Tech Terms for the Non-Techie: 5 Things You Need to Know Before You Start Your Website Part 2
(This is Part 2 in a 2 part series, you can read about Domain Names and Building Platforms AT THIS LINK)
Website Hosting (sub-plot of storage and bandwidth)
To finish out the analogy of a house: Your domain name is your address, your Building Platform is your tools, and your Website Hosting is your property tax. Just like your house needs a literal space to reside, your website is actually on a hard drive somewhere in the world, and you’re paying someone to keep it there so that people who visit your address can see your website. However, unlike true property taxes (where you only pay the government) you can choose who you want to host your website.
Website hosting varies in price and options, and that is where it can get confusing. The most important thing to consider (as with any service) is to ask yourself if you trust the company. Most likely, you won’t have past experience, but do they look trustworthy? Some questions to consider are:
Are they constantly trying to up-sell you, or having pop-up ads?
Are they making it difficult to simply purchase the plan that you want?
Are they asking you to pay extra to have your personal data safe? (this one is a major concern.)
As with any company, these things should be standard, and I don’t personally trust those who ignore these common courtesies. The reason is, if I can’t trust a company on the front end then why should I trust that they will hold up to their bargain on “unlimited bandwidth”, or “unlimited storage” (we’ll get to those terms in a second). It is sad, but common, that a person will have a surge of visitors on their website and it’ll cause their website to crash. I’ve even heard of stories where they knew it might happen so they contacted their website hosting company and was assured that nothing would happen…but it crashed anyway. Although mistakes happen, most of these stories come from faulty help support and simply dishonest companies.
All that being said, beyond simply trusting a company, there are some service options to consider:
1) File type
I make a point of mentioning this one because I have never seen anyone talk about it, but it’s been a problem for me personally. I was handed a pre-existing website to maintenance on a platform or hosting I didn’t choose. Everything was fine at first, however, after a little time went by I realized that this hosting wouldn’t support any type of audio file (which was a deal-breaker because we had a weekly church podcast to upload). This is when I found out that many hosting options will limit you on the types of files you can upload onto their servers. This may not affect you at all if you are only interested in pictures, but it something to be aware of.
This doesn’t tend to be a big deal in most cases as storage is cheap, but make note of how much storage you’ll want to have. This includes all your pictures, logos, text, colors, etc. For the most part, these are all extremely small. The only thing to note is that it’s ideal to shrink your pictures so that your website page will load faster, and so that you don’t use up 10GB in a mere 4 pages. It’s pretty standard to shrink pictures to 600 pixels on the longest side, but I tend to do 900 pixels instead.
The biggest concern for most people will be their bandwidth. Now, true to the term, bandwidth refers to how much data can be processed in a given amount of time. This is similar to your computer’s processor. However, in terms of hosting, it’s used (technically incorrectly) as your monthly data transfer limit. Essentially, your bandwidth is how much data can transfer from the storage host of your website to your visitors collectively each month.
For example, if you have a web page that contains 1mb of data, and you received 10 visits to that page, then you used up 100mb of data in bandwidth.
This is where most people have problems. If they have an extremely popular blog post (given what is normal for them) with lots of pictures and hits, then they might have problems with their site crashing (overloading their bandwidth limit).
I hope all of this was helpful. I’d love to hear if you have more terms that you don’t understand or need clarification on. Also if you have anything to add to these definitions that I may have left out, please leave a comment. Again you can read the first part of this 2 part series at THIS LINK.