Sunday, November 3, 2013
The New Houston - From Green Energy to Web Hosting - Houston Is on a Roll!
Bike Share kiosks in downtown. Electric vehicle charging stations at the grocery store. Over 15 miles of new rail lines being constructed. Wind turbines and solar on rooftops. Solar-powered mini-offices at schools and parks. E-cycling and polystyrene foam recycling. Urban gardens surrounding office buildings. LEED-certified historic buildings. Complete Streets in urban neighborhoods. Accessible and recreation-oriented bayous.What City is this you ask? Houston, and not only is Houston going green, this great city has become a technology mecca with many web hosting firms developing strong relationships in the city.Look at the testimonials of a company closely, especially those featured on their site. Many web hosting companies offer cheap plans on their site, but there are few that are located in the great state of Texas, and even fewer with a long history in the City of Houston.For some companies, this may be easy to spot, for others it may be more difficult. In either case, do not take web hosting companies at face value. Get reviews from independent message boards not affiliated with the web hosting company, then choose a host with a strong foundation in Houston.The New Houston.When looking for a web hosting provider, a good indicator of a professional firm is a regularly updated blog on the provider's website. Although it may be overlooked, a blog indicates that the provider is willing to maintain communication, whether it's about server issues, upgrades, or new features that are on the way. Also look for professional responses to comments left for the provider by other users.Innovation, creativity and a black gold rush spirit dominated industrial Houston at the turn of the last century - putting Houston on the map as an economic leader.Don't choose your web hosting provider based solely on price. Although using a cheap or free web host may save you money in the short run, these hosts might not offer the disk space or bandwidth you need. Price should be only one factor in your final decision so that you ensure that you get what you most need.Today, Houston is at an historic juncture. Decision-drivers for the city and the region are no longer only economic. There is an emerging recognition that the city has the building blocks to be one of the most livable, equitable and sustainable places in the nation, and lead the next revolution: the green revolution.If you are going to obtain a shared web hosting solution, conduct some research on the websites that you will be sharing your server with. You should definitely avoid sharing servers with websites that participate in spam due to the fact that if any of these websites receive an IP address ban from search engines or internet service providers, your website will be banned along with them. Adult websites in particular tend to participate in these kinds of activities.What are these building blocks? Recently, Forbes Magazine placed Houston as the number one city for young professionals. And young professionals drive innovation and use new thinking to solve old issues. Houston has a business-friendly environment and a plethora of large companies conducting business in new ways. Houston has high average incomes and a concentration of graduates from elite colleges from across the country. Also, for the first time in thirty years, the Kinder Houston Area Study revealed a significant increase in the number of residents who support mass transit and prefer a less automobile-dependent, more urbanized lifestyle. And Mayor Annise Parker's forward-thinking and innovative approaches and initiatives are putting Houston on the map as a national green leader.Avoid free web hosting services. These services support themselves by placing advertisements on the top of all the websites they host. These advertisements may annoy your visitors or make your site appear unprofessional. In addition, some free hosts may restrict the amount of commercial content allowed on the websites that they host.What's most exciting about Houston is that few people think it will lead the green revolution. But this sleeping giant is starting to awaken. Houstonians love a good challenge and love to save money.You can almost always save money on your web hosting by paying in advance. Discounts for multi-month and yearly packages are common. However, you don't want to lock in with an unreliable host. Try out a new host for a month or two before you lock in a long-term commitment, and check out the cancellation and refund policy beforehand.At the turn of the last century, rich resources made Houston a national economic leader. At the turn of this century, rich resources will do the same. Texas has, by far, the largest installed wind power capacity of any U.S. state. The City of Houston capitalized on this and has been recognized by the EPA as the number one municipal purchaser of green power and the seventh largest overall purchaser in the nation.Don't be afraid to change your web host if they are not providing you with the services that you need. There are currently thousands of web hosting providers in the market. So, if your current web host is giving you shoddy service and charging you extortionate monthly fees, it is in your best interest to change your web hosting provider today!The City has a robust partnership with the University of Houston's College of Architecture's Green Building Components Program. Their innovative faculty has designed the first movable solar powered office/generator, and the City, through a grant, has purchased 17 of these units for emergency preparedness and other uses. Houston also recently received two large grants to reduce the cost of solar for residents and test out new types of rooftop solar technology.Since there are so many web hosting companies to choose from, it can be difficult to ascertain which web hosting provider is the best one for your business. One of the key qualities you need to look for in a web hosting company is whether they have enough resources available to provide its users with reliability and stability. You don't want to get involved with company that has more website customers than their servers and staff can handle.Houston does not only create cleaner ways to use energy, Houston actually uses less energy. The City knows about energy efficiency: over 80 City facilities are expected to achieve guaranteed energy use reductions of 30% with paybacks of, on average, less than ten years.If you want to run an online business, you should know that your web hosting service is going to represent your main investment. Even if this service seems costly in comparison to the other expenses related to your business, keep in mind that the success of your site will greatly depend on a good host.The City also wants energy efficiency to be part of the urban fabric of Houston. Through our Residential Energy Efficiency Program (REEP), led by the General Services Department, the City has helped 13k Houston residents weatherize their homes, resulting in 12-20% kWh reduction and $60-125 savings each month. On the commercial side, the award-winning Houston Green Office Challenge and the City's partnership in the DOE's Better Buildings Challenge are encouraging building owners and property managers to find innovative measures to reduce their energy and water consumption and decrease waste.The minute you start seeing things that you don't like with your web hosting company, you should be gin looking at other options. This does not necessarily mean you are going to switch right then, but in case you need to, you will definitely be well-prepared and ready to move on.We also know that equally important to encouraging high performing buildings is looking at our codes. In January 2012, the City, with leadership from the Public Works and Engineering Department, set the bar high by adopting the Houston Residential Energy Code. This code makes Houston's standards 5% above the state code for residential energy efficiency standards, and also requires all new residential buildings to be solar ready. And Houston is poised to adopt another 5% increase above state code this year.When looking at prices for web hosting, make sure you are looking at packages that correspond to e-commerce websites. If you want to use your site to sell products, you will need a host that supports certain features such as databases or shopping carts, perhaps at an extra costs not included in basic packages.It's not just about energy efficiency. Houston also embraces green buildings. Currently Houston is number four in the nation in the number of LEED certified buildings with 186 certified projects. That's up from #7 just a year ago.Carefully investigate the customer service capabilities and reputation of a web hosting company before singing up. You should have 24/7 access to customer service, including technical support for example if you are looking to transfer a data base or experience down time. Look for online and always available customer service to meet all of your web hosting needs.One of the most impressive pieces of the green revolution is the emphasis on public transportation and new transportation technologies. Under the leadership of METRO, Houston will soon have three new rail lines, adding over 15 miles to the system.Establish how much you can afford to spend on web hosting. You can get discounts if you subscribe to web hosting for a while year instead of paying a monthly fee. Perhaps you should start with a monthly subscription to see if the host you have chosen is reliable and switch to a yearly plan later.Houston is at the forefront of the electric car movement. Houston was one of the first cities to receive EV cars for a City fleet, which now includes 40 Nissan Leafs and plug-in hybrids. And with partners such as NRG launching the first private investment in public EV charging infrastructure, Houston is leading in electric vehicle readiness.When searching for a good web hosting company, you will soon discover that all of these companies are not created equally. Some of the less reputable companies will host up to a thousand websites on a single server! With servers that are so overloaded, their customers can experience reliability issues, as well as, reduced traffic capacity. Before choosing a hosting company, do some research. Good web hosting companies only host between 200 to 250 websites per server. By doing this, they are ensuring that their bandwidth and storage space are not overloaded.In addition to electric, CNG is offering cleaner, cheaper fuel for additional options: In a partnership with Apache, the Airport's new parking shuttles at IAH are being powered by natural gas.Have a secondary plan for web hosting. In the worst case scenario that you must leave a web host, you want to make sure your site is down for the least amount of time possible. Make sure you predetermine where you would go and the steps you need to take to make the transition as seamless and quick as possible.With the launch of Houston B-cycle, the City's bike share program is now a reality with 3 stations and 18 bikes in downtown, with $1 million in committed funding to grow to 20 stations and 225 bikes by the fall of 2012. This grant-funded program offers a transportation alternative for citizens and will help address pollution issues, traffic congestion, and rising oil costs.Uploading new content to your site should be easy. To be successful, you will have to add more content regularly and fix mistakes quickly: choose a web hosting service that allows you to make changes easily and to upload your content to their servers quickly. A good host should also make new content available within a few hours.And the City, under the leadership of the Houston Parks Board and the Houston Parks and Recreation Department, recently won a $15 million highly competitive U.S. Department of Transportation's 2012 TIGER grant. This project will assist in eliminating gaps in Houston's bike grid: the project includes building 7.5 miles of off-street shared-use paths, 2.8 miles of sidewalks, and 7.9 miles of on-street bikeways.Don't pay for features and services that you don't need. It can be tempting to sign up to the best web hosting package a company offers, however, if you are not going to be using all of the features that the package offers, you are basically wasting your hard earned money. Remember, web hosting companies make it very easy for you to upgrade your package and add additional services to your account, but often make it difficult for you to downgrade a hosting package.And the dream and vision behind the Bayou Greenway project is becoming more of a reality. This proposed linear park system is unrivaled in its breadth and scope.Prior to signing up with a web hosting service, consider the fact that you may want to add more sites in the future. This will keep your options open if you start with a company that allows for multiple site hosting. Consider the approximate number of sites you may add, as some web hosting companies will allow for unlimited add-on domains, and look for your best option.Finally, sustainability must encompass urban agriculture. The City Gardens and Farmers Market Initiative supports urban gardens and markets: the City has planted numerous new vegetable gardens (some of which are highlighted in First Lady Michele Obama's new book, American Grown) and, with its partner Urban Harvest, has encouraged the sale and purchase of local food by starting a weekly farmers market at City Hall, with over 40 vendors.Do a whois search on your hosting service. Find out when their site was created and how much traffic it generates. You should know that up to 95% of web hosting services do not survive more than a year. Choose a service that has been around for years and used by many webmasters.In addition, the Mayor's Council on Health and the Environment created an obesity task force to look at the importance of healthy eating and exercise. The Healthy Houston initiative will review and implement sustainable food policies for Houston to create work, school, and neighborhood environments conducive to healthier eating and increased physical activity. And under the leadership of Councilmember Stephen Costello, Houston is working to minimize food deserts and increase food access.When deciding upon a web hosting service, take a close look at the specific plans they offer. Price is not the only factor in deciding a monthly plan; check to see that you understand exactly what you are getting for that fee. Examples of what to look for include the number of sub-domains you are allowed, as well as how many email accounts are allotted to you.These initiatives are helping to make Houston a growing, thriving, modern, green city of the future, a destination for visitors, a magnet for new residents and a city well positioned in the global market.If a web hosting provider offers you a deal that seems to be good to be true, it probably is. No provider can offer unlimited storage space or unlimited bandwidth, so if a host claims to provide these, they are most likely scamming you. Look for a host that offers more realistic services.The New Houston is here, and it's on a roll.