Website Hosting Introduction

After finishing my Places to Publish: FastSpring post, I realized people may have questions on hosting a website for their books. I’ve written this article to provide an introduction to website hosting. I’m going to focus on three categories of hosting:

  • Shared hosting
  • Virtual private servers
  • Dedicated servers

Disk Space and Bandwidth

When you look at hosting providers, two terms will jump out at you: disk space and bandwidth (some hosts use the term transfer instead of bandwidth). Disk space is the amount of space you get for your website. You won’t have to worry about disk space unless you’re hosting long videos on your site. Virtually every hosting provider gives you at least 10 GB of disk space.

Bandwidth is the amount of traffic your website can handle. More bandwidth allows more people to visit your website.

Suppose your author website consists of the following items:

  • A home page with 2 MB of content.
  • Three other pages with 1 MB of content each.
  • A book sample to download (3 MB)

Your site would use 8 MB of disk space: 2 MB for the home page, 3 MB for the other pages, and 3 MB for the book sample.

Bandwidth is a little more difficult to calculate because it depends on what a visitor accesses. If someone visits your home page, that’s 2 MB of bandwidth. If another person visits your home page and downloads the book sample, that’s 5 MB of bandwidth. A third person who visits all your pages and downloads the sample uses 8 MB of bandwidth. 1 GB of bandwidth is enough for 125 people to view the whole site and download the book sample. 1 TB of bandwidth is enough for 125,000 people to view the whole site and download the book sample.

Shared Hosting

With shared hosting your website shares a server with a bunch of other websites. It sounds bad, but most websites don’t get much traffic so you don’t have to worry about other people’s websites hogging the server.

I recommend starting with shared hosting for two reasons. First, it’s the least expensive option. Second, shared hosting providers provide the most site management service. With shared hosting you can focus on adding content to your site.

Shared hosting generally costs $5-$20 per month. Higher priced plans allow you to host more websites and provide unlimited email addresses.

There are many shared hosting providers. Here’s a short list of providers to get you started.

Virtual Private Servers

A virtual private server (VPS) gives you a slice of a server. You get part of the server’s memory and CPU along with disk space and a bandwidth allowance. The cost of hosting depends on how big a slice you want, but it generally costs $10-$100 a month. $10 a month will give you 1-2 GB of RAM and 1 CPU core. $40 a month will give you 4-8 GB of RAM and 2-4 CPU cores.

The upside of VPS hosting is your website has access to more computer power, letting your site handle more traffic. The downside of VPS hosting is you have to do more site management. If you start to get thousands of visitors a day to your site, switching to a VPS would make sense.

Some of the hosts I listed in the Shared Hosting section also provide VPS hosting. The following hosts specialize in VPS hosting:

If you’re going to use email on your site, I recommend WebFaction because they manage an email server for you. Most VPS hosts don’t manage email for you. To send and receive emails on your site, you would need to set up and manage an email server yourself.

Dedicated Servers

Dedicated hosting gives you the entire server. Because you’re getting a whole computer, the hosting costs are higher. The cost depends on the computer. The more powerful the computer, the higher the cost, but prices start at $50 a month and can cost hundreds of dollars a month. Some of the lower cost plans require you to buy the computer. You buy the computer and spend $50 a month for the hosting.

I don’t recommend starting with a dedicated server because of the high costs. If you start to get 10,000 or more visitors a day to your website, then it would be time to look into a dedicated server.