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Considering Shared Hosting

The Affordable Way To Host Your Website
Shared hosting is the most popular form of web hosting. There are numerous reasons for this popularity, but perhaps the most obvious is the cost advantage when compared to dedicated hosting or purchasing and maintaining your own web server. Because of its popularity with webmasters and designers, shared hosting is very easy to find. Many hosting providers have several different service levels available ranging from accounts that allow one domain hosted with relatively low disk space and bandwidth to unlimited domain accounts and apparently unlimited bandwidth and disk space. Always be wary of any promise of unlimited features, but don’t necessarily disregard an account on this basis.

How Shared Hosting Works
Shared hosting is precisely that. More than one website is hosted on the same server with a set amount of disk space and bandwidth being allotted to each of the websites. It is impossible to predict how many websites are served at any time on an individual server because this will be determined by the server itself and the sites. From time to time problems can occur because of hosting providers over allotting websites to a single server. This will result in frequent downtime and a slow performing website so, wherever possible, you should avoid companies that are known to do this.

Check The Network Guarantees
There are many different factors you have to consider before deciding on a hosting account. The most important but often overlooked factor is the uptime guarantee, or performance guarantee, of the network. While a network uptime guarantee does not assure you that your site will have a similar performance it does go a long way. A great many hosting providers now guarantee a 99.9% uptime for their network. This is the minimum amount you should be looking for and it will be very difficult to find any that offer better.

Disk Space And Bandwidth
Disk space and bandwidth are also important factors. Disk space can generally be calculated with at least a partial degree of efficiency. If your site is already designed and built then it is purely a case of measuring the size of the entire site. Remember that websites will generally increase in size over time so either choose an account that allows for expansion or, instead, choose a hosting supplier that enables easy upgrading of your hosting account.

Calculating Bandwidth
Bandwidth is more difficult to calculate and can vary dramatically over time but even over the space of a day. In most cases, hosts allow an amount of bandwidth per month. In the most simple of cases, a single page 100KB website receiving 100 visitors in a month would require 10,000KB or 10MB of monthly bandwidth. You must take into account the average page size for your site, the average number of pages visited per visit, and the average number of visitors per month. Multiply these figures together to receive a base figure. At least double this figure and also include files that are offered for download on your website. If you offer a 10MB download and this is downloaded twice a month then you will need a further 20MB. Again, ensure you have some method to allow for expansion without having to keep changing hosts.

A Note On Unlimited Disk Space And Bandwidth Offers
You may have noticed that some accounts offer unlimited bandwidth and disk space. Obviously, this is exceptionally appealing, especially to those who don’t know the amount of disk space or bandwidth they require. It is physically impossible to be given an unlimited amount of either of these and when hosting companies use the term “unlimited” it is misleading. Check the terms and conditions and you will probably find that there is a published limit to the unlimited account. Don’t discount a provider because of this but make sure you really know what you are getting.

Email Accounts
Hosting accounts also have a large amount of other features and factors. Email accounts are usually very useful for any website. You might be offered anywhere from 1 free email account to unlimited email accounts. Catch all accounts are also useful because these allow for the delivery of any email that uses your domain name.

Extension Support
Consider whether you require any specific support for ASP or other programming languages or software. If you intend to use Microsoft Frontpage to create your website and you want to take advantage of the more complex features that Frontpage offers then you should ensure that your host offers full Frontpage extensions and support. Not all accounts offer these so be sure that the account you use offers what you need.

Control Panel Options
The control panel is the interface that you use to manage your hosting account and to update your website itself. For this reason, it too is an important aspect of your account. There are various different control panels. Some are more intuitive than others with well organized menus and simple to use WYSIWYG editors for those with little or no programming knowledge. Some also include advanced features including modules that allow you to add bulletin boards, blogs, galleries, and other dynamic features for your website.

Fantastico
Fantastico is a powerful collection of CGI scripts that can be installed directly onto your website. If a hosting account offers Fantastico then this means that all the scripts are pre-configured to be installed quickly and simply onto your site. Again, these allow for the addition of incredibly powerful and user based functions. As well as blogs, forums, and other publishing tools you also receive form generators, form handlers, web poll software, and much more. For the inexperienced coder that understands the importance of offering these features to their visitors Fantastico is an invaluable addition.

Conclusion
Website hosting doesn’t need to be expensive. For smaller sites with comparatively little traffic shared hosting offers the perfect balance of affordability with functionality and usability. By finding the package that most closely suits your requirements you can be sure that you don’t pay too much but that you can still host a functioning site that suffers from few outbreaks of downtime.