A good hosting isn’t easy to find. Not only Google gives out millions of link on the query «buy a hosting», but the hosting companies often misrepresent themselves. They lie in their advertisements, their websites, sometimes even in the support chat…
Of course, not all the lies are malicious. Sometimes a company just replaces one meaning of the word with another one, similar, but with a more attractive name. Yet if you are diligently searching for the best hosting and want to know the actual state of things — I’ll tell you what hides behind the promises and pretty ads.
Usually, the companies embellish their storage, connection speed and traffic, as well as website’s uptime.
You should remember two things:
- All files have a particular size.
- The space of the storage where they are saved is finite.
As long as the file size is lower than the available storage space — everything is great. But if there’s no space — you cannot post anything, the website lags and the users are getting error pages.
What you need to know about storage
The size of the website’s files grows with time. A WordPress website right after installation is about 60 MB in size. The same website after a year of active development will be at 1-2 GB mark. Most of those would be mediafiles (images, music and video), but the database itself will grow too. So, when you are buying a hosting — make sure that you have room to grow.
There is no unlimited storage. If your hosting company offers you unlimited storage — that doesn’t mean that you can store terabytes of data there. There limits are still there, but they are not rigid. If you website needs much more space than the average website on the hosting — you’ll be offered a more expensive pricing plan, or a straight upgrade to VPS.
The larger the database, the slower the website works. For example, a wesbite with a 10 GB database is not going to work well on a usual hosting. The problem can be solved by switching to the SSD-storage, but there you’ll face harsh restrictions on available storage.
Although, not everything is so grimdark. If you upload all pictures on Imgur or Flickr, all audio to SoundCloud, and all the video to Youtube — you can easily host a website on a 2 GB storage.
IMPORTANT: A hosting with an SSD-storage is faster, more convinitent and more reliable than an HDD-based one. But if you need to store a lot of files — take a look at hybrid hosting. These hostings store databases on fast SSD drives, but also support a more traditional «unlimited» HDD-based file storage.
Traffic and connection speed
It’s pretty simple:
- As earlier, each file has a defined size.
- File transmission speed is limited.
There are many users on one website. That means, that the website should simultaneously send a page A to user 1, image B to user 2 and audiofile C to user 3 etc. The more active users — the slower the website.
Another important measurement is traffic. It’s the summarized size of all the files that had been transmitted from the website. Some hosting companies limit the monthly traffic and will fee you for going over the limits. If you have little traffic, then a large stream of users transforms from ultimate success to potential losses quite fast.
What you need to know about connection speed and traffic
Top speed and real speed are different. Usually hosting companies define speed as «up to 1 GB/s». But you can get this speed only if there are no other sites on the hosting — when in fact, there are thousands.
There’s no such thing as unlimited traffic. There are always some limits. It’s just that in this case the limits are so big, that an average customer will never know about htem. But if you try to make an online cinema or a large scale file exchange service — you will be asked to move to a more expensive plan or directly to a server.
If your traffic is limited and you must purchase it beforehand — you’ve got to learn how to calculate traffic.
For websites that just start up, I recommend buying at least 30 GB of traffic. This should be enough for roughly 3 000 unique page views, which is more than enough for a relatively new blog. But you won’t ever find a plan with 30 GB — traffic is cheap and even the most budget plans offer at least 100 GB per month.
And once you have the stats for pageviews — use them. Usually you can take the traffic you used up last month and add 30% to it — for you to grow into or just in case.
To keep it short, uptime is time when the website was available for visitors. On hostings, uptime is measured in percents and calculated from the whole time the hosting was purchased for.
In theory, uptime should be 100%. On practice, there are emergencies. DDoS attacks, glitches on the server and thousands others factors can temporarily impact the access to your website.
That’s why hosting companies usually mark the guaranteed uptime as 99.9%
You can track uptime at Pingdom. Tracking one website is free. Whenever the website doesn’t work — you get an email.
What you need to know about the uptime
Guaranteed uptime is a marketing trick. If the company promises that you will be compensated whenever the uptime is lower than guaranteed — look closer at the contract. Most likely, the uptime is calculated not for a day or a month, but for a year. And under compensation they mean one month of free hosting. In order to receive that month you’ll have to prove that the issues on the website were due to the company — which is rather hard to prove.
There’s no 99.9% uptime. In your contract with the hosting company, it says that the shutdown during maintenance that you have been informed of is not included in the number. And nothing stops the company from posting a maintenance announcement dated back whenever they face issues.
That’s why you should simply ignore listed uptime on hosting companies websites. The only good way to find out the real state of things is practice and reviews from other users.
Choosing a decent hosting is an art of compromise. There are no perfect companies and sometimes even the leaders of the market make rather absurd decisions. So I simply cannot give a definite answer on «Which hosting should I choose?». Everyone has different criterias.
I very much like the unlimited plans. Even though there are still limits, there’s no penalty for going over them. And the offer to upgrade usually comes whenever I start thinking about it myself.
Other prefer to count traffic and storage, penny-pinching a couple of cents per month. Some people do not care about their hosting at all and just want things to work as they want them to. How can you pick a perfect hosting in this situation?
But whatever it is you are looking for in a hosting, now you now what to expect from the great promises. And thus, you’ll be able to make an educated decision.
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