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How to buy hosting

This article first appeared in issue 229 of .net magazine – the world's best-selling magazine for web designers and developers.

When you buy hosting, you’re entering into a contract that is going to last for quite a while. That’s why it’s important to get it right. We spoke to hosting expert Jacob Colton, director of Catalyst2, and asked him what elements every customer needs to take into account. Whether you’re new to hosting contracts or an old hand who hasn’t shopped around in a while, Jacob’s advice should help you make a better choice.

“There needs to be an understanding of disk space,” Colton told us, “At least an order of magnitude. Are they building a five page brochure site with 10 images, in which case 20MB of disk space will more than suffice, or is it going to be an ecommerce site with 10,000 products, each having 10 images?”

Colton’s experience suggests that most people think they need much more disk space than they actually do. With the rise of media services for images and video, you should factor in how much media you can host elsewhere on sites such as YouTube. Second on the list are visitors: traffic will help you to determine how much data transfer you’ll need.

Do the maths

“If you are expecting 100 users a day downloading five pages (assumed 100kb page) that translates to around 50MB/day or 1.5GB/ month of data transfer,” says Colton. The moral? Do the maths before you sign on the line.

If you’re developing or deploying web applications or services as sites, then scripting support will affect costs too. “If the site is developed in PHP/MySQL the hosting is likely to be cheaper than using and MS SQL,” says Colton.

Finally, you pay for stability. “While all hosts should provide a high level of uptime, obviously it’s foolish to host an ecommerce site on a £3/ month hosting account,” says Colton. “A dedicated or clustered hosting option would be much better suited to help mitigate any risk.”