Web Host's Location Doesn't Really Matter

Users are sometimes in a quandary (confused) whether to host a domain name in Pakistan, or a data center in the United States or the UK.

Here's the bottom line. Bandwidth in Pakistan is expensive (pakobserver) and the infrastructure; although rapidly becoming world class still has its ups and downs. For mission critical sites, for example, online shopping stores; downtime can be costly - sometimes in millions of rupees. It is therefore a good idea to host the website in a US-based data center.

However, if you're a technically-able setup / corporate entity, and know what you're doing, or have a very specific requirement; opening accounts with local companies can work. Just make sure to get the contracts signed. Service Level Agreements (SLAs - meaning) play a role here.

Additionally:

  1. Most hosting companies in Pakistan are actually resellers of American, Canadian, or UK firms. They buy storage and bandwidth - or data center space (what is colocation?) by renting a cage or cabinet.
  2. Free CDN (content delivery network - youtube explanation video) makes the location of the data center irrelevant. For example, CloudFlare provides free CDN and DNS, and even has presence in the country (Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi) through strategic partnerships with PTCL (ProPakistani).
  3. Hosting your domain name with an American hosting company can save you a lot of money, even if they charge you in US dollars. They typically offer tons of bandwidth and unlimited space for as little as Rs. 10,000 per year - 12 months pre-pay. Whereas a local firm can charge that amount every month.
  4. Overall uptime and network reliability is far superior. Their customer service is also better.
  5. Data protection is important. Western countries have strong laws that prohibit unauthorized access to personal data. If your files are of a critical nature, the best call of action would be to go for hosting firm located outside Pakistan.

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Brand names - Urdu vs. English - Steps to take - Basics of hosting

Local and Foreign Brands

First here's the list of recommended foreign hosting firms that have nearly the same pricing compared to a local host:

Now, lets have a look at the local ones:

Urdu vs. English Tech Support

For foreign companies, it is important that you be able to write English to open up support tickets. But, if you'd rather speak to someone in Urdu, go for a local firm; because they'll also be able to provide help through phone.

Just for the quality and speed of the service, we usually recommend sticking with a foreign company. The cost is the same, but the service is ten times better.

Steps to take

Anyone with an average computer knowledge can setup web hosting and domain name.

  1. Buy a domain name - skip this if you already have one.
  2. Purchase web hosting using your debit or credit card. All major local banks such as HBL, Standard Chartered, Meezan Bank, Bank Alfalah, Askari Bank, MCB Bank, UBL etc., provide the ability to do online shopping. Both Mastercard and Visa (debit cards and credit cards), Skrill, UnionPay will work. If your local debit card does not support online shopping, then a credit card would always work. Many companies can take Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
  3. Wait for the welcome email with the setup instructions. Make the necessary adjustments (if needed, such as DNS change - YouTube Video) and upload the files.
  4. Contact the web hosting company for technical support.

For users, who are complete newbies; search for a local web designer (Google it), or seek help from a person in the family, and circle of friends, who have experience in setting up websites.

All the companies listed on this page accept clients from all the cities, be it Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Karachi, Faisalabad, Multan, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Bahawalpur, Sargodha, Sialkot, Hyderabad, Peshawar, and Quetta.

Payments can be made in US Dollars or PKR (Pak Rupees). These firms also provide domain registration services.

Not all banks can process internet payments, but most do. You can use your debit card for this purpose. In fact any card with a Mastercard or a Visa logo should work. If the charge declines, try calling your bank as it may need a manual activation for internet transactions (this is rare). Or, if you have access to a credit card, use that instead, as it will almost always work. Online bank transfer, cash, bank draft and cheque payments are possible at local companies.

A web hosting account comes in with a lot of features. The table below shows the list of most primary features:

  1. Disk Space (HDD, SSD)
  2. Bandwidth (Data Transfer per Month)
  3. Email (POP3, Forwarding, Aliases, SMTP)
  4. FTP (File Transfer Protocol)
  5. SSL (Secure Sockets Layer)
  6. SSH/Telnet
  7. Control Panel (cPanel, Webmin, Ajenti, Sentora, CentOS Web Panel, Kloxo-MR, ISPConfig, Froxlor)
  8. Website Builders (WordPress, Wix, Shopify, BoldGrid, Weebly, Squarespace, iPage Website Builder, GoDaddy Website Builder)
  9. Blog Software (WordPress, Ghost, Jekyll, Shopify, AdSense, LiveJournal, b2evolution, Movable Type, Windows Live Writer)
  10. Shopping Carts (Magento, OpenCart, osCommerce, PrestaShop, Spree Commerce, WooCommerce)
  11. MySQL, PHP, ASP
  12. Uptime Guarantee

cPanel is the most commonly used control panel for managing the backend of hosted accounts. Have a look at its features. All hosting companies provide cPanel access for free, unless one is purchasing / renting an unmanaged dedicated server.

Wordpress is the most popular CMS (Content Management System) software used to build websites. Almost all web hosting companies provide the ability to auto install this software. It's easy to manage and does not require technical skills to publish pages and posts.

SSL is important for all websites. Google is pushing for its implementation and even gives ranking points to websites that have it. An SSL is a secure padded lock in the browser's address bar. It encrypts the data flow between the user and the data center, so that no third party can snoop in or attempt a hack. Ecommerce sites that process debit and credit cards need to use an SSL certificate. Many web hosts can provide it for free, or users can purchase them separately by paying as little as Rs. 2000 per year.

Basics about what web hosting is for newbies

In order to be able to have a website, every one needs two things. Number one is the domain name (.com.pk, .pk, .com etc.) and number two is web hosting.

A web hosting account allows the user to host website files in a data center. A facility like a data center is connected to the internet, and uses advanced state of the art infrastructure, that is required for keeping a modern website online.

In Pakistan; there are three datacenters in Islamabad, nine in Karachi and five in Lahore (datacentermap) as of 2019. These are mainly owned and operated by Internet Service Providers (ISPs).

Being closer to the Arabian sea, it's generally recommended that folks looking for local data centers opt for hosting in Karachi. But, if really required; other cities can work as good.

There are three types of hosting setups:

Shared Hosting

The most common type, where almost all internet websites are hosted. A single server or a small server farm (cluster) can host thousands of websites. Since most sites do not require much CPU and RAM, this option is the cheapest and chosen by most. Costs anywhere between Rs. 5,000 to Rs. 15,000 per year.

Reseller Hosting

This option provides the ability to host multiple websites as if the person was running his or her own hosting company. Many Pakistani firms are basically resellers of larger companies. Can cost up to Rs. 10,000 per month, but price usually starts from Rs. 1000 per month.

Dedicated Hosting

For bigger sites that get millions of visits per month; a dedicated server or colocation is the best way forward. Costs are high and start from Rs. 25,000 per month and above.

Cloud Hosting

Amazon brought this phenomenon into the retail mainstream. Cloud hosting is similar to clustered hosting (in depth) where files and related services (email, FTP etc.) are served from large server farms. There is additional redundancy added to the network, so if something breaks (say hard disk fails), the data retrieval starts happening from a different drive.

Many corporates are outsourcing their data center needs to cloud providers. In Pakistan, any large ISP that has its own data center can offer such services.

Cubexsweatherly, PTCL, Multinet, Wateen, and Rapidcompute (Cloudflare has a partnership with them also) all provide cloud hosting.

Internationally, Microsoft, IBM, Amazon sell cloud hosting solutions. Pakistanis can sign up with them quite easily.

Avoid companies that offer free hosting

There ain't no such thing as a free lunch. Everything has a price. Our recommendation is to avoid such companies for websites that are important to your business. Bandwidth and servers cost money. This overhead has to be paid for; usually in the form of advertisements, spam, and zero customer service (why so? - advantages and disadvantages of free hosting).

But, if you're adamant or completely out of money (empty wallet); or if your project is just experimental; go for 000webhost, wix.com, hostinger, and weebly => (this one got venture capitalist money, so at least has something backing it up from going bust) which have been around a while. They're known to push the users to their paid plans. Other useful resources to find more companies that provide free stuff (also paid) can be read on websites like hostingadvice, techradar, and hostingfacts.

Sparing Rs. 5,000 per year on a small plan wouldn't be the end of the world; and probably be the best course of action for the ones that mean business. People spend more money in restaurants. Don't be a miser.

Domain name

According to the technical definitions; a domain name is an identification string that defines a realm of administrative autonomy, authority or control within the Internet (wiki).

But, to quickly jot down the main bits, you'll need it if you don't have it already. For .PK domains, the best site to visit is PKNIC. It's the official registrar for this domain extension, and has been in operation since its inception in 1992. A domain extension is the value that comes after the dot, for example daraz.pk - .pk here would be called a domain extension.

PKNIC also sells domain names through resellers. Here's the list.

A .com domain name can cost between $8 to $14 US dollars, or its equivalent currency in Pak rupees. Godaddy and Namecheap are quite popular in Pakistan for registering domain names. These companies also provide hosting accounts, though a sound practice is to separate registrar and domain service for added security. For example, if your domain registrar goes bust, at least your hosted files are protected and so forth. Having said that, many people just may not go with all the fuss, and keep everything at one place. Your choice.


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