Assessing Your Hosting Needs

If you’re new to creating websites, you’re likely wondering what type of hosting will be best for the website you have planned. In this section, we’ll briefly walk through some of the things you should consider.

What kind of hosting do I need?

As a webmaster, you’ve got choices. Shared, VPS, dedicated and cloud hosting are all available to you, each with their own pros, cons and price points.

The short story? Shared hosting is adequate for the average website, and 1GB of bandwidth is usually more than enough. That said, if you want to get into the nitty gritty details or need a bit more insight, keep reading!

Some questions to ask include:

  1. What type of website am I starting?
    Are you starting a personal blog, a small business website, or a big Ecommerce store? Do you already have a huge database of customers or a large following who will be accessing your website, or will it take some time to scale up?
    Unless you’re really going for the jugular and starting the next Amazon, you’re unlikely to need dedicated or cloud hosting straight out the gate.Likewise, if you don’t plan on being a very busy blogger or you’re not interested in your own domain name, free hosting might be a good way to test the waters.For most business, though, shared hosting will do exactly what you need it to, at a price you can afford.
  2. How much media will be on my website?
    Will your site be resource-intensive, with a lot of graphics, video or big files that need downloading? If so, you’re going to need to choose a hosting type that comes with a fair amount of bandwidth and disk storage space (both of which we’ll talk more about in a moment).
  3. How technical am I? Do I have an IT or tech team?
    Powerful hosting types like dedicated and unmanaged cloud hosting require a lot of technical knowledge to use properly. If you’re not very technical, or don’t have a team behind you, these solutions may not be best for you.

Starting your first website? Shared is probably best.

If this is your first-ever website, I would recommend an affordable shared hosting plan. I suggest stepping up and spending the $50 for a domain and an affordable hosting package.

With shared hosting, you’ll have the opportunity to have your own domain name, which is rarely an option with “free” hosting. You’ll also have a more space to grow, and with shared hosting, you can add more than one domain to your plan – handy if you plan to launch a few websites down the line.

For a first timer, I would recommend A Small Orange’s “Tiny” package for $28 (first year). This plan will cover the needs of first-time webmasters at a price you can almost certainly afford.

How much bandwidth do you need?

In reality, most blogs and business websites won’t use up much bandwidth.

But if you’re going to be hosting a lot of images or video, this is a question worth asking.

There are a few factors that affect you bandwidth:

  1. The graphical components of your website, including images, backgrounds and other visual files
  2. The amount of traffic your site gets. The more people loading your files from the server, the higher the bandwidth consumption
  3. The number of pages on your website. If you have many (think hundreds, not tens) pages, visitors are more likely to visit more than one page, putting higher demands on your bandwidth.
  4. Downloads of files hosted on the server – whether PDFs, images, videos, zip files or any other data transfer. If you’re going to be offering a lot of resources for download – especially large resources – this could impact bandwidth needed considerably.

Calculating Bandwidth Requirements

The formula isn’t reliable, but it helps to illustrate what hosting bandwidth actually means:

Avg. page size (in KB) x number of page views = monthly bandwidth (from web traffic)

The above formula is supposed to tell you how much bandwidth you should need, but unfortunately the “real life” number isn’t even close to what the formula gives you.

The formula only calculates HTTP usage (web traffic), while actual hosting bandwidth you’ll likely be using also includes IMAP (incoming email), POP3 (incoming email), SMTP (outgoing email) and FTP (file transfers) usages.

Another thing that the formula doesn’t account for is the heavy use of plugins inside your CMS and the amount of administrative usage you put on the system.

Based on my personal experience with WordPress sites with heavy plugins (i.e. WordPress SEO), lots of admin use and heavy graphics, you’ll get around 1GB of bandwidth per 400 page visits.

If you have a simple WordPress blog with mostly just writing and a few images you can get around 1,000 page views per 1GB of bandwidth.

Don’t bank your website on those numbers – but treat them as a reference point.

How much disk space do you need?

If you’re only using the disk space for your website data (not as an external hard drive) you can easily fit a complete WordPress site (files, photos, databases) in under 100MB.

The choice would then come down to how many sites you’re looking to host and whether or not you’re uploading a ton of photos at full scale. If you are, plan to ante-up your disk space accordingly.

Once you’ve assessed your needs, it’s time to pull the trigger and buy a hosting plan! In our next section, we’ll cover a few more important things to think about before you buy.