Web Host Information
If you want a real website, you will need to go beyond creating static websites and sign up for a dynamic web host that can run code and access databases. There are different types of hosting available, but the old standard option for a small site is to get a shared web hosting account. This means your website will exist on a server with many other websites, which is much cheaper than renting out a whole server on your own.
There are many shared web hosts available, though its hard to find reliable information about them. However, most of the hosts you will find are reliable for small amounts of traffic, so you just need to find a good price for it. Before discussing different options, you can skim through the section below for relevant hosting terminology and their significance.
If you just want a free powerful option, you can go with a "cloud host". These are much easier to scale up when your site becomes big. However, they usually don't offer as many "quick-start" features, such as one-click application installers. See the next page for more on choosing web hosts.
- Disk Storage – The amount of hard drive space available for all your sites on the account. If you want to try out many different scripts and sites, you probably do not want a small limit. Hosts with “unlimited” space will provide enough space for regular websites, but they have various terms preventing people from hosting backups or huge files.
- Monthly Bandwidth – This primarily refers to the amount of data that is transmitted to users when they visit your webpages. So if you have a 1MB webpage and it receives 1000 views, that will use up 1GB (1000MB) of bandwidth. Again, some hosts promise unlimited monthly bandwidth, but may slow down or suspend the account if there are large traffic spikes or very high overall traffic. Many also forbid using the account primarily for serving high-bandwidth items like videos or downloads.
- MySQL Databases – The number of databases you can have on your account. These databases are normally used to store all the data generated by a website, such as user accounts or blog posts. Most scripts use one database, though some may use multiple ones. If you plan on trying out a large number of scripts, you will want to avoid a host with a small limit on databases. I don’t think you will run into problems on hosts that promise unlimited databases, unless you really store huge amounts of data.
- CPU, RAM and Disk I/O limits – The web hosts never really discuss these limits, but they can be an issue if your website becomes popular and isn’t just serving static files. If your site has many visits that require too much computer processing, most hosts will begin to throttle your CPU usage. If you use too much memory, you will run into RAM limits and if you need to access the hard drive too much, you will run into their Disk I/O limits. Most hosts will simply limit your usage in such cases, though some may suspend your account. All these various limits probably won’t be an issue for a regular small website.
- Domains Hosted – This is the number of domains, like example.com and mysite.com, that you can use with a web hosts. It means you can buy additional domains from your web host or elsewhere and host them on your account without any additional hosting costs. Its convenient to be able to host a large number of small websites on one account, and this way you can host sites for other people too. So you might as well get a host that doesn’t have a low limit on domains.
- Control Panel – This is the most relevant feature to the average user. It is the interface provided by the web host to do all the standard administrative tasks. This is basically the program you will use to do things with your websites. Most webhosts that you will consider use the standard cPanel. You can try a demo of it by clicking on “cPanel Demo” here. Some webhosts use their own custom control panels, which you should compare with cPanel before signing up with them.
- One-Click Installer – This is another feature very relevant to an ordinary user, which allows one to install and update a large number of popular PHP scripts with very few clicks. There are various one-click installers that come with web hosting, such as SimpleScripts, Softaculous, or custom solutions. They each come with different scripts, and some may not be as easy-to-use or powerful as others. When a web host lists all the scripts they “provide”, they’re just copying the list from their included one-click installer.
- Language Support – As mentioned in the previous post, basically all web hosts support PHP, but you might want to consider running other code at some point, such as Ruby, which has grown a lot in popularity in the last few years. So it is worth checking what other languages a web host supports.