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What to look for in a web host

Are you looking to build yourself a website? Trying to give yourself a presence on the internet? Then you would definitely be needing a web host to host your website on.

First thing to think about though when looking for a web host is the sort of website you are thinking of creating. Will it be just a personal site about yourself and your CV ? Will it be a family site with lots of family pictures? Thinking of setting up a busy forum about your favourite hobby, or a game server to play your favourite games online with friends or are you even contemplating having multiple sites? All this questions would have to be answered before you embark on your search for a suitable host.

One thing you would notice straight away is most hosts have plans providing you with gigabytes of space and bandwidth. This could lead you to believe your site would take that much space which could then lead you into comparing hosts by comparing the amount of space made available to you going for the company that offers the largest space. (I have seen a company offering 100Gigabyte of space once). The truth is most websites don't even use anywhere close to that amount of space. Majority of sites don't even use up to 1Gb of space. The average website on the internet today uses less than 50MB of space (yes you read that correctly 50MB). Even an album based website ,for example a family website with family pictures would still use less than 500MB of space. But don't take my word for it, If you can, build your website offline first of all using a site building software such as dreamweaver or nVU, exactly how you want it to be online with all the images and you would discover how very little space it uses up. It is therefore possible to have several websites on just 500MB of online space.

So I here you ask, why do hosting companies offer as much as 5-100Gb of space in their plans? Well the truth is because they all want to appear competitive.

They know your site wouldn't use that much space and they know you most likely don't know that, so they try and prey on the natural human trait known as GREED. Out of greed, people would always want to get the most of something they can even though they wouldn't use all of it. I have even seen some companies offering Unlimited disk space which is just laughable.

So do these companies have so much space to offer everyone? As you guessed it, the answer is no. What happens is they oversell! Because they know you most likely wouldn't use anywhere near your allocated space, they oversell to make as much money from you as they can before you finally transfer to someone else.

And if a client comes along with an extremely heavy website and does use even 75% of the space allocated to him, he would most likely get kicked off by the host provider with the reason that he's using too many server resources.

Another trick of the trade is the amount of sites you can have on your accounts also known as 'add-on domains' on your account. One could assume that if you cannot fill 5Gb with a single website, then maybe perhaps you could fill it with several websites. Well these 'overselling' companies have thought about this too and what they do is limit the amount of websites you can have per account. So on say a 5Gb account, you may only be allowed to have 2 websites or add-on domains.

Bandwidth is another thing to look out for. But like disk space, you usually don't use close to what is being offered, and this is also grossly oversold. Bandwidth is basically the amount of data that is transferred from and to your hosting account every month. Technically you can work out the amount of bandwidth you are going to need by using this formula:

[Average size of your webpages + any graphics used] x [The number of visitors you expect each day x Number of pages each visitor would view] x [30 days] = Total Bandwidth for the month.

For example for a 30 page website averaging 8kb per page, and 50kb worth of images on each page. If you get 50 visitors a day viewing an average of 4 pages each, the total bandwidth for the month would be [8 KB + 50 KB] * [50 visitors * 4 pages] * [30 days in a month] = 348,000 KB. Therefore this site would use a bandwidth of approximately 348Mb per month which is well within limitations of any hosting company.

Therefore what should you look for when choosing a hosting company? The most important thing to look at is the server specs the company uses, and just as important the support they provide to their clients. By seeing how much effort a company has put into to develop their support department would tell you the sort of experience you would have with them. Is their support just an email address? If so then you probably wouln't want to be with them. Does their support have a knowledge base? Ready made questions and answers, video tutorials to show you visually how to solve the most common problems? An email ticketing system so if you do email them, responses can be tracked? Live chat so a quick question can be answered instantly? A good host that is not just worried about their profits would invest the time and energy into making all these available for their current and potential clients.

So when next you are out shopping for a webhost, don't just look at the amount of space and bandwidth you get, also look at the support available to you if a problem arises as it almost always does.

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