Sunday, May 31, 2009


Bandwidth is a term that has several different meanings depending on the context. When talking about bandwidth in terms of Web Hosting it refers to the amount of data that transfers into and out of your web hosting account. Incoming data can include requests for web pages, email, FTP requests, and FTP uploads, while outgoing data includes file transfers, web pages, and email. Each hosting account is allocated a certain amount of bandwidth per month. Common figures for bandwidth range from 3 GB for small personal sites up to 200 GB for large business systems.

How much bandwidth do you need? This depends on the amount of traffic your website receives as well as the content. Web pages made up of text and a few pictures are very small in size but if you get thousands of visitors each day you may need a lot of bandwidth. On the other hand website content consisting of downloadable files such as software, music or video is much larger in size, so even if your traffic is fairly low you may need extra bandwidth.

The best way to calculate the amount of bandwidth you need is to calculate the size of your downloadable content and multiply by the number of visitors you receive each month. Add to that the number of emails sent and received and other content such as FTP uploads. The figure you come up with should be pretty accurate because it is unlikely that every visitor to your site is going to download every file or view every page. This will give you a bit of margin to play with.

As your web site grows and as you receive more traffic you may have to increase your bandwidth allotment accordingly. It is better to plan ahead and arrange with your web host for a larger hosting package rather than wait until you go over your limit. Check with your host to see what their policy is in regards to exceeding your bandwidth. Some will allow you to go over by a certain amount while others will shut down your site and demand that you upgrade your account before resuming service. It is always best to keep track of how much bandwidth you are using and anticipate when you need to upgrade.

If you feel that you have sufficient bandwidth and would prefer not to upgrade you may be able to ‘throttle’ traffic if you are approaching your monthly limit. Some hosts offer this service as a way to limit incoming requests or to exclude requests once a certain number has been reached.

There are several throttling options. You can limit the number of incoming requests by specifying an idle time between requests. This causes incoming requests to be delayed by a specified amount of time if too many are arriving at once. Other options are to impose a limit on data transfer within a certain time period or to limit the number of requests for a certain file. The speed of transfers can also be capped at a certain level. Throttling may not be a good idea if you depend on web traffic for your business. If your pages are slow to load or if users can’t access files they are looking for they may give up and move on to another site. If you have a lot of free content, though, throttling can be useful for keeping your hosting budget within a certain amount.

Web Hosting and Databases

Most web hosting packages include one or more databases. What can you use them for? How will they help your website? Read on for the answers to these questions. A database stores data, but more importantly, allows that data can easily be accessed. Data can be product information, customer names and addresses, sales records, or even the information that appears on web pages. Using a database to retrieve that information can allow you to better serve your visitors and provide them with a more interactive experience.

The most common use of databases in an Internet environment is to serve information dynamically as it is requested. In a large eCommerce site, for example, the actual product information is maintained in a database so that updating the site is a simple matter of changing the data. Without this system, website managers would have to create static pages for each product. When dealing with hundreds or thousands of products, this task would be almost impossible to manage in an efficient manner.

Dynamic pages use a template for the static content of the site such as headers, menus and footers. The contents of the database are inserted into the template by the server software before the page is sent to be viewed in a browser. Any content from the database can be placed anywhere on a dynamic page. This allows you to set up visually appealing pages which include text and pictures and also add shopping suggestions like: ‘Customers who bought this also bought…’

Databases can also be used for storing and accessing customer records. This allows you to tailor your pages according to your customer’s previous purchases. Each page could have a personalized greeting (Welcome back Peter) and when they make another purchase all their personal data including address and credit card number could be pulled from the database so they don’t have to fill in the same form again.

Another use of a database is mailinglists. Many websites send out information to their visitors to remind them about the site and encourage them to visit again. Email addresses can be stored in a database for the purpose of sending out announcements and newsletters. Also the newsletters can be archived in a database so that visitors can browse or search through previous mailings.

Each database can be divided into tables which are a complete set of data, so one database could be used for most of your website information by setting up a number of tables.The number of databases that your site needs depends on how many applications you are going to run.

It’s one thing to have a database, it’s another to access that data. There are several ways to retrieve information from a database so that it can be usefully applied to your website. One of the most popular combinations is PHP along with MySQL. PHP can be used to create dynamic web pages that pull data from a MySQL database. The programming language is quite straightforward and can be used to set up complex interactive forms. Other database applications include MySQL with ASP, MSSQL with ASP, and PostgreSQL with PHP.

Web Hosting Providers

To make your web site visible to the world, you'll have to store it on a web server.

Hosting your own Web site

Hosting your web site on your own server is always an option. Here are some points to consider:

Hardware Expenses

To run a "real" web site, you will have to buy some powerful server hardware. Don't expect that a low cost PC will do the job. You will also need a permanent (24 hours a day ) high-speed connection.

Software Expenses

Remember that server-licenses often are higher than client-licenses. Also note that server-licenses might have limits on number of users.

Labor Expenses

Don't expect low labor expenses. You have to install your own hardware and software. You also have to deal with bugs and viruses, and keep your server constantly running in an environment where "everything could happen".

Using an Internet Service Provider

Renting a server from an Internet Service Provider (ISP) is a common option.

Most small companies store their web site on a server provided by an ISP. Here are some advantages:

Connection Speed

Most ISPs have very fast connections to the Internet.

Powerful Hardware

ISPs often have powerful web servers that can be shared by several companies. You can also expect them to have an effective load balancing, and necessary backup servers.

Security and Stability

ISPs are specialists on web hosting. Expect their servers to have more than 99% up time, the latest software patches, and the best virus protection.

Things to Consider with an ISP

24-hour support

Make sure your ISP offers 24-hours support. Don't put yourself in a situation where you cannot fix critical problems without having to wait until the next working day. Toll-free phone could be vital if you don't want to pay for long distance calls.

Daily Backup

Make sure your ISP runs a daily backup routine, otherwise you may lose some valuable data.

Traffic Volume

Study the ISP's traffic volume restrictions. Make sure that you don't have to pay a fortune for unexpected high traffic if your web site becomes popular.

Bandwidth or Content Restrictions

Study the ISP's bandwidth and content restrictions. If you plan to publish pictures or broadcast video or sound, make sure that you can.

E-mail Capabilities

Make sure your ISP supports the e-mail capabilities you need.

Front Page Extensions

If you use FrontPage to develop your web site, make sure your ISP supports FrontPage server extensions.

Database Access

If you plan to use data from databases on your web site, make sure your ISP supports the database access you need.

Web Hosting Intro

How does the Internet work? How can I have my own Web Site?

What is a Web Host? What is an Internet Service Provider?

What is the World Wide Web?

  • The Web is a network of computers all over the world.
  • All the computers in the Web can communicate with each other.
  • All the computers use a communication protocol called HTTP.

How does the WWW work?

  • Web information is stored in documents called web pages.
  • Web pages are files stored on computers called web servers.
  • Computers reading the web pages are called web clients.
  • Web clients view the pages with a program called a web browser.
  • Popular browsers are Internet Explorer and Firefox.

How does a Browser Fetch a Web Page?

  • A browser fetches a page from a web server by a request.
  • A request is a standard HTTP request containing a page address.
  • An address may look like this:

How does a Browser Display a Web Page?

  • All web pages contain instructions for display.
  • The browser displays the page by reading these instructions.
  • The most common display instructions are called HTML tags.
  • HTML tags look like this

    This is a paragraph.

What is a Web Server?

  • The collection of all your web pages is called your web site.
  • To let others view your web pages, you must publish your web site.
  • To publish your work, you must copy your site to a web server.
  • Your own PC can act as a web server if it is connected to a network.
  • Most common is to use an Internet Service Provider (ISP).

What is an Internet Service Provider?

  • ISP stands for Internet Service Provider.
  • An ISP provides Internet Services.
  • A common Internet service is web hosting.
  • Web hosting means storing your web site on a public server.
  • Web hosting normally includes email services.
  • Web hosting often includes domain name registration.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Introduction to Web Hosting

Just about anybody can create a presence on the Internet. Building a web site can be as simple as using a word processor, but once you have the site you need a way to publish it on the World Wide Web. This is where web-hosting companies come in.

A web host rents you disk space and provides all the services necessary for others to see your web site on the Internet. Barring technical problems, a web host operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week so that anybody in the world can access your web site at any time.

There are literally thousands of web hosts to choose from so choosing an appropriate host can be a difficult task. The prices range from free to hundreds of dollars a year. Hosting companies can offer a multitude of services that can be confusing to a newcomer. This series of articles will help you to sort out all the information available and give you the confidence to make the proper decision about choosing a web host.

Free or Paid?

There are plenty of hosting companies that provide free hosting, so why bother paying for it? The old adage ‘You get what you pay for’ is just as valid in the electronic age as it was 100 years ago. In web hosting, when you pay nothing you sometimes end up with nothing.

Most free web hosts offer limited services. Even though they are not charging you to host your website, they still need to make money. They often do this by placing advertising on your site. You probably won’t have any control over what kind of ads show up – it’s a matter of take it or leave it.

In addition, free hosts may restrict the content you place on your site. You may not be allowed to sell things or have certain content such as videos or music. Finally, your web site could simply disappear overnight. New companies that offer free hosting pop up almost everyday, but they also vanish with astonishing regularity. When your hosting company vanishes, your web site goes with it.

If you are serious about having a web site you need to use a reliable web host. Prices range considerably – some companies offer rates as low as $2 a month while others charge $60 or more. Be careful, though. High rates don’t always translate as high service. Some of the lower priced hosts offer reliable, stable environments that allow your website to be accessed day in day out for years.

Generally speaking the more you pay the more you get. Higher rates should bring you more storage space, more bandwidth to handle Internet traffic, and more services such as databases, email accounts, mass mailers, and the ability to add custom scripts. Higher rates can also mean better technical service if you have problems with your website.

What is a Web Server?

Whichever hosting company you choose, it helps to understand some of the technical details about their service. Every host has dedicated computers called servers which connect to the Internet and ’serve’ pages when they are requested. That is, whenever anyone wants to see a certain web page by clicking on a link the request is sent to the particular server where that web page is stored. The server responds by sending HTML data across the Internet. A web server must have fast connections to be able to serve pages quickly. For the greatest speed and reliability try to find a host that has multiple high-speed connections as well as reliable back up power supplies in case of power outages.