What to Ask Your ISP

One of the most important steps in developing a database-driven Web site is to evaluate your hosting options and select a good ISP or hosting company. As Justin Newton pointed out in last month's feature, "Designing a Data Center," it may pay to sign up with a number of ISPs and try them out before selecting one for your business. Once you have an account, call the support line a few times and see what its response time really is. What firms advertise and what they actually offer can often be quite different.

As you prepare to move your Microsoft database application to the Internet, here are some questions to ask to ensure that you're getting the right service for your application.

1. Do you have an NT-based Web server, are you running IIS 4.0, and do you have ASP installed for IIS?

If the answer to any of these is "no," you need to find another hosting company that supports Microsoft technologies. All three of these are required for the application described in the article.

2. Do you support ODBC database connections? What is the process in installing a database? What sort of access and control do you provide to your end users?

Your ISP must create the database if it uses a SQL Server-or the ISP will need to help you import it to its server. You may even need to arrange with the ISP to have it preloaded with data. If it's an Access database, it's preferable that you create it, however, your ISP still needs to create the ODBC Admin reference to the database on the server side. SQL Server also has several database administration tools. But these must be run from the server side by an administrator.

3. Do you have FrontPage 98 or FrontPage 2000 Server Extensions installed?

The FrontPage server extensions let you seamlessly upload files to the Web server. There's an option on the File Menu called Publish Web.... This lets you easily publish your FrontPage Web site if your ISP has installed the FrontPage 2000 Server Extensions. Note that the ISP must have the extensions that match the version of FrontPage you're using. You can get by with a good FTP client program, such as WS_FTP by Ipswitch.

As always, a little research prior to an extensive commitment in development will pay off in the end. Remember, it's buyer beware!