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How to choose the right hosting package

How to choose the right hosting package

Many people who are having a website developed for the first time do not realize there is more involved than just getting a website- you need hosting.

Hosting a website basically means once you have a completed website, the files that make up the pages of the website need to be connected to the internet, so people can find the website by typing in the domain name. What is a domain name you ask? Domains are ‘www.website.com’, for example. You need to have a domain name to go with your hosting package, so people can type in the website address and find your website. Proper hosting companies will arrange all this for you, but you should have some basic information in order not to get ripped off:

Hosting companies offer a variety of hosting packages to suit your needs, anything from a basic “starter” hosting package to full blown “Professional packages”. What is the difference between the packages and why do they cost different amounts?

Simple. Different hosting packages will include different features and functions on the server which you will have access to. The more included, the more it costs. However, there are 3 main things you need to look for when choosing a hosting package:

1.    Bandwidth
2.    Disk Space
3.    Databases (how many and what kind?)

Bandwidth means the amount of internet traffic allowed to your website on a monthly basis. This in turn directly effects the number of visitors your website can support on a monthly basis. Every time you have a visitor to your website, bandwidth is being used. This is because your website pages are made up of different elements, like images, flash, etc. These are stored in separate directories on the server, so when you visit the website, the browser on your computer is calling the website page from the server, which pulls the various elements from the the directories, and sends a copy down to your browser. Each file, like an image file, is a specific size (like 10kb), so each element being called to make your website page is using up bandwidth.

Bandwidth is one of the most important features to consider when choosing a hosting package. Make sure you have a minimum of 50GB per month of bandwidth, to ensure your website is always online. Many hosting companies penalize clients for going over the allocated amount of bandwidth, and do different things when this happens. A good company will increase your bandwidth for the month and monitor your bandwidth more closely next month. If they find you are regularly surpassing the quota, they will contact you and ask you to upgrade your package, or charge you separately for more bandwidth. A bad company will suspend your website so it is no longer on the internet, and put a placeholder page asking the owner of the company to contact them. This is simply bad business, as it could effect YOUR business if the website is down…

Disk space is exactly what it sounds like… just like a computer! It is the amount of space you are allowed to use on the server for your website files. A good amount to have is between 500MB- 2 GB. Anything more than that is un-necessary for a normal website, since HTML files are compressed to make them load faster on browsers. Even an HTML website that contains 30-40 pages could be only 20- 30MB total in size!

Databases allow for functionality, such as the shopping cart system on an e-commerce website, the page editor in an editable website, and much more. By neglecting to check how many databases are included with your hosting package, you are potentially limiting how your website can grow! Many people like to start out with a simple HTML website (a brochure website, if you will), then eventually upgrade to something more functional and powerful. If your hosting plan does not include atleast 1 MySQL/ASP/MSSQL database, then you can’t develop a more functional site as the “brain” will be missing!
Remember: do not get drawn in with useless features like ‘unlimited email accounts’. As a hosting provider, I can tell you it is a simple matter of a few clicks for a hosting provider to increase the number of email accounts for a client’s hosting package. Some hosts like to boast ‘unlimited email accounts’ and bump up their prices to justify this. Fact is, you will never need unlimited email accounts!

Finally, how much should a normal hosting package cost? This depends on the provider. A commercial hosting company will always give you the best rates, as that is their sole business and they have rooms and rooms full of servers, so they benefits from economies of scale. While their prices are good, their customer service may not be… always remember a commercial hosting company will NOT assist you with website problems, only issues related to the server. Some may offer help, at an additional charge.

Smaller firms (like us) offer hosting as well, but cannot benefit from the same economies of scale as the commercial hosts, as we do not need rooms of servers. Evolution in DesignZ, for example, rents a server from a commercial host, and offers hosting. The packages may be a little more expensive than the commercial hosts, but you receive personalized service with smaller firms. For example, my clients can call me directly (anytime, and yes, even weekends) if they have an issue or even a question about hosting. If they have a problem with their website on our server, we fix it free of charge! The point is you get personalized service and the security and convenience of dealing with one company for everything.

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