Many people have full-time access Over a fast connection to the Internet in general and to a MySQL server in particular. This is especially common in university environments and in businesses that have their own computing services departments. But for many others this is not true, and access to online services comes through an Internet Service Provider (ISP). In addition to basic Internet connectivity for services such as email and Web browsing, many ISPs offer other services, such as access to MySQL, a Web server, and programming languages like Perl and PHP.
This chapter provides a guide to choosing an ISP appropriately for your requirements. You may need both a way to connect to the Internet and a host on which MySQL services are provided. Alternatively, you may already have MySQL running on your machine and need only a provider that can provide the connectivity necessary to enable incoming connections from the Internet to reach your machine.
One way to find candidate providers is to visit the Web sites for the packages you require to see if they have a page about ISPs that host the service. For example, the PHP Web site has a search page intended for finding ISPs that have PHP service. One of the search criteria allows you to look for providers that have MySQL. There is also a site that lists MySQL providers. You can visit these sites at the following addresses:
ISPs are not all the same, so it's important to do a comparative analysis before picking one. Choose carefully; a bad ISP can take all the pleasure out of using MySQL, whereas a good one can help you immeasurably. It's more work to shop around, but if you don't, you may make a bad choice and then you'll have to invest the time necessary to make a comparison later anyway.
Most of the criteria presented in this chapter must be assessed on a relative basis. You may not be able to find an ISP that satisfies all your requirements completely, but you should be able to find one that satisfies most of them better than other ISPs.
As you shop, try to maintain your perspective. Internet Service Providers are not all bad guys looking to bleed you for as much money as possible while offering as little real value as possible. But they're not all good guys either. It's important to do your homework so that you can find one of the ISPs that does know its stuff and can help you accomplish your goals. As you proceed in your investigation, be wary of an ISP that evades specific questions about its business practices or technical capabilities. Also watch out for ISPs that give only general answers when you press for details.
A Note to Service Providers
MySQL represents a service that you can offer to your customers, with a much lower financial outlay than almost any other relational database system. In addition, you can use MySQL for your own purposes internally (for example, to assist you in keeping track of customer records). If you are considering installing MySQL, read this chapter from the reverse perspective. That is, where it says "Ask the ISP such-and-such a question," ask yourself whether you could answer the question. If not, why not? Where the chapter says, "Does the ISP provide this or that service?" ask yourself whether you provide it. If not, what would be required for you to be able to do so?