth you get.