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View Full Version : What do I need from a webhost?




emaja
Feb 16, 2006, 12:15 PM
I am new to this and have a few things I want to do.

1) Host a website for each of my kids (3) to noodle with as well as a family page and one for a business (info only) that my wife is starting - 7 or so in total - with email addresses and domains for each. POP access to these emails as well.

2) Backup my data from both my Mac and my PC to a remote location in case of disaster.

3) Be able to retrieve this data from anywhere that I have web access.

How much space and bandwidth to I need?

What I want to know is, what questions to do I need to be asking of my potential web host and what features would you suggest that I should have?

I will use Dreamweaver for development and Transmit for the FTP transfer unless you have any recommendations.

I am not asking for a webhost recommendation as I have pretty much decided to go with A Small Orange due to their "lifetime" plans - 1GB storage and 25GB monthly bandwidth for $300 - but I want to know if this is enough for what I want to do.

Any input is welcome and appreciated.



zimv20
Feb 16, 2006, 12:21 PM
How much space and bandwidth to I need?
i think you're the only one who can answer that.

grapes911
Feb 16, 2006, 12:24 PM
1) Host a website for each of my kids (3) to noodle with as well as a family page I'd just get one for the family and use sub-domains (which are usually free) for the kids.

2) Backup my data from both my Mac and my PC to a remote location in case of disaster.The internet is not the best medium for this. Get an external hard drive. It will be much cheaper and more secure.

How much space and bandwidth to I need? Pics take up some space, but make sure you optimize them for the web. The actual pages are pretty small. Most packages should give you more than enough space (assuming you take my advice and don't put backups on the web). Bandwidth is anther story. How much traffic to you expect to generate? No one here can answer that.

What I want to know is, what questions to do I need to be asking of my potential web host and what features would you suggest that I should have? What features do you want? MySQL, .NET, ColdFusion, etc. I'm guessing you don't need any of this unless you know how to use them.

jsw
Feb 16, 2006, 12:25 PM
Although you're not asking, you might want to consider DreamHost (http://www.dreamhost.com/shared/comparison.html) - $8/month gets you a lot more than what you're getting from ASO, and it'd take over 3 years to catch up to ASO's initial $300 investment - not counting interest.

Anyway, as far as questions you'd ask are concerned, it seems like you've answered them yourself. You want 7 subdomains (or one domain and 6 subdomains), at least 7 email accounts, etc.

If you're looking to back up files for yourself and your family, 1GB is pretty low, esp. if you're looking at a lifetime plan.

emaja
Feb 16, 2006, 12:54 PM
What features do you want? MySQL, .NET, ColdFusion, etc. I'm guessing you don't need any of this unless you know how to use them.

I guess that's part of my question. Most hosts I have looked at provide MySQL, but not .NET or ColdFusion in the basic plans. I do not think I need those, but wanted to seek opinions anyway.

We are just talking about simple family sites with about 10 pages each (max) and an informational website about an educational support company for my wife that might be a little larger. Nothing too big from what I can guess.

Part of the problem is that I have no idea how much space a typical family-type website would take up or how much bandwidth a visit uses. Most of my photos are about 1.4MB each so even if I left them un-optimized and put 100 on the site - both unlikely - that would be 140MB right there.

I do backup to a FW drive, but wanted to use off-site backup for security.

I have read mixed things about Dream Host, so I had crossed them off my list. I would reconsider them, but only if I actually need those volumes. If I could pay one flat fee and get all I need, I would rather do that than be saddled with a monthly bill.

Keep the questions and ideas coming. I need the help - LOL!

steelphantom
Feb 16, 2006, 01:01 PM
I would make sure that the host you go with supports MySQL, subdomains, and also allows addon domains if you ever want to have different domain names for each of your kids' sites. Also, ColdFusion and .NET are probably not anything you would need to worry about nor actually need.

I'm currently hosted with Bluehost (http://www.bluehost.com) and they've been great. I believe they offer 4GB of web space as well as a free domain name and 100GB of bandwith. That should definitely be enough for a few personal web sites.

jsw
Feb 16, 2006, 01:02 PM
I have read mixed things about Dream Host, so I had crossed them off my list. I would reconsider them, but only if I actually need those volumes. If I could pay one flat fee and get all I need, I would rather do that than be saddled with a monthly bill.
I don't work for them - really - but I find them to be fine. Yes, they're probably down an hour (or less) per year, which is more than some people want. But you can prepay $190.80 for two years of the base plan and get vastly more space and bandwidth than ASO.

I've had them a little over a year and have been very happy with them. And, as much as you think 1GB will be fine for now, you might run into problems dividing that up fairly. Maybe DreamHost isn't right for you, but I think you might want more than 1GB of room. Some day you might want to share small videos, etc - and that 1GB will seem like nothing.

grapes911
Feb 16, 2006, 01:05 PM
I guess that's part of my question. Most hosts I have looked at provide MySQL, but not .NET or ColdFusion in the basic plans. I do not think I need those, but wanted to seek opinions anyway. You probably don't need them. I'm just throwing out examples of possible features.

Part of the problem is that I have no idea how much space a typical family-type website would take up or how much bandwidth a visit uses.
You won't need much space. A gig should be more than enough (not counting backups). But I still say that only you can decide on bandwidth. It depends on many things. How many people are going to get these sites? How often are they going to use them?


I do backup to a FW drive, but wanted to use off-site backup for security. And posting your files on the net offers security? Even a password protected folder isn't totally secure. Plus, it is a very expense use of space and bandwidth. Get a small fireproof safe and put the hard drive in there.

If I could pay one flat fee and get all I need, I would rather do that than be saddled with a monthly bill. I don't like the flat fee. Who's to say what will be normal in a few years. If internet speeds increase and website sizes increase, you'll be stuck with a small site while everyone else has moved on to a new technology.

emaja
Feb 16, 2006, 01:18 PM
Something that is nice about ASO is that they will up the "lifetime" plan as the corresponding monthly plan changes. Right now, they offer their Medium account with 1000MB space and 25GB bandwidth for $10 a month. If they change that monthly plan to 2000MB and 50GB bandwidth, then the "lifetime" plan changes accordingly.

I guess you're right about net security. I was just thinking about personal photos and things like that. Nothing that could be a potential risk really.

Maybe I will go with someone else and have those ridiculously high storage and BW limits that I will not need now, but may in the future.

zimv20
Feb 16, 2006, 01:30 PM
And posting your files on the net offers security?
from a safety perspective, it's nice to have offsite backup. i use .mac for that, for my really important stuff. obviously, it's impractical to back up an entire HD that way, but for things like my writing folder, it's quite valuable.

jsw
Feb 16, 2006, 01:38 PM
And posting your files on the net offers security? Even a password protected folder isn't totally secure.
There's a big difference between posting your files on the net and uploading them to an offsite server. I use a hosting service (DreamHost, obviously), but I can certainly put files in places which aren't accessible from browsers.

I think using a server is a great idea for data security - a fireproof box isn't thief-proof, for example, and a fireproof box won't let you get at your data from elsewhere.

You can always use Applications->Utilities->Disk Utility to create an encrypted image (open the app, click on "New Image", set it to be encrypted), then open it, store your files there, "eject" it, and upload it to the server. AES-128 bit encrypted, safe even if someone can get to it, but yet easy for you to download and retrieve your files.

jsw
Feb 16, 2006, 01:44 PM
Maybe I will go with someone else and have those ridiculously high storage and BW limits that I will not need now, but may in the future.
I think that ASO is a very, very nice host. People here rave about it. It's very well loved. I think they offer better uptime than, say, DreamHost.

But... 20GB of storage (upped by 160MB/week) and 1TB of bandwidth (upped by 8GB/week) is very hard to beat. And DreamHost is still a great host. I've never had a problem with them, not once in over a year. They're very responsive to emails and calls as well.

On a completely different note: you can set up a free dynamic IP address (DynDNS.org, or others) and host directly off of your Mac. Depending on your upload speeds, visitors to your website might find their download speeds to be fine, and your storage capacity is limited only by your hard drives. With even a wee bit of tinkering with Apache (built into your Mac), you can easily access external hard drives, so your accessible storage is, in effect, unlimited.

grapes911
Feb 16, 2006, 01:49 PM
zimv20 and jsw, you both make good points. I'll retract the security part of my argument.

I have two hard drives for backups. I leave one at work and one at home. I backup to both often, but not necessarily the same day. I feel I'm covered this way. I guess I'm used to backing everything up (OS and all). Thus, backing up via the internet would take forever.

jsw
Feb 16, 2006, 01:58 PM
zimv20 and jsw, you both make good points. I'll retract the security part of my argument.

I have two hard drives for backups. I leave one at work and one at home. I backup to both often, but not necessarily the same day. I feel I'm covered this way. I guess I'm used to backing everything up (OS and all). Thus, backing up via the internet would take forever.
Good point - and I didn't mean to imply that the internet was a great route for a complete backup. I think backup drives are much better for such things!

zimv20
Feb 16, 2006, 02:02 PM
I have two hard drives for backups. I leave one at work and one at home.
i've got multiples as well, but they're all at home. hidden, in case of break-in, but if there's a fire i'm in trouble. except for the .mac stuff.

i do mean to make some optical backups of the music stuff and take it to my mom's...

AmbitiousLemon
Feb 16, 2006, 03:57 PM
But... 20GB of storage (upped by 160MB/week) and 1TB of bandwidth (upped by 8GB/week) is very hard to beat.

Just a quick note about dreamhost before I answer the poster's question. Dreamhost uses very deceptive marketing. While they advertise large amounts of bandwidth, they do not provide anyone with that much bandwidth. They use methods to limit the speed of your connection so that you can't use even 1/10th of the bandwidth you are paying for. That in addition to their poor service and support makes them a very poor value, despite some clever (and probably illegal) marketing.


When looking for hosting there are a few things to keep in mind.

1) Bandwidth: Most people (especially for personal sites such as you describe) need very little space and bandwidth. We are so accustomed to using big numbers (gigabytes) its hard not to be lured into thinking we need gigabytes of storage and bandwidth. Most people do not. Few people will ever use more than 1GB/mo of bandwidth. Webpages are very small (even poorly optimized ones) so its takes many millions of hits to start pushing gigabytes of bandwidth.

It is therefore a good idea to look at the very smallest plan that each host you are considering is offering and compare their prices and services. One unique host I have found is www.nearlyfreespeech.net With them you only pay for what you use. Nice safe plan, and very cost effective for small sites. Not the most feature rich host, but in terms of price for small to average sites, it can't be beat (many people pay less than a penny a month).

Myth: Room to grow: A lot of people talk about buying a larger plan than they need so they have "room to grow." This is just a waste of money. Buy the smallest plan and if you use more bandwidth than expected just move to a larger plan. While most hosts will charge you a small penalty for going over, it is much better to risk this than it is to pay for more than you need for months or years on end. So there is no benefit in buying more bw than you actually need.

2) Overselling. Many hosts charge ridiculously low prices for huge amounts of bandwidth. Then they cram as many people onto a server as possible. They are making a bet that people won't use all the bandwidth they bought (which since there is this room to grow myth actually turns out to be a pretty good bet most times). There are two big problems with this; first it only takes a couple of people on the server to use what they paid for to suck up all the available cpu cycles and bandwidth and thus reduce everyone's available bandwidth to nearly nothing. The second thing is that hosts that do this are typically low quality hosts that will not offer good bandwidth, uptime, or support. At those prices these hosts simply can not pay for good help - and it shows.

3) You get what you pay for. While superficially it might seem like all hosts offer the same thing (hosting) there are huge differences in the quality of service and support they can provide. The biggest issue is the speed of the actual connection the host uses. Hosts with good fast internet connections will charge you more. Likewise, hosts with good support staff will charge you more. I'm not saying that you have to pay more for hosting - just that there are good reasons for the prices differences you see. For a small personal site you can probably get away with a low quality host. For a corporate site or a site that gets a lot of traffic you will need a higher quality host. Consider your needs and try to make realistic estimations on what your needs are and choose accordingly.

emaja
Feb 16, 2006, 05:11 PM
Most people (especially for personal sites such as you describe) need very little space and bandwidth. We are so accustomed to using big numbers (gigabytes) its hard not to be lured into thinking we need gigabytes of storage and bandwidth. Most people do not. Few people will ever use more than 1GB/mo of bandwidth. Webpages are very small (even poorly optimized ones) so its takes many millions of hits to start pushing gigabytes of bandwidth.

I was able to find some stats from various webhosts that confirmed what you say, so thanks for the idea to go poking around. I will take a look at nearlyfreespeech.net also. A few pennies is certainly a good price for what seems to be my minimal needs.

You get what you pay for. While superficially it might seem like all hosts offer the same thing (hosting) there are huge differences in the quality of service and support they can provide.

I firmly believe in this also, but I am not sure how to measure the "quality" of a webhost. There are lots of review sites out there, but they all seem to have different opinions. Lots of reviewers and lots of opinions. I know those questions have been asked ad nauseum and I have read your opinions on Dreamhost and others that oversell, which is why I was avoiding them in the first place, but with some promo codes I can get a year of hosting and domain registration for $9.24. That is absolutely insane - almost free - and seemingly minimal risk. If I hate them, I can switch and it cost me all of ten bucks.

On a related note, some hosts tell you that they do not insert ads onto your sites while some do not seem to disclose that info. I really don't want pop-ups and ads ruining a simple website. How or where can I find that out if it is not on their page?

Thanks for all the great thoughts. You have helped out a lot and I honestly appreciate it.

AmbitiousLemon
Feb 16, 2006, 05:15 PM
On a related note, some hosts tell you that they do not insert ads onto your sites while some do not seem to disclose that info. I really don't want pop-ups and ads ruining a simple website. How or where can I find that out if it is not on their page?

Its not normal for hosts to put ads on your site. Its your site not theirs. So thats probably why most don't mention it. The only sites I know of that put ads on your site are those that offer free hosting. Most free hosts do this, but paid hosts don't typically.

One thing I didn't mention in my last post (it was too long already) was domain registration. While it might seem convienent (and cheap sometimes) to register a domain name with your host this is often not a good idea. If you decide to move hosts it can be difficult (or impossible) to keep your domain name. Often people often lose their domain names because their host they registered with 1) forgets to renew 2) won't let you take it with you when you move hosts. Domain names should be registered with a separate company so that you can be foot loose in your hosting choices. yahoo, dotster, and godaddy are some good reliable companies to look at for domain hosting. Depending on the promos they are running any one of them might be cheapest.

jsw
Feb 16, 2006, 05:23 PM
Just a quick note about dreamhost before I answer the poster's question. Dreamhost uses very deceptive marketing. While they advertise large amounts of bandwidth, they do not provide anyone with that much bandwidth. They use methods to limit the speed of your connection so that you can't use even 1/10th of the bandwidth you are paying for. That in addition to their poor service and support makes them a very poor value, despite some clever (and probably illegal) marketing.
While I certainly don't use the bandwidth they offer, I haven't had any problems in over a year with DreamHost.

I would not recommend them for businesses, as I wouldn't trust the uptime to be what I'd expect as someone deriving input from the web. However, the storage limits are as advertised - I've used up to my limit at times, and all the files were there. Also, you pay for the average space utilization, so you can actually spike to a higher amount as long as your average is below your limit.

Also, whenever my family and friends have gone to my sites, they've gotten good download speeds.

As mentioned, with promos, you can get DreamHost almost for free.

ASO = "Mac"
DreamHost = "generic PC"

For me and my web needs, a "generic PC" works.

Edit: for me, I was interested in offsite file storage more than web hosting, so I was looking for bang-for-the-buck on storage. If I were really concerned about web site usage, I might have picked someone else. I'm happy with DH, but I don't exactly stress their web servers.

emaja
Feb 16, 2006, 05:27 PM
It's not normal for hosts to put ads on your site. Its your site not theirs. So thats probably why most don't mention it. The only sites I know of that put ads on your site are those that offer free hosting. Most free hosts do this, but paid hosts don't typically.

That's what I thought, but since I am new to this I did not want to assume. I am thinking about hosting my church's website on my account and don't want anything inappropriate popping up. Could prove very embarassing.

Thanks for the tip on the domain. These are the sort of things that I am trying to figure out before I jump in and setup an account with someone. I do not want to make a mistake and have my domain tied to a particular host - just in case.

Great ideas guys. Anything else to look for?

radiantm3
Feb 16, 2006, 09:00 PM
AmbitiousLemon:

While I'm not saying you are wrong, and I understand your strong opinion against dreamhost, but sometimes you take it too far. Do you have some sort of investment in ASO? By the way you preach for ASO and against DH, it seems like you are. Also, you closed a previous "web hosting" thread just because people kept talking about dreamhost. I thought that was a rather questionable on your part as no one was flaming or getting flamed in that thread, and you happened to get the last word before closing it as well. I thought it was a rather useful discussion and both sides should be able to present their points.

Again, I'm not trying to accuse you of anything because it does seem you are just trying to help people out, but the way you are doing it seems a bit biased.

AmbitiousLemon
Feb 16, 2006, 10:39 PM
I closed that thread because it was not only off topic but had degraded into back and forth. Both sides presented their points and it had degraded beyond that being useful.

I find it odd you think I preach for ASO. I've mentioned several hosts. I might use ASO as an example more often, but thats just because people here already know its name and reputation. I tend to try to mention hosts people have already mentioned in a thread. I didn't mention them at all in this thread until now. And no I don't have any investments in ASO (I don't know anyone who works there or even anyone who is hosted by them).

If I sound adament about condemning dreamhost its only because every time I say something about them people end up attacking me (as you are now). I wrote one short paragraph about them just making sure everyone knew the limits of their hosting plans and you come in here accusing me of things. Frankly I find your (and some other posters') defense of dreamhost questionable.

Just thought I could save some people some harm.

Your post just reminds me why I don't post much anymore, its just not worth the trouble.

radiantm3
Feb 16, 2006, 10:55 PM
I closed that thread because it was not only off topic but had degraded into back and forth. Both sides presented their points and it had degraded beyond that being useful.

I find it odd you think I preach for ASO. I've mentioned several hosts. I might use ASO as an example more often, but thats just because people here already know its name and reputation. I tend to try to mention hosts people have already mentioned in a thread. I didn't mention them at all in this thread until now. And no I don't have any investments in ASO (I don't know anyone who works there or even anyone who is hosted by them).

If I sound adament about condemning dreamhost its only because every time I say something about them people end up attacking me (as you are now). I wrote one short paragraph about them just making sure everyone knew the limits of their hosting plans and you come in here accusing me of things. Frankly I find your (and some other posters') defense of dreamhost questionable.

Just thought I could save some people some harm.

Your post just reminds me why I don't post much anymore, its just not worth the trouble.

I don't defend them any more than I can from personal experience. Do they oversell? Yes. Are they a bad deal? I don't think so. All I said ever is that I have used them since last october and have yet to experience any problems, whatsoever. If I do run into a problem, I'll switch. I'm not tied down to them in any way so there's no reason for me to defend them. I also know some really talented web designers on dreamhost (www.simplebits.com for example), and if dreamhost was so bad, I'm sure they would find a better host as well.

I'm not attacking you. I'm sorry if you think I am, but nowhere in my post was I "attacking" you. I didn't notice anyone attacking you in the thread you closed either. Someone was just bringing up a few counter arguments to what you said.

grapes911
Feb 16, 2006, 11:26 PM
I know nothing of DreamHost, but is over selling that bad? It is common practice for phone companies to sell more lines than they can possible service at one time and they have been doing it for years. Cell phone companies do it. ISPs do it (although broadband has been slowly putting and end to this). I'm sure other industries do it too. Why is it so bad with hosting?

theappleguy
Feb 17, 2006, 12:51 AM
I know nothing of DreamHost, but is over selling that bad?It is when you are selling $100 worth of resources for $7.95 per month. Something has to give at some point. Overselling isn't bad for hosting if it is done correctly. However, a battle seems to have erupted in the last few months over who can oversell the most and as the overselling has increased so have the numbers of disgruntled users. If you are getting more than 1GB of space and 50GB of transfer for every $10 you spend each month, be very wary. :)