Plan all you want for your Web site. Do the best job you can. But once you've built a great site and it's ready to publish, you may find the world caving in on your head because your Web host doesn't support a key element of your new site.

The truth of the matter is that it should never have gotten this far. You can't plan in a vacuum. A great rule of thumb is to always ask your Web host for recommendations about code or application add-ons.

Those of you who actually own your own dedicated servers are among the few who have total control over their Web server. That means the rest of us have to select a Web host from the billions and billions of choices out there (with apologies to Carl Sagan) and work within its technical limitations.

Let Your Fingers Do the Walking

The phone is a great tool; I use it all the time. Call your Web host's tech line and ask lots of questions. Explain what your project is and ask what tools your Web host can support. You might be surprised -- quite a few hosts have applications they can install for you on their servers. At the very least, your host will probably have a few good ideas you can use.

I won't use a Web host that doesn't offer a toll-free phone line to its technical-support department. In this day and age, decisions are more time critical than ever, so I need to be able to talk to a live human being. E-mail just doesn't cut it in cases like this.

If the Web host gives you some application options, call the makers of those applications and explain your project needs to them. Find the right application, and then build your site. It has often been said that the devil is in the details. When it comes to integrating third-party software into your Web site, no truer words have ever been spoken.

These Aren't the Droids You Were Looking For

What happens when your host's recommendations just aren't appropriate for your project?

You'll need to get back on the phone. Call your Web host tech line and ask the customer service representative to take a look at the application add-on you would like to install. The Web host my company works with has been very accommodating when we ask to have a special package installed for our Web sites. There is usually a charge for that service, depending on what the host needs to do on its end.

The bottom line is this: The best ally you have in constructing your Web site could very well be your Web host. At my company, we've received good guidance from our host, and that just helps us to do a better job.

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