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Web Hosting

Hosting Options

This page is here to look at website hosting in further detail. For a brief introduction to what web hosting is, go to: Get Started

The most common way to purchase a hosting package is via the web. There are hundreds of companies offering this service, so it is worth shopping around to find the right deal for you.

A couple of things that are worth considering straight away. First, it might be wise to choose a hosting company that has offices in your own country. Secondly, use the web or read web related magazines to see what companies are being recommended, how often they advertise, and how long they've been trading, etc.

Hosting companies usually offer a range packages and payment plans. Be aware that some hosts charge an initial set-up fee in addition to yearly hosting charges.

Hosting Packages - What You Get

Most website hosting companies will offer you a list of different hosting packages/plans/options, for you to choose from. Each package will then contain another list of all the wonderful things that you are getting for your money. Unfortunately, experience suggests, most people have no idea what any of his nonsense means!

Well help is at hand, and believe it or not, some of these things are actually quite useful to know. A list of common hosting terminology is listed and explained below.

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Server Type

Just a quick word on server types. Generally there are only two server types offered by Hosting companies, and these are the 'Linux Server (Apache)' and the 'Windows Server (IIS)'. 95% of all websites are run using Linux Servers, and unless you have any special requirements, just go with this.

In fact Hosting companies often don't even mention the server type for 'standard' hosting packages - you can assume these will be Linux/Apache based.

Don't make the mistake in believing that, because you're using 'Windows' on your computer, you need to use a Windows Server. They're not related.

Web Space

This is how much storage space you have been given to store your data files. This space is used to store all your HTML files, image files, Flash files, database file for CMS, etc. This web space is usually a shared hard disk identical to those found in desktop computers. If your website is really big and you want the ultimate in speed and reliability, you can rent your own dedicated server (your own separate hard disk).

Generally, the more you pay, the more space you get. This can range from about 50Mbs of space to 5Gbs or more.

Remember that unless your website is huge, you really don't need that much web space. You should be trying to make your web page files as small as possible anyway, in order that they download quickly. Unless you have audio or video files on your site, web pages never need be more a 150Kb in size (including images). So, taking a rough average, 10 web pages equates to 1.5Mb of web space. If you are using any kind of server-side database, for a CMS say, you need to consider its size too.

Data Traffic/Transfer Per Week/Month

This refers to how much data is served (transferred/downloaded) to all your website visitor's computer's every month. The figure (i.e. 2,000Mb) indicates the upper limit you are allowed each week/month.

Every time someone visits your website, your host has to transfer all the pages, image files, etc, to that persons computer for them to view. Effectively each visitor to your site eats up a little more of your data transfer allowance.

Web hosts are usually quite generous with these limits though. For example, say your complete website amounted to 1Mb of data, and on average each visitor looks at half your available pages. For you to reach a limit of 4,000Mb's of traffic per month, you would had to have had 8,000 visitors.

Be warned though, most hosting companies will charge per Mb, on you exceeding your limit.

Unlimited Email Addresses

Not as great as it sounds. This basically means you can put any name in front of the @ part of your email address. These email addresses remember, will be based on your chosen domain name:

  • sue@mydomainname.com
  • info@mydomainname.com
  • donations@mydomainname.com
  • enquiries@mydomainname.com
  • jeff.sontag@mydomainname.com

Importantly though, these names will all be forwarded to the same single email 'account'. What this means is that you only have the one default email account to which all the messages, from all the different email addresses, are sent to. This has some serious limitations. If for example, you have one person that deals specifically with general enquiries, and another who deals with donation enquiries, you can't have them set-up separate email accounts on different computers. The organisations email all comes down the same chute (a single email account) and will in some way need to be distributed internally.

The distinction here is that 'Email Addresses' are not the same as 'Email Accounts', (See: POP3 Email Accounts below).

POP3 Email Accounts

Unlike plain old email addresses, email 'accounts' differ in that they are self-contained and separate from each other. Email accounts, and the email addresses you associate with it, can be set-up on different computers, in different offices. They are also password protected, so only those that have permission, can retrieve messages coming to that account.

POP3 itself is a protocol for sending messages via the Internet (not the Web), which are then read by 'email client' software. Outlook, by Microsoft, is the most well known email client, and there are many others. This is only mentioned to distinguish a POP3 email account from a Web Based email account (See below).

All hosting packages give you at least one POP3 account. Depending on your organisation's structure, you might want to consider a hosting package that offers more than a single account. Many now do, as part of a standard package.

Web Based/WebMail Accounts

WebMail accounts should be seen as a kind of extension to your POP3 accounts. Basically what this allows you to do is read messages from a POP3 account on the Web. Like a 'Hotmail' or 'Gmail' account, you can log-in/sign-in to your account and read your messages from any computer, not just your own.

This option can be pretty handy if you don't have immediate access to your own computer - you can find a Internet Cafe and quickly review your 'urgent' email messages from there.

CGI/SSI

The CGI bin is a facility that allows you to run 'Serve-Side' scripts on your website. An example of a 'Serve-Side' script is the Guestbook facility you often see on websites, that allows people to post comments on a site.

Some hosts offer a set of pre-written scripts that can be adapted to your needs. Alternatively you can write your own.

The scripting languages used can vary, so you need to be aware of what scripting languages your host allows. Common languages include Perl and Javascript.

Because scripting can be used maliciously, there are some limitations in what your host can allow under CGI. Check first with your web developer and host before going ahead and creating complex 'Serve-Side' scripts.

SSL

Secure Socket Layer is a facility that allows you to have web pages where visitor's can safely enter sensitive information on-line. An obvious example would be credit card details.

Control Panel

This is just the name given to a set of web pages that are used to configure your website settings. This is where you'd set-up your email addresses for example.

The control panel is accessed via the web in the normal way. Usually you'll go to your hosts own website and log-in (username & password) from there. If available, you will also be able to access your website visitor statistics from here.

Full FTP Access

File Transfer Protocol (FTP) is what is used to transfer your web pages from your computer to your hosts computer. Full FTP access means that transfers can be made at any time with no limit. These days you should expect this as standard. For more on FTP, go to: Uploading a Website.

Virus & Spam Filters

This means your host will filter your email messages for viruses and spam before you receive them. This can be helpful, but make sure you don't neglect your own security systems.

PHP, .Net, JSP, MySQL, etc

These all refer to database/middleware technologies. Having these included as part of your hosting package means that you can reliably use these technologies on your website. For an introduction to what these technologies can do for you, go to: Web Technologies

FrontPage Extensions

FrontPage is a web authoring application made by Microsoft. Professional web designers/developers tend to avoid FrontPage because it automatically uses propriety scripting/mark-up. Very few people use FrontPage these days.

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