As part of this guide on how to choose a web host, you will want to figure out how many megabytes or gigabytes of web space you will need for your files. This spec is the amount of space they allocate for you to use on the server's hard drive. The total capacity of available space on the web host's hard disk is called the web space, measured in megabytes or gigabytes. You can add up the amount of space you use locally on your computer as a rough guide. Once visitors come and add their information to your database, that will increase your space requirements. Leave room for future expansion. If you need to add space, there is downtime during the process of adding a larger hard drive or moving to a better server. This downtime will cost you money in lost sales, and the additional labor cost needed to get everything up and running.
The measurement of the number of visitors and the total file size of all of the files you expect your visitors to view in a month is called the bandwidth. You will want to develop a sense of how many visitors you will expect to receive. We would expect a personal website to get less traffic than a business website which probably has a marketing program behind it to promote it. Once, we used a host that advertised unlimited bandwidth. However, as it turned out, they limited the number of visitors that could connect at any given time. We overwhelmed that server and had to immediately move to a more robust service the next day, live and learn.
Most peoples first concern is probably the cost. The cost is another factor, more features, web space and bandwidth come at a higher cost. It all depends on "how good" of a website you need. Unless your site is for personal use, don't opt for the cheapest service you can find. Remember, things are cheap for a reason. If you are running a business, your server's uptime and reliability isn't something on which you want to focus.
Most good web hosts offer telephone technical support, which is important. If a problem arises, you can speak to someone about it directly to resolve the problem. Some companies offer email support, which isn't bad, but we like telephone support better. If you are going to use an editor to author your website, that isn't a problem. Almost every web host supports them. We already had problems at 3:00 AM and have been on the phone to our host to resolve it before our busy time started.
Reliability is important, modern hardware is pretty reliable, so this shouldn't be too much of a problem. Most web hosts offer 99.9% uptime, which is an industry-standard. In a perfect world, this would be 100%!
Types of Hosting
- Shared: You can obtain shared hosting which has maybe hundreds of sites on a single web server is usually the cheapest and for some sites may be fine.
- VPS: There is a VPS or a virtual private server which they configure like a dedicated server except that there may be 10 VPS accounts on a single server. VPS is better than shared but not as good as dedicated.
- Dedicated: Then there is dedicated hosting which has only your site on a single server.
- Cloud: There is also cloud hosting, which is kind of like a VPS in that there is a software management layer on top of it which lowers its quality somewhat. Modern servers are fast, so the additional overhead from the software is probably not an issue for most users.
Shared has the cheapest cost, and dedicated is the most expensive. VPS is in the middle, and the cloud is a step up from VPS. Choosing between them depends upon your budget and needs.
Just like a regular laptop or desktop, the number of processors, processor type and speed, and the amount of memory available to you is important, the more, the merrier. The more visitors and traffic you get, the more powerful of a server you will need. Lots of visitors can eat up lots of memory, and a faster processor or multi-processor unit can handle a higher number of visitors at the same time. This situation is especially true if you are running resource-intensive software.
You can also choose which operating system you want to have. You DO NOT need to choose a Windows server because your laptop or desktop has Windows, that has nothing to do with it.
You need to know what kind of web software you want to use and what OS on which it runs. Windows servers usually cost more, Microsoft needs its cut on the order of $20 or so a month for dedicated. Linux is free, it is well supported and regularly updated; it mostly runs the internet.