Web Space Hosting

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Shared hosting is the key word to describe where most websites "live." They, and their IP addresses, are restricted to a finite allotment on a single sector of a single hard drive on an enterprise server. That server is generally one of a vast bank of servers. The hard drive may be real or virtual. Thousands of users thus share a finite amount of disk space. And disk space comes pretty cheap nowadays. Hard drives themselves are inexpensive.

It's therefore little surprise that there are so many offers for free or dirt cheap web hosting. The more customer service, technical support, and programming capabilities you want, the higher the price tag. Virtual private servers, the next step "up" from generic shared hosting, are in fact exactly the same thing except. . . There are far fewer people sharing the space and far more features and capabilities. These differences are dramatic.

After virtual servers come dedicated servers. Enterprise accounts are housed on an array of dedicated servers for obvious enough reasons. Good examples of enterprise server accounts include Amazon, the U.S. government, Microsoft, the New York Stock Exchange, and BBC News. They can't share and they don't share. Most of us, however, use and need very little space.

What to Look for in Web Hosts

The keys to getting a good fit and a good price are understanding your needs and remembering that, by and large, one gets exactly what one pays for. The first question, then, is what you will be using the site for: pleasure, simple hobby, sole operator business, small business, online store, and so forth. There are plenty of options if all you want to do is post your family genealogy, share photographs of your vacations, or even feature a static storefront for a consultant business.

The basics of the lowest tier hosting plan will include several email accounts, from 10 to 50 megs of storage space, one FTP account, and a few design templates. This much is sometimes available at no cost, but be sure to read the fine print. For as little as $5 to $15 a month, however, you open a new world of potential. Features you'll doubtless end up wanting or using include CGI scripting for online forms, PHP scripting for a database interface, web-based design tools, multiple static IP addresses, unlimited bandwidth, and 24/7 technical and customer support.

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