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Deciphering Website Hosting

Aug 17, 2007
Whether you're an entrepreneur thinking about starting a website business or a website developer who needs to find a good host, its a good idea to know how web hosting works to ensure that your website launch goes smoothly.

There are many website hosting companies on the internet, and each offers a different list of services for different types of websites. Here are some of the common features that you'll see on most web hosts and how to decipher them.

Website Space: Website space is the physical location of where your website files and images reside. Your HTML web pages and also your web programming pages will be stored at this location. Some web hosts offer 100MB and others offer up to 10,000MB or more.

If your website only takes up five to seven pages then even 100mb might be too much space since most webpages take up very little space.

If your website is content based and requires lots of images, text, articles, videos, then you should make sure your host has more then 100mb of webspace. Often though webspace will not be a major factor when searching for a webhost. Most web hosting companies will provide more then enough space for the average website.

Bandwidth / Traffic / Monthly Transfer: Bandwidth is how much information can be transferred from your website.

Think of it this way. If you have 1 webpage that takes up 1mb and you're monthly bandwidth limit is 100mb. This means that once 100 people visit your website, your bandwidth limit will be maxed out. You won't have any bandwidth available until the next month. Usually webhosts offer monthly bandwidth limits of 3,000 MB or 10,000 MB. Don't worry about bandwidth because none of you're webpages will take up 1mb.

Once you start receiving thousands of visitors monthly and see your bandwidth increase then you may have to pay additional fee for that month for the extra bandwidth, and consider upgrading your services. As with website space bandwidth will not be a factor when searching for a webhost because most will provide you with more then enough bandwidth for your website.

Web Programming Language: If you have features such as Comments Form - to email comments from visitors to your email account, Newsletter Signup for your visitors or other dynamic features then you will need a web programming language. There are numerous web programming languages. To find out which one you need for your website ask your website development team or your webmaster. They'll let you know which programming language they plan on using for your website. Common Web Programming languages include ASP.NET, PHP, and ColdFusion MX.

Web Programming language will be a big factor when searching for a webhost because each webhost will offer a different combination of support for web programming languages, so choose wisely.

Database: If you plan on storing your visitor's email address, name and other information, or keep a catalog of your products then you will need to use a database. Some of the common databases that websites use include Microsoft SQL Server, MySQL, and Access. Most hosting plans will provide support for atleast one of these databases. As with web programming, you need to ask your website development team which database they plan to use.

Domain Hosting: Usually a website host will allow you to host one domain name such as a .com, or .net, but some website hosts support hosting for more then one website name. This is a great feature because it allows you to host multiple websites on one host, and manage everything from one convenient panel. The downside is that you'll have to share your space, your bandwidth, and maybe even other features with your second website. If you plan on having more then one website then it's a good idea to find out how many domains your web host allows on your hosting plan.

Email: Email should not be a factor when researching a webhost. Most webhosts support some type of email account which allows you to have an email address with your website name: sales@mywebsitename dot com or something like that. Keep in mind the amount of space you use in your email might be limited to your overall website space, so get rid of large and unwanted emails.

Customer Support: Customer Support isn't a factor until it becomes one. That's why its a good idea to talk with a hosting reprensentative and see how they respond. Good customer support will become a very important factor, and usually it will be your webmaster that will be working with them.

So how do you decide which website host is right for you?

A good method is to find out which of these features is important for your website. If your website provides business training videos that take up a lot of bandwidth then you will need a website host that can provide you with a lot of bandwidth before it turns into a bottleneck. Videos take up hundreds if not thousand times more bandwidth then your average webpage and in this case your first priority during your search will be to make sure that your host offers adequate bandwidth. Or if you find a host that you like, and if bandwidth does become an issue then make sure that they offer the ability to upgrade your hosting services. Be prepared and make sure to find out the prices for the upgraded plan.

Once you've found your host try hosting your website on a monthly basis instead of the yearly plan. Just as other businesses, web hosting companies offer lower price to entice you to sign up for long term contracts. There's nothing wrong with having a long term contract, but it's not worth it if you decide you don't like this host, or if you find a better host.

If you're still not sure which host to sign up with then talk to your website development team. They can recommend web hosts or offer to host your website with them. You'll also see website hosts provide you with additional features such as shopping cart, website statistics, easy to use control panel software such as Plesk, and other features and software programs to help you manage and profit from your website.

Dedicated Server
If you don't like any of the plans or if you plan on creating a huge website, with tons of content, images, videos, and if you want to be able to install your own custom software then there's another option for you, a dedicated server. With a dedicated server you can install your own software, support for your own choice of programming languages, and as the name suggests it is dedicated for your website or websites depending on what you need. The cost is usually 8 to 10 times more then your average web host, but it will allow you more control and provide you more ways to customize it. And if you plan on hosting dozens of websites then you should consider using a dedicated server.
About the Author
Sam S. runs a website development firm for entrepreneurs with great ideas, and for small and growing businesses. To find out how to launch your website you can contact him at Sam@Netlyte.com for a free consultation. WebsiteDesignHouston.net
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