It amazes me that many web hosts don’t speak to beginners. They advertise their hosting services using technical words like “bandwidth”, “transfers”, “gigabytes” and more.
The average first-time website builder is not going to know what is meant by a lot of these terms, and mosts hosts don’t bother to explain it. That’s always been my pet peeve and I’m willing to bet they lose many potential customers because of it.
Below I’ve explained, in laymen’s terms, many of the features you’ll see advertised as part of the web host package.
Web Space – The main feature web hosts promote is the amount of space they offer for your site. It’s usually expressed in MBs or GBs. (megabytes or gigabytes). Just for the record there are roughly 1,000 MBs in 1 GB.
The average web site will never use more than 50 MBs, but because of competition, web hosts keep increasing their space and are now offering up to 20,000 MBs (20 GBs) in some cases. I would estimate 90% of webmasters will never need anywhere close to this amount, but it certainly can’t hurt to have it.
Like I said, competition is what’s driving these hosts to keep increasing the amount and they want people to think they need this much space when they really don’t.
However, if the price is low ($7.77/month) like Powweb, then it certainly can’t hurt to have more than you need.
Bandwidth/Transfer – This is the amount of data sent from your web host down to your visitor’s computer. So every time someone visits a page on your site, they download all the images and text from your host’s web server right to their PC. This process happens behind the scenes and most people don’t realize it even occurs.
Your web host will generally offer a bandwidth limit (expressed in megabytes or gigabytes per month), and it’s important you don’t ignore this number. If you go over, you will be charged a certain fee. The more you exceed the limit, the more it will cost you. Each host has it’s own rate for overage.
Now I will say, most websites don’t even come close to going over the bandwidth alloted, but every now and then this does happen – especially if you have a site with a lot of pictures, video and/or large amounts of traffic.
A good way to determine how much bandwidth you’ll need is to use this simple formula:
Visits x Page Views x Average Page Size x 30 days in a month
So if your site gets 2,000 visits per day, 3 page views per visitor and the average page size is 25KB then your bandwidth usage for the month is…
2,000 x 3 x 25KB x 30 = 4,500,000 KB = 4,500 MB = 4.5 GB
So for this site you’d need to make sure your host offers at least 4.5 GB per month. These days that won’t be a problem. Powweb, for example offers 400 GB per month and would be plenty of room for most sites.
Beware of the unlimited bandwidth claim! Some hosts will advertise unlimited or unmetered bandwidth as if you have no limit to the amount of traffic you can receive. What that usually means is they don’t monitor your traffic up until you reach a certain limit, but once your site exceeds it, they will start monitoring you.
It’s never UNLIMITED. That’s just a marketing ploy because they realize most people never come close. Trust me. Big brother is always watching and they will charge you if need be.
FTP Access – FTP stands for “file transfer protocol” and it’s the process of transferring files from your local PC to the web server.
So let’s say you don’t have any web editing software that publishes right to the web like Microsoft FrontPage, you’d create your HTML pages locally on your computer and then use an FTP program to transfer the files to your web server.
I recommend using WSFTP. It’s free and pretty easy to use. You can learn more about how to use it here.
SSL Certificate – SSL stands for “secure socket layer”. Basically you’ll want this if you plan collecting sensitive data from your visitor (address, credit card info, etc.) Unless your host is free, almost all of them offer some kind of secure method of transmitting data.
Now that you understand more about various web host features, you can make the right decision about choosing the best host for your website. View my web hosting options page.