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Choosing A Web Host
What To Look For In A Provider
Updated - 10/11/2002
This guide is focused on non-commercial shared hosting accounts. If your website will target a business audience, then please refer to our guide for Hosting A Business Site.
The Most Important Step - Are They Reliable?
Ensuring that you choose a reliable hosting provider should be your #1 priority when evaluating web hosts. Since almost any computer can be turned into a web server and anyone with an Internet connection can claim to be a web host, the consumer should be wary of picking a provider based only on their features and monthly price. You should closely examine the technical capabilities of any prospective web host.
The five primary components of a reliable host are:
Providers that don't offer the above information should be avoided. The recommended providers listed in our Web Host Reviews section are major companies in the hosting industry and have a proven track record of reliability -- and we point out the ones to avoid, as well.
Disk Storage Space & Data Transfer Limits
To get a general estimation of how much disk storage and bandwidth your website will require, you can do some simple calculations first. As an example, say that each page of your website is 25 to 50 Kilobytes (KB) in size, counting graphics and HTML combined. At that size, around 20 to 40 pages can be stored on a single MB of storage space (1000 KB = 1 MB). Its easy to see that you don't really need that many MB of disk space to host the average website.
The truth is that around 95% of all websites never use more than 5 MB of storage space. However, very large websites (100's of pages), sites with lots of picture files, or websites with very large database files will often need quite a bit more. We recommend a minimum of 100 MB of space for room to expand. You can easily find hosts that offer 200 MB or more for only $7.95 per month in our Comparison Chart section.
As for transfer, each page that a visitor views on your site will use up 25 KB to 50 KB of bandwidth. If a single visitor came to your site and viewed 10 pages before he left, that visitor alone will have used 250 to 500 KB of your monthly bandwidth allocation. Now imagine around 50 visitors per day over the course of a month. At that rate, you will have used around 375 to 750 MB of data transfer. The vast majority of websites out there use less than 1 GB of data transfer in a month.
Since few site owners can guarantee how big their sites will grow or how much traffic they will actually use, you should always seek the highest bandwidth allotment for your money. Also, read the host's policy on how much you would have to pay per GB for exceeding that limit. In our Comparison Chart section, we list hosts that provide 20 to 50 GB of data transfer for around $7.95 per month.
Note: Every website has different file sizes, uses different numbers of graphic files, and has a varying number of visitors per day. You should make disk space and data transfer estimates from your own approximate page sizes and web traffic predictions.
What Special Features Do You Intend To Use?
Everyone needs storage space and data transfer, but hosting accounts include many more features that customers may or may not ever use. It depends on what you need from your website:
Not every provider offers all of these different features. Others charge extra to include them. If the features you need aren't including in the account package you want, see if the provider has a list of prices for adding these special features.
Conclusion - There Is No Universally Perfect Host
Ultimately, selecting the right hosting provider for you depends on your individual needs. A hosting account that is perfect for one customer may not serve the needs of another. There is no one host that offers ever feature imaginable, with tons of storage space and bandwidth, for one low price. There are thousands of web hosting providers and each company offers different accounts with varying features.
If you carefully apply the above criteria for selecting a provider, you should be very satisfied with your web host. For those that wish to save time in examining dozens of hosts, we've already reviewed and identified some very reliable low-cost hosts using this method. The results are listed in our Web Host Reviews section.
If you'd like to read some more helpful articles on choosing a low cost hosting provider, then please return to our Hosting Guides section.
For those that want further reading, take a look at How To Find The Right Hosting Provider - an article from HelpWithHosting.com.
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