Choosing the Right Hosting Plan
Searching for a web hosting company can be a daunting task, as there are so many web hosting companies today – reports show that there are over 20,000. Each company offers hundreds of options and prices with different levels of support. In your search for the right web host, you'll come across terms like "domain alias," "virtual FTP," "URL redirector," and "Content Management Systems (CMS)."
So how do you find the right company when you're not even familiar with all the technical web jargon?
This article will help you make up your mind on a web hosting company that will serve your web pages to the public in a quick and stable manner – even if you aren't familiar with the technical jargon of web hosting
Most web hosting plans start off by highlighting two areas. The first concerns disk space and the second bandwidth.
Disk space is easier concept to grasp than data transfer – it is how much disk space you need to hold your content, such as web pages, emails, databases, and programs. You may already be aware that disk space is measured in megabytes (MB), millions of bytes, or gigabytes (GB), billions of bytes. Bear with me as I get into the numbers just a little bit more than you care to know. One byte holds a letter. The letter or character "a," for example, requires one byte, so 1 MB or one million bytes is equivalent to one million characters.
However, people don't normally think in terms of characters. For example, when talking to a web designer who will redesign your website, you might say, "What would the cost be to redesign my ten-page website?" But you would never here someone say, "What would it cost to redesign my three million-byte website?"
So let me give you a few easy numbers to remember. An average web page should be very close to 100,000 bytes in size. Any larger and the page may load slower than your viewers would appreciate, so 100,000 bytes is a good web page size for you to remember while you are shopping for a web host. If you had a one hundred-page site, then you would require 100 pages x 100,000 bytes or 10,000,000 bytes, which is 10 MB. The more observant shopper will notice that web hosts are offering at least 500 MB. If you are planning to have a site that is less than 100 pages, you will most likely consume less than 10 MB. What if you had a site that was ten times bigger? For a 1,000-page site, you would require only 100 MB – still far less than most entry-level hosting plans, which offer a generous 500 MB!
You might already be asking, “Why are web hosts offering more than 10 times what I need?” It is true that some hosts are offering 1,000 MB of disk space, which seems excessive for even the largest websites. The answer to this question is more complex, but it has to do with competition. Web hosts know you won't occupy that much space, but since the competitor is offering more and more space, they feel they need to keep up too. The consumer supposedly benefits, by having a huge amount of disk space, but what would you put in there?
Besides your web pages, keep in mind that email and databases also take up space. It's not at all unusual that you would receive a large volume of emails, especially if you are subscribed like me to many mailing lists. It's possible if you are active on the web to use 100 MB or more of disk space just for email.
Databases also occupy disk space. A database holds information such as an address book, financial records, or something more fun like the batting averages of your favorite baseball players. The space occupied by databases is also measured in megabytes (MB). It's hard to quantify the size of an “average” database; however, if you had a 100 MB database that would be a decent size.
If you want to estimate the size of the database you need, then think about how much data you would collect. For example, if you wanted to create a web directory of all your church members, you could easily figure out the size of the database. First estimate how much data you'll need for each member. Assume you had 100 church members and you would collect the following information: (1) first name at 100 characters (2) last name at 100 characters (3) address at 200 characters, and (4) phone number at 10 characters. Adding up the numbers, you can see that you would need 100+100+200+10 = 410 characters or bytes per member. Multiply 410 characters, for one member, by 100 church members, resulting in 41,000 bytes or 41 KB (this is a tiny number that less than 1 MB!)
Besides web pages, email and databases, you might consider video and audio. Video will require quite a bit of disk space, so this is a special condition that you may have to consider. If you won't be hosting video, you should feel safe to start with 500 MB of disk space. This article doesn't dive into the issues of video or audio .
You can use the disk space calculators provided for your convenience at http://www.truepath.com/calculators.html. The calculator will quickly measure your disk space needs by answering a few basic questions.
Now that you have a better idea of how much disk space you need, it's time to talk about data transfer or bandwidth. Data transfer is the amount of data you will be pushing through the internet. It's important to understand that when you are browing the web, your web browser, which may be Internet Explorer or Firefox, is downloading pages from the web host to your PC.
Let me say that again. Each time you view a page on the web, your computer has to download it first. This concept might be new to you. You might have had the misconception that when you view a page, it's like looking through a window. You just look at the pretty flowers outside and that's it. But the web isn't like that. First your computer has to "take in" what you want to look at. That means it has to reach out and grab what you're going to look at and copy it to your computer. And then, and only then, can you see it.
The process of “grabbing” a page and copying it to your desktop is called “downloading.” Keep in mind that each page has to be downloaded along with the images that are on the page. If you have a lot of images, your visitors are going to be waiting longer while the images are transferred down from the web host to their PCs.
I mentioned earlier that emails also count. Each time you access your email that is a download as well. Each download is measured in thousands of bytes or kilobytes (KB). The web hosting company gives you a certain amount of kilobytes that you are allowed to have in downloads per month. Entry-level plans are offering huge amounts of downloads, or bandwidth.
Let's calculate how much space you'll need. Let's assume again that we're talking about an average web page of 100 KB (100,000 bytes). Let's say that in one month you have 100 visitors and each visitor views (downloads) two pages of your web site. Doing a little math, take 100 KB per web page and multiply it by 1,000 visitors per month by 2 pages per visitor = 200,000 KB or 200 MB. These days an entry level plan will allow for 1,000 MB of data transfer or downloads from your website to your visitors' PCs.
Once again, you may ponder why you would need 1,000 MB, if 200 MB seems plenty for one thousand visitors. Actually you'll need enough bandwidth to serve the population that comes to your site. The real answer can be derived by using a bandwidth calculator like the one hosted at http://www.truepath.com/calculators.html. Simply type in the number of visitors you expect per month and your average web page size, as well as the number of pages you expect your visitors to view, and press the “calculate” button. Your answer will be in GB per month.
Once you've estimated the amount of disk space and bandwidth you'll require from your web host, the next step is to understand the other requirements that you will need, such as software applications like electronic commerce (ecommerce) web site builders, counters, traffic analysis and other tools that will make your website truly on the cutting-edge and that will serve your visitors well.