What are some of the terms I need to know when I choose a web host?

By Stacy Clifford

Disk Space or Storage

Because your website is a collection of files being offered on the internet for viewing, they have to be stored somewhere for retrieval and take up space. Each web server has a finite amount of hard disk memory to divide up and offer to hosting customers. Typically that space is divided up by different package levels so that the more you pay, the more space you are allowed to store pictures, web pages, videos and whatever other files you like on the web server's hard drive. If your website gets bigger than the space you are given, you will need to purchase more disk space from the web host.

Bandwidth or Data Transfer

Whenever you visit a website and view a page, you are transfering a copy of the files that make up that page over the internet from the web server to your computer.

If the page you are viewing consists of an HTML file that is 3KB in size and three pictures of 47KB, 100KB and 250 KB, then you have just used 400KB of bandwidth or data transfer, because that is the total amount of data you just downloaded from the web server to view that page.

Bandwidth is a commodity like disk space that the web host has to buy from its internet service provider, so it too is divided up and offered to the customers in specific amounts. Bandwidth amounts are usually measured in gigabytes (GB), because while only one copy of your files needs to be stored on the server, thousands or even millions of copies may be downloaded for viewing. If your website is viewed more times than the amount of bandwidth you are allowed can handle, your website may be turned off until the next billing period starts, or you may simply be billed for the excess amount used, depending on your host's policies. You can always purchase more bandwidth as your site's traffic increases.

Uptime

In an ideal world, every web server would be up and running and offering your web pages to the world 24 hours a day, 7 days a week forever. However, web servers are computers, and like any other computer, things happen to make them fail, or they get old and out of date and require maintenance and repair. When a web host gives you a 99% uptime guarantee, they are saying that the web server will be up and running for 99% of the billing period. If they fail to meet this guarantee, most web hosts will refund a certain portion of your money depending on the amount of excess downtime they experienced.

Traffic Statistics

Website traffic statistics programs try to track visitors to your website. They can track how many times your site was visited, how many visitors were unique and how many returned more than once, which pages were most popular, where the visitors came to your site from, what search terms they used in the search engines, and many other types of information which could be useful to you in marketing your website to a target audience. These statistics can be displayed in tables, graphs and charts by hour, day, week, month or year.

Some statistics programs are better than others and offer more types of data, better displays, easier navigation or other useful features. Most web hosts today offer some sort of traffic statistics software with their hosting packages.

CGI Scripts

Many web hosts offer a variety of free CGI scripts with their packages. These are things like hit counters, guestbooks, form mail programs, message boards, and other programs that allow your website to perform commonly desired functions. You can use the ones your host provides you with or you can upload and run custom CGI scripts written by yourself or somebody else to perform different tasks like conducting a survey or processing customer information to produce an automatic price quote. Most CGI scripts are written in common programming languages like Perl, PHP or ASP.

You could spend a long time trying to learn everything there is to know about web hosting, but if you've read this far then you should be armed with the basic knowledge you need to understand what different web hosts are offering you. Your next task is to figure out what you need and go out and find a host that wants to give it to you at a great price!

About the Author

ChiliPepperWeb's picture
Stacy Clifford

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