When looking for a web hosting plan, you need to consider how much bandwidth you might need to have. Bandwidth, as related to how web hosts sells their plans, refers to the total amount of data that can be transferred to and from your website each month, usually advertised and sold by GB (gigabytes). This transferring data includes html files, graphics, audio/video, e-mail messages, and any other files that are a part of your Web site.
Tip: When a person visits your website, they are “downloading” the page they are looking at, so it counts towards your bandwidth usage.
First, a little math. One KB is 1,000 bytes, one MB is 1,000 KB, and One GB is equal to 1,000 MB. For practical purposes, one GB is equal to 1,000,000,000 bytes. (Always round off KB or MB to the next highest number for your calculations.) Yes, I know that one KB is actually 1,024 bytes, but most web hosts use the 1,000 bytes.
We are going to use a practical example to show how bandwidth works. You are going to water your lawn everyday. The total amount of water you use in a month is what you will pay for. Bandwidth is similar to the water. The total amount of data you processed is the same as total bandwidth you used during the month.
Example: A MP3 song is on the average 4Mb in size. Let’s say you download 5 MP3s per day from a web page that is 2MB in size. Then, for the entire month, the bandwidth usage for only the MP3 downloads is:
6 MB (MP3 + page size) times 5 (downloads per day) times 31 (days) = 930MB. This is only an example if you are uploading or downloading files from your website.
So, the general formula for those websites that are not involved in downloading or uploading files for use by their customers is:
Average Daily Visitors x Average Page Views x Average Page Size x Number of Days in Month x Fudge Factor = Bandwidth Required
If you are just putting up a new website, you will probably have to do two things: First, best-guess at the missing figures, and two, monitor your bandwidth.
Here are some definitions for you:
Average Daily Visitors. Total number of visitors you expect for the entire month, divided by number of average days in month (30). For example, you have or expect 300 visitors per month to your website. So you would divide 300 by 30 to get a daily average daily of 10.
Average Page Views. The total number of page views in a month divided by the total number of visits in the same month. For example, you know the total page views in a month is 6,000 with a total of 300 visitors. So the average Page views, [3,000 total pages / 300 visitors], would be 10 average page views.
If you are starting off fresh without any real numbers, you could simply use the total number of web pages you have with the assumption that every visitor is going to look at every page on your website, (wouldn’t that be great?). So we will assume for this example that you have 10 pages on your website.
Average Page Size. This is the average size of all of your web pages AND files in your website measured in KB. If you have your website completed, add all of the totals of all pages and then divide by the number of pages you have. For instance, using our 10 pages you have in your website, you add each file size up, for a total of 190 KB. The average would be 190 / 10 = 19 KB.
Tip: When adding these up, always round up to the next KB, i.e., the file is 4.2 KB so use 5KB)
Number of days per month. While the average used is usually 30, we will use 31 to be on the safe side, as well as account for those months when there are 31 days.
Fudge Factor. This is where you can be as flexible as you want. We would recommend that you use either 1.5 or 2 for standard websites or small business websites. If you are going to have a lot of photos, product pages, etc., you may want to even use 3.
So, for the formula with our figures, we have:
10 Average Daily Visitors x 10 Average Page Views x 19KB Average Page Size x 31 Number of Days in Month x 1.5 Fudge Factor = 883,500KB or 1 GB Bandwidth Required (rounded up)
And there you have it. Obviously, these are only example figures but it should give you an idea on how to determine what you need.
Some final Notes:
1. When you check with the web host you want to use, see if they rate limit your server. This means they restrict the maximum amount of bandwidth that may be used at any point in time. For small business that have shopping carts, this could cause some problems.
2. Always check your Bandwidth Usage History through your web host. This will give you plenty of warning in advance as to whether or not your bandwidth needs to be increased. Better to upgrade to the next higher plan than get surprised with a bill at the end of month for what could be a much higher expense.
3. When adding up totals for the Average Page Size, make sure you include the size of all files and files within all folders in the directory where your website is stored. Web hosts often count those as well because you usually can not view a web page without use of some of the application files included at the server level, i.e., cgi-bin.
If you have questions, always ask your web host and/or your webmaster. Both should be more than willing to help you.
Web Hosting plan prices range from “free” to over $200 per month. We would like to stress that the web host price is not the most important issue. The first priority is to make sure the web host plan you pick meets your requirements for your website to properly function now and in the case of expansion in the near future. For any web hosting you pay for, our advice is: Disregard the advertised price. You have to look at the plan you pay for to make sure it will accommodate all of your needs. Why use “free” and then have to pay for every additional function you need to add? This can add up pretty quickly and a needed function may not be available when you need it.
Web Host Pricing
When looking at the plans, find the actual cost of the plan, not the advertised price. Some web hosts will advertise, “$5.95 per month”, but when you look at the plan closer, you may find that “$5.95 per month” is good only if you pay for 2-5 years up front or contract for an extended period of time.
Most web hosts require you pay for a specific period up front, while others have you pay monthly. Check to see what the set-up cost is going to be since that will be an additional cost. Once you have the information you find for one web host, we would recommend that you check out at least 3 more. Then compare plans you have found and see who has most functions available at the best price.
Several Things to Look For
There are some basic things you want to look at. Some of these are, but not limited to: Applications, customer service, technical support, downtime, bandwidth, and storage space. We will cover these very briefly and what you want to look for.
Applications. For simplicity, these are “programs” that can be run or used on your website. Here are some things to consider:
- If your website needs a shopping cart, is it available through the plan?
- If you want to make some changes to your website, is a content management system (CMS) easily available and included?
- Will you need to install applications yourself or does the web host do this for you?
Customer Service. Is customer service available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? If customer service is only available Monday through Friday, you may have to wait until they are available when you have a problem. Having to call on Saturday, leave a voicemail and then wait for someone to respond hopefully on Monday is not a good idea if you are running a business website. Look to see what hours they are open as well. There is nothing like having to call at 6:00 pm because your account “dropped”, only to find out they are in a different time zone and not open until the next day or week.
Technical Support. Just like Customer Service, do they have limited days and times? Murphy’s Law says if they do, you will have your website break 2 minutes after they close. Another thing to look for when dealing with technical support is how they handle requests. If the only way they will allow you to contact them is to complete a “ticket”, that puts you on hold until they respond. Ideally, you want someone who is readily available 24/7, especially if their server goes down or if your website suddenly becomes unavailable for an unknown reason. They should have an easy to find phone number to call, an email address to send to, and their hours posted.
Downtime. There is a difference between maintenance downtime and sudden disappearances of your website. Ask if the web host will notify you in advance of maintenance downtime and if it will affect your website. Find out how often they shut down for maintenance, i.e., monthly, quarterly, etc. See if they have backup servers and where they are located. It would also be a good idea to ask about their security.
Bandwidth. The higher the bandwidth you can get in your plan the better, especially if you are going to have music or videos on your website or items your visitors can download. You want to keep in mind that you, more than likely, will have multiple visitors on your website at any given time. All of these eat up bandwidth. Just keep in mind that if you exceed bandwidth in your plan, you might wind up paying more money, or worse, get your website shut down.
General consensus says most websites and small businesses won’t require more than 1GB bandwidth. To be sure, check with your web designer, especially if you will allow visitors to download files. The items listed in “disk space” below can affect your bandwidth requirements as well. (We’ll post a blog on bandwidth shortly.)
Storage Space. This one is a little tricky, if you are going to store music files or a large amount of photos on your website. As a suggestion, here are some of the things you need to consider:
- The total size of your website files added together, usually measured by kilobyte (KB).
- Size of the applications you may install on your website now plus estimated size of ones you may add later.
- Total of the estimated size of email files you are going to store online. (Keep in mind those attachments!)
- Total size of the files you are going to upload or allow visitors to download.
- Total of the sizes of photos you are going to upload on your website if not already included with your website now.
- The size of your back up files, if you are considering backing up files online.
Note: The larger and more established web hosts backup server files on a regular basis and usually have each completed backup available to you for a limited time.
That covers only some of the basics to consider when paying for a web host. To save a lot of stress later, research and compare plans first. Don’t consider “free web hosting” as an automatic benefit, especially if you have to pay to add anything else. Ask your web designer for help and don’t be afraid to ask the web host questions before you pay. Simply make sure you know what you getting for your money.