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WEB HOSTING BASICS - DECIDING ON A WEB HOSTING PLAN
What are the typical features offered by web hosting providers?
Although web hosting services come in all shapes and sizes (read more about Levels Of Service), there are certain characteristics that are present in almost all.
At the most basic level, all web sites occupy a certain amount of disk space, consume some bandwidth and (possibly) allow the owner to send and receive email (for the sake of accuracy it should be noted that your email hosting can be handled separately from your web site and this is more related to domain hosting than web hosting per se).
As far as site access tools are concerned, you may be given access to the site via FTP, secure shell (SSH), via a control panel, or a combination thereof.
If you expect to develop server-side functionality for your web site, you will need certain packages (such as PHP, Perl, Java servlet, or similar) installed, as well as one of the several standard database interfaces.
Besides choosing plan features, the question that most users will have to resolve right from the start is which platform (OS) to host on. Popular choices include Linux, FreeBSD and Windows. There are other options as well, but they typically concern highly specialized servers.
Read more about choosing features in our Buyer's Guide.
How much bandwidth (/monthly transfers) should I plan for?
Clearly, it depends on your site (or, rather, on its popularity). The more content is downloaded by your visitors, the more bandwidth you will consume.
If you pay for bandwidth rather than total transfers (which is typical for larger sites, dedicated hosting and colocation), we have a bandwidth estimation calculator designed to help you estimate your bandwidth requirements.
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