What’s Out There?
Internet hosting is available in all manner of guises, but how do you know which is right for you? Faced with a vast choice ranging from free hosting offered by companies like Google and the main internet service providers through to managed server accounts from Rackspace, 1&1 or JustHost you might be forgiven to be bewildered. This article will try to explain how to discover what you need although it’s worth reading through the previous article ‘A Quick Overview Of Website Hosting‘ before this one for a firm grounding of the terms.
What Do I Need?
In order to determine the product most suited to your needs you will have to identify your requirements, such as diskspace (the size of the your website in Mb) and bandwidth (the amount of data you think will be downloaded, also in Mb). The number of email addresses should also be considered as well as the method of storing them. If your site is more complicated be sure to contact the systems administrator so you are aware of any system specific requirements.
Measuring the diskspace is a fairly straightforward operation, simply arrange the website files including pictures and audio into one folder before they are uploaded and check the size of the folder. If your website has a gallery, content management system or other database then the diskspace will be increasing as per the usage of the website. In these cases leaving headroom for expansion is recommended.
Estimating the bandwidth is trickier because it is the data transferred from your website to users. If your site is low on data or visitors then the bandwidth usage will be fairly minimal and you can safely opt for a basic package or free hosting account to kick things off and begin promoting your online vision.
For a site containing more data: blogs with picture galleries for instance, the data transfer will certainly be higher and sites with heavy traffic will experience heavy bandwidth use.
If you already have a website online you can check the current statistics and make an estimate from there, or if you are launching a new website then more guesswork is needed, although it is generally good to allow headroom.
The Deluxe package from Newbury New Media would be a good starting point for a website with steady traffic and an average amount of content at a great price. The Premium package is for the next level of sites, with 500Mb diskspace and 2Gb monthly data transfer allowance enabling bigger and busier websites, more customer interaction and increasing brand profile.
Most hosting accounts come with email addresses as as standard. However free hosting accounts often include email address with tiny mailbox limits which quickly fill up with spam. It is usually best therefore to get your email stored away from your website server and either on your home computer or a service such as gmail. Again this is standard fare for most hosting companies however it is worth double checking first in case for some reason your are tied into that tiny mailbox!
Newbury New Media offers varying mailbox accounts, the better the package you go for, the more email accounts you get. You can customize mailbox sizes to your own preference and use the catch alls and forwarders send the mail directly to a different account.
Which Other Features Do I Need?
This is mostly down to personal preference as most admin packages do similar jobs, here’s a quick breakdown of the features most often offered and what they actually mean or do.
- 99.9% Uptime GuaranteeThis means the servers are guaranteed to be connected to the internet 99.9% of each month. In reality the figure will usually be 100% but hosting companies need to maintain servers, update software and perform other tasks that require the server to be offline first.
- MySQL, PHP, Perl SupportThe programs and software the webserver supports. It is worth checking the server is running current versions of these, at the time of writing MySQL 5.1, PHP 5 would the the ones to go for. If your server does not support MySQL and PHP then you will not be able to use a database on the site website.
- Control Panel The control panel (usually cPanel or WebMin) is a top level website configuration tool allowing you to setup and configure email addresses, databases and various other applications.
- FTPFile Transfer Protocol is a method of connecting to the server from your computer allowing you to access the back end of the site to upload, edit and remove files and data. An FTP Client is required (FileZilla is a good one to get, and free!), however this should only be attempted if you know what you are doing: you could delete your website within a few clicks!
- File ManagerAlmost identical tool to FTP client, the difference being that you connect through your browser usually via the control panel.
- phpMyAdminEnables the setting up, configuration of and removal of MySQL databases. There are other possible methods but phpMYAdmin is user friendly and quick, a useful tool if you will be using databases.
- SubdomainsA subdomain is a domain subordinate to your main site (i.e. a subdomain of http://www.example.com could be http://www.subdomain.example.com) as the name suggests. Hosted on the same account as the main site. Useful for adding extra parts to an existing website.
- Addon domainsAddon domains are hosted on your site, with their own domain registry (you will have to register a separate domain name for the Addon site). You would use Addon domains when you wanted to host several unconnected websites on the same account keeping their individual domain names.
- Parked domainsParked domains are simple forwarders that redirect the traffic to the primary account site. You might use these for misspelt urls you have registered i.e. www.exmaple.com, www.examlpe.com so they would all point at www.example.com.
- Web StatsWebsite statistics analysis programs such as Webalizer and AWStats that track the visitors, hits, pageviews and many more parameters of the usage on your website. This used to be a very useful addition but with the rise of Google Analytics and specific tracking tools for your site they are a less important feature these days.
- Overage FeesIf you exceed the allotted monthly bandwidth amount, then depending on the hosting provider you may incur penalties. Some will take your site offline until the beginning of the next month when your allowance renews. Some companies charge for the extra data transferred at a set rate, called Overage. You can be caught out by this if you are unprepared and have an extremely busy site, so check the small print and details of any package to find out about the overage fee’s in advance. Newbury New Media will contact you should your account exceed the allotted bandwidth with a view to adjusting your package to one with more suitable allocations and pricing.
Hopefully you now have an insight into the importance of all the different aspects of website hosting which will enable you to make your choice. It is highly personal though, some people will advise to go for the companies offering the most guaranteed uptime, however the .1% of downtime (which equates to approx 40mins a month) will almost certainly not happen in one session in each month, and secondly will take place when the server is generally least busy having minimal impact. Other people will prefer the bandwitdh / diskspace ratio which again comes with it’s pros and cons.
It really is a case of creating a list of your requirements and then matching them up against the features and options above.
If you need more information or would like some support and advice in getting your hosting up and running then send us a message or leave us a comment below!