by Ray Herold
Given the sheer number of web hosting providers, making the decision
as to which
one to go with can become a daunting task. What many people
don't realize is that the wrong choice can introduce a "single
point of failure" into your otherwise successful online business.
In this article, I will discuss some of the major factors you should
consider before you make that choice.
SPACE AND BANDWIDTH
The most common thing people look for in a hosting provider is the
amount of disk storage space and "bandwidth" available to
them. While these are certainly important, they should not alone be the
deciding factors. Truth is, most providers today allocate more disk
space and bandwidth than most people would need. As I explained in an
earlier article, 5-10 Gigabytes (or more) of storage is A LOT of
storage. Most people will never need this much. If you already have your
website designed and ready to go on your own computer, simply
right-click the folder and select properties to determine how much space
it requires. Even if you use backend databases (e.g., MySQL, MS ACCESS),
the vast majority of sites would never come close to requiring 5GB or
more. As long as the hosting providers you are considering give you that
5GB or more, you will be fine in all but a few rare cases. If you
discover you need more at a later time, make sure your provider gives
you an easy upgrade path to a hosting plan with a higher allocation.
The same thing applies to bandwidth. Many, if not most, providers now
give bandwidth allocations of 200Gb/month or more. That amount would be
more than adequate for most small businesses. Let's look at an example.
If each visitor to your site uses, on average, 1MB of bandwidth to surf
through your pages, a 200GB/month bandwidth allocation would handle
200,000 visitors/month. Even if each visitor browsed an average of 10MB
on your site (which is HIGHLY unlikely), you could still handle 20.000
visitors/month. Of course, if your business really explodes into a huge
success, your failsafe fallback position is choosing a hosting provider
that allows for a painless upgrade path.
SHARED VS. DEDICATED HOSTING
In a shared hosting environment, your site is placed on a server that
also provides hosting for a number of other people. You have your own
space, your own domain and the rest, but other people are also using the
resources of that server for their sites. There is no risk of your pages
showing up on the other personís site, or vice versa. Each site has
itís own unique set of folders, logins, and so forth.
Besides the fact that shared hosting costs considerably less, the
important consideration for most people is that the hosting company
support staff administers the server. If there is a problem with the
server, they have to fix it, not you. When the operating system or other
system software needs to be upgraded, they do it. All you worry about is
your own site and the pages contained on it.
For a large number of small businesses, shared hosting is more than
adequate. In a shared hosting environment, there is no need for you to
have technical knowledge of Windows or Unix server administration.
Thatís not your core business so why would you want to take that on?
In some cases however, there may be specific reasons why someone
needs to administer their own server. These usually involve people who
have specialized requirements. In that case, a dedicated server would be
the option of choice. In a dedicated server environment, you have full
control over everything. You configure the server the way you want it.
You install operating system upgrades and patches, and you fix things
when they crash. You determine what components run on the server (e.g.
ASP .NET 1.1 or .NET 2.0). You determine if the server runs CDONTs or
some other mailer program. Itís almost as if the server were in your
home or place of business, except that you are administering it
Again, in the vast majority of cases for a small business, shared
hosting would be the preference. In those cases where a dedicated server
is required, most hosting companies provide that, along with the
It is amazing to me what some hosting providers charge for their
services. It is even more amazing that so many people pay these prices.
Let's consider a few of the "low end" hosting plans offered by
some of the "big boys" in the web hosting sector.
One of them charges $9.95/mo for their basic service. They also
require a $25 setup fee. For that, you get 2GB of storage space and 20GB
of bandwidth. Another charges $14.95/month. With that, you get 500MB
(MB, not GB) of storage, and 30GB of bandwidth. Are you kididng me??
There are thousands of hosting providers that will give you 10 times
these amounts for $5/month or less. And if you compare other features,
you will find that in most cases, these other providers also give you
more in terms of email accounts and other "freebies". It pays
to compare. For those who want to spend double, or even triple, for
domains and web hosting, go right ahead. It is your money after all. Of
course, you can always go with a ďfreeĒ hosting account. You canít
beat the price. But that doesnít normally allow you to use your own
domain. You just become an extension of someone elseísí (e.g.,
somehostingservice.com/yoursite). That doesnít do much for your
branding. With free sites, you can also expect a boatload of ads that
the hosting company puts there. I doubt that is really the image you
want to portray to your customers.
HOSTING PROVIDER VIABILITY
Many people overlook this consideration, but doing so can be a
critical mistake. The last thing you need is to get a great site online,
start receiving a ton of visitors and sales, and then have your hosting
company go belly-up on you. Itís happened all too often.
It is to your benefit to make sure that whoever you host with will be
there tomorrow, next month, next year and five years from now. You would
be surprised how many hosting companies are run by a single person out
of the basement of their home, or how many of them are operating on a
Donít be afraid to ask a potential hosting company where their
servers are located, or how many people are on their staff. I have
stated in other articles that it is vitally important for all businesses
to have a Business Continuity Plan. Ask your potential hosting company
if they have one. Ask them what happens to YOU if there is a fire in
their server complex. And donít be afraid to ask them what happens to
the company if the owner gets hit by a beer truck on the way to work. It
Depending on the needs for your online business, there are several
other factors to consider when choosing your hosting provider:
- how many email accounts do they provide?
- do they provide "Blog" software or do you need a
- do they provide "Discussion Forum" software, or do you
need a 3rd-party plugin?
- do they provide a "shopping cart"?
- do they provide "merchant accounts" if you don't already
- do they provide "SSL" certificates for secure
- what is the upgrade path for adding features at a later date?
- do they provide robust traffic statistics?
You may not need all these features, but if you do, it's easier to go
with those that are integrated into your hosting plan. Determine what
YOUR needs are, then select the hosting provider that gives you the best
combination of price and features.
Ray has a 30+ career in the
Computer (IT) field. He has been a Systems Analyst, DB and
Network Administrator, Website Project Manager, IT Architect
and Director of IT. Ray has run a number of successful
online businesses. He is also the author of several books.
Ray Herold may be contacted at http://www.webhosting-123.com