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Beginners guide to Web Hosting
Bandwidth, memory allocation and network speed
Bandwidth: This can be, rather misleadingly, two related but different concepts. The
For a standard website which has some pages and a few images this is not normally an issue (unless it has an enormous amount of visitors) but if you have a lot of very high resolution images, video clips or file downloading/ sharing the bandwidth ceiling can be reached quite quickly. It is worth calculating the expected bandwidth if you suspect that this may be a problem since you may be charged at a far greater rate if you exceed the allowance. A site I had around 15 years ago cost me $20/month hosting cost and $350 in unexpected over bandwidth fees in the first month!
Memory: The memory allocation you get will normally depend on what you pay for; most hosting companies will provide various packages with varying memory allocation. This is essentially the amount of hard disk space that is allotted to you- you cannot exceed this space. It is easy to find out how much you need if you have your web site on your computer, you simply look at how much space all of your web files take up and allow a bit more for email, statistics and other features of your hosting that may use memory. If you hit the memory limit, most hosting providers will allow you to just upgrade you package to the next level.
Speed: The speed that your web pages will be presented to the visitor depends on a number of factors. First of all it will depend on the server hardware (how good the computer is that is acting as the server). In addition, a hosting package will typically be one of hundreds if not thousands of others on the same machine- the more there are on a single machine the slower the machine will be serving your site’s pages during busy periods.
Next is the data speed; which again is made up of many factors. The network speed and topology that the machine is connected in at the hosting companies building, the “pipe” that the hosting company has (which is the data speed in and out of their building and onto the internet) and the connection speed of the person accessing the site (broadband speed/ dial up modem etc.). It is important to not have your site load too slow since people will give up on a page within a few seconds if it is loading slowly. One of the biggest differentiating factors amongst hosting companies is the speed at which your page will perform on their servers- unfortunately this is a difficult metric to measure and is not often quoted (or even mentioned) on the package features. If hosting is very cheap it is likely that the hosting company is stuffing more and more sites into their machines making each one slower- but costing less.
To ensure that the machine is running quickly enough for the amount of accounts on it you have to rely on the hosting company, some are good and some are bad (in that some companies offer very cheap hosting but overload their servers). For high traffic sites you can move to virtual or dedicated server solutions which we will discuss later on but for most sites it is sufficient to use a good hosting company which does not overload their servers and provides a good data pipe.
Next section: Shared hosting/ Virtual servers and Dedicated servers
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