Web Space Providers

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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If you're looking for a web host, you face what might seem like a dizzying array of choices. There are hundreds of providers for free web space, and just as many for paid space with support and now-standard features such as ASP, PHP, CGI, FrontPage, and e-commerce capabilities. The first step is to understand what the descriptive terms mean. The second is to rank your needs against what web host providers offer at different plan levels.

What You Get with Web Space

Let's start with the basics. Web space itself means, in the vast majority of cases, a finite segment of a remote server. The server isn't a single computer, but a bank of computers. The space is shared by hundreds or thousands of users. This is known as shared hosting, and is by far the most common hosting solution. Free and low-cost plans are without exception shared hosting. Virtual private servers operate on the same principle, but the sharing is among fewer users.

Storage space on the hard drive is one specification to use in comparing potential web hosts. Expect an allotment range of from 10 to 5,000 megabytes, with free space giving you from 10 to perhaps 100 megabytes. Hard drive technology has made this factor very affordable.

Bandwidth, which is defined as the rate at which data travels across Internet connections, is the next important number. The more robust a hosting plan is, the higher the bandwidth allowance. Expect data transfer allowances of from 10 to 100 gigabytes a month. To put bandwidth in perspective, e-commerce sites and those offering large file downloads will consume the most bandwidth.

The robustness and security of the hosting provider itself is critical. You don't want to buy into an inexpensive host, only to find out that server downtime is frequent and/or extended, yet be boxed into a year of hosting. Money-back guarantees, customer service, and technical support are obviously very important. Discounts for paying a year in advance rather than month by month are also valuable.

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