Nowadays almost all Internet users know what web hosting is, but few of them actually understand how it works.
This part of our site will summarize everything from the services provided by web hosts to examining web hosting details that should be kept in mind. We've also tried to help new users by showing them the clear picture on all web hosting basics.
Understanding the basics of web hosting services is easy, since they're amazingly simple in theory. Web hosts give their customers the ability to store web documents (images, texts, scripts, multimedia files) on their web server. The server is a simple computer, which has an almost constant connection to the Internet. The files stored on a particular web server can be accessed via the Internet by anyone, anywhere.
Before signing up for a hosting account with a web hosting company you have to take into consideration how much storage space you'll need, how much bandwidth (explained below), what e-mail options, what scripts... Theres a lot of things that you should look into before dedicating your personal or business web site to a certain hosting company. This walkthrough will hopefully help you find the best web host for your personal needs.
The first thing which we'll be looking into will be bandwidth and data transfer. First of all, these two concepts are quite similar, although they are different in meaning. Bandwidth indicates how much data can be relocated at one time from a certain web server onto a network and then across the whole Internet. Data transfer - on the other hand - refers to how much data is moved (received or sent) from your hosting account during a specific period. Web hosting companies usually measure data transfer on a monthly basis. Every visit to your web page will move all the data on your site (all the html code, the text and all the graphics) from the web hosting server onto the visitors computer, where it's viewed via a web browser. The amount of data that's being transferred can be calculated easily by multiplying the size of your site (all the code, text, graphics and multimedia) by the number of visitors. Most of your data transfer will be used up by the pictures and multimedia files your visitors will see each time they visit your site. Audio, video and Flash files are real transfer eaters. Its important to remember to be able to balance your visitors with the amount of transfer you have available and the size of your site. If your new to the Internet and have little or no experience with web site design, if you mainly want a personal site, then you'll most probably need no more than 150-200 MB monthly. Usually most web hosting companies offer upgrades to their plans, so if you ever need more data transfer, you can easily upgrade to a larger plan. Be sure to ask your new web host what its policy is on upgrading or downgrading your hosting account, since some host apply additional setup or support fees.
One of the most important aspects to consider when signing up with a web hosting company is disk space allocation. The term allocation refers to how much of the space on the server hard drive you will be allowed to use for storage. The files you wish to make accessible via your hosting account have to be able to fit into this space. Html files, text files, graphics, CGI programs, multimedia and Flash all take up room on the server hard disk. An easy way to calculate how much disk space allocation you'll be needing is to copy all of your web site to your local hard disk. The size of all the documents represent how much disk space your site will take up on the hosts web server. Web hosting companies offer allocation starting from usually a few MB to several GB for larger web sites. Its important to understand that anything stored on your web hosting accounts counts as disk allocation. Everything from mails to Flash files take up space on your account. Disk space allocation is one of the most important things that should be considered when setting up a hosting account.
Another important aspect which should be taken into consideration when buying a web hosting account is E-mail and E-mail options. Most hosting companies offer a series of e-mail options : forwarding, pop3 mail and autoresponders.
E-mail forwarding - The first thing we'll be looking at will be e-mail forwarding. To put it in simple words - e-mail forwarding means that you can toggle all your e-mail boxes in aliases in such a manner, that you can receive all your mail in one mailbox. This is done by forwarding your mailboxes and aliases to just one box. For example - your primary mailbox is firstname.lastname@example.org. You also have a few other aliases email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. By forwarding your mails to firstname.lastname@example.org, you actually gather all the mails you receive on other mail aliases into your primary (forwarded) box. This is quite a useful and simple e-mail option which is offered by most web hosting companies.
POP3 E-mail - POP3 means Post Office Protocol 3. Its a very popular protocol nowadays because of its security. When setting up a POP3 mail account with your new web host, you can for example make a mailbox or alias which is then associated with your own domain. Then all mail sent to this box will be kept on the host server in a secure folder.
E-mail autoresponders - With autoresponders you can set up an e-mail alias at your domain to automatically send a predefined message to anyone who sends mail to that specific address. For example, if you go on holiday, you can setup your mail to autorespond to mails you receive with a predefined message (for example : "Hi, I'm on holiday right now, I'll be back on the 20th of September").
The last, but not least important thing, which should be considered when signing up with a web host is their Technical support. Quality support makes the difference between a good web hosting company and an outstanding web hosting company. An easy way to test out the quality of the support offered by your potential web host, is to send an e-mail asking about their prices and offered web hosting plans for example. Then just wait and observe how long it takes of them to answer. Chances are this response time will be their average response time when dealing with minor issues on their server and when replying to clients. Go for support, even if web hosting companies charge extra. Its better to invest an extra buck into support, then later having to invest in a new web host.