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How to choose the right web host

by Chris Smith

If you're starting a new site, it's very hard to know how to pick the right web host. Which company should you host your site with? How much should you be spending?

There are a number of factors to consider.

Disk Space This is the actual physical space on the server for your files. If you're just using text, screen resolution photos and a few icons and graphics then you really won't need much space at all. A few megabytes will do. If you're going to be working with high resolution photos, audio or video files then you might need more.

Data Transfer This is the amount of data that is downloaded each month. It's a combination of the sizes of files on the site and the number of visitors. If your site is well optimised and you've kept your files as small as can be then, again, you probably won't need much data transfer. With a new site things are usually slow to start of with but then snowball as the site grows. YOu need to keep an eye on the monthly data transfer (your web host should give you this) and upgrade to a higher transfer limit only when you need to.

Reliability Many web hosts talk about their "uptime" - the proportion of time that your site will be up. It's usually 99.9% or higher. With greater reliability comes a higher price tag. YOu have to ask yourself if your site going offline for a short time is really such a bad thing and what it would cost you. Obviously, if you're a massive site like Amazon then being offline for even a minute could cost you thousands but, in reality, for many new sites it's probably better to risk a few minor outages and save money on the hosting.

Support Finally, it's worth weighing up what kind of support you will receive. If you're new to working with web hosting, managing email accounts or have specialist requirements, e.g. working with ASP.NET, then knowing that there's someone there to help you can be valuable.

With a new website my advice would be to start small and let the hosting grow with the site. As the numbers of visitors increases you can naturally afford to invest more in your hosting. Only pay for what you need. Start with a small hosting package on a shared server and upgrade as you need to.