Choosing the Correct Web Hosting Plan

These days it’s extremely easy to make a place for yourself or your business on the World Wide Web. Although the needs of every individual are unique, there are some basic terms that every web site entrepreneur should know. This article will delve into the basics and a large variety of the specifics of web hosting.

There are two major types of hosting plans. They are free hosting, and paid hosting. Pretty simple when you glance at both at face value, I mean one is free, the other you pay, right? True enough, but before you jump on the free hosting bandwagon, read through some of the technical terms described below.

Web Space
Any hosting service will indicate how much space they can allocate for you. Usually they will indicated the amount in megabytes. You have probably encountered megabytes in another area – e-mail. For example, my e-mail account tells me I’ve used 174 MB of a possible 2761 MB, or about 6%. A typical web page written in HTML (hyper text markup language) will range in anywhere from 0 KB to 10 KB. Pictures range from 0.5 MB to over 8 MB. Since 1 MB is equal to 1000 KB, you can see that for the average personal webpage you’re not going to need an enormous amount of space. For the general personal webpage, about 30-50 MB is enough space.

Bandwidth
Web hosts will also indicate how much bandwidth you may use, usually on a per-month basis. Take a moment to view your website as a fast-food restaurant. The drive-thru can the thought of as the bandwidth. There are only a certain number or cars over a certain period of time that can successfully pass through. With your web page, you are allotted a certain amount of traffic that can view your site; this depends largely upon the server that your web host uses and how it is configured. For the most part, a typical user to a typical site simply has to download your web page (or pages) into their temporary Internet files folder on their computer. This uses very little bandwidth, so a simple website can accommodate a relatively large amount of traffic. That number decreases with the addition of large files such as pictures or other downloads. Bandwidth allocation is usually given in gigabytes (1 GB = 1000 MB). On average, 1 GB of bandwidth allows 5300 visitors to view your site. For a personal webpage, that is more than enough. However, for business and other large scale sites that draw a lot of traffic to the site, more bandwidth is needed. And easy way to check how much bandwidth you need is to take your visitor count per month, say 100000 page views and divide that by 5000. That means you would need 20 GB of bandwidth per month. While that may seem like a lot more than 1 GB, most hosting plans start at 5 GB per month and move up from there, with the most expensive or largest hosting plans allocating 100 GB per month.

There are many other things besides space and bandwidth that you should consider when looking for a host, which we will consider below. I’ve broken them up into groups of common usage, with the most common being discussed first.

Uploading Files
You will need a method to get your files onto the host’s servers. There are two ways to do this. The first way is referred to as browser or file-manager uploading. This method involves you accessing a page on their server, usually within your own account, and using it to upload a limited number of files or limited size. For small web sites this is adequate. The second method is to use the File Transfer Protocol (FTP). With FTP you can connect to your account through an FTP program and directly add as many files as you like of any size. Usage of the FTP client may seem daunting at first, but there are countless helpful individuals and help articles for your benefit.

Advertisements
The web host may mention something about ads. Usually it is best if the host does not place mandatory ads on your site but allows you to place your own ads. Most free web hosts will place their ads on your pages as that’s how they generate revenue to keep their service running. Most paid hosts will not place mandatory ads on your pages, but they will allow you to place your own ads.

Registration
Paid hosts usually ask you for your real name and credit card or Paypal information. Be wary of scams and check out the host thoroughly beforehand. I’ve provided a list of trusted hosting companies that I’ve come across at the end of this article. Free hosts may ask you for your real name as a way to gauge if they are being scammed or not. Falsifying your information may lead to your account request being denied.

Support for Server-side Scripting and Other Languages
Large-scale websites are written in programming languages such as PHP, ASP, and ColdFusion. Often these sites also run programs written in Perl, Java, C# or C++. However, if the host does not support such languages, they your site will either not display properly (or at all) or your program applications will not run. Be sure your potential web host can support your site before signing up. Note: Javascript is not the same as Java. Java is a programming language that requires server-side support. Javascript is a code that is executed in the user’s browser and depends on the browser only.

Databases
Languages such as PHP and ASP are meant to work well with SQL databases. Some hosts offer PHP support but do not offer databases. For a personal website that is often static, you aren’t going to need a database. However, if you’re running a business or would like to add a shopping cart or different users with passwords to your site, you may need a database and PHP or ASP scripts. Forums also heavily utilize databases.

For the most part, that’s all you need to know about basic web hosting. From here on out there are more complex things such as CPanel which require a great deal of explanation and hands-on training. Below is a list of tested webhosts, both free and paid.

Free Hosting

Hosting with Major Companies
You can always go to Yahoo! or Lycos for webhosting, but these plans tend to be mediocre at best and often place unwanted ads on your pages.

Other Hosts
These hosts offer free web hosting with minimum hassle.

XT Host
XT Host, located at http://xthost.info offers 30 MB web space, virtually unlimited bandwidth, FTP and browser upload, free and instant registration, no forced ads and a short domain in the form: http://xthost.info/username.

Deluxe Host
Found at http://dhost.info Deluxe Host offers 100 MB web space, 300 GB bandwidth, PHP and MySQL. FTP upload, free registration provided accurate name and web site description. Periodic signups (sometimes closed to process pending applications), no forced ads, and a short domain in the form: http://dhost.info/username.

From Deluxe Host: “Our reliable hosting makes DeluXe Host the best place to host your personal, school, or business website. We feature an easy to use interface that’s convenient for first-time Webmasters, yet sophisticated for advanced Webmasters. For any questions that may arise, we offer friendly tech support at the DeluXe Network forums.”

FSPHost
A sister project of both Deluxe Host and XT Host, FSP Host is basically the same as XT Host except instead of 30 MB they offer 250 MB of web space. Located at http://fsphost.com they’ll assign a short domain based on your username as follows: http:/fsphost.com/username.

Paid Hosting

1 & 1 Hosting
Located at http://1and1.com they offer multiple shared hosting plans as well as dedicated servers. They have a wide variety of plans that differ greatly so you’re sure to find whatever you need. Basic shared hosting starts at just under $3 per month.

A Small Orange
Despite the rather strange name, this is a superb host. At http://asmallorange.com they offer shared hosting plans, virtual private servers and managed dedicated servers. Since we’re concerned with web hosting plans here, I’ll give a quick rundown: Their “Tiny Orange” plan has 75 MB space and 3 GB bandwidth for $25 per year. The “Small Orange” plan has 400 MB space and 10 GB bandwidth for $5 per month. The “Medium Orange” plan has 1000 MB space and 25 GB bandwidth for $10 per month. The “Large Orange” plan has 2500 MB space and 60 GB bandwidth for $20 per month and the “Super Orange” plan has 4500 MB and 100 GB bandwidth for $30 per month.

These are the hosting plans I’ve checked out. Personally if you’re willing to deal with periodic downtimes (time when your site is inaccessible because the server is down from a problem or routine maintenance) then Deluxe Host is the best. They offer outstanding support for an amazing free hosting package. However, if you’re running a business that cannot afford to lose time, you’re probably better off on a paid shared hosting package.

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