Web hosting is often a mysterious endeavor for the uninitiated. The learning curve can be steep and the process daunting. Thankfully, it doesn’t take a degree in physics to grasp the basics. But it does take some clear explanations. I fell short in that respect when I penned the piece on web hosting that ran a while back in Technobabble …

Lets set that right.

Gnomie Jeff writes:

I am interested in finding a web host, but I have no idea of what I need. Can you take the list you posted in this article and ‘put a face on it?’ What I mean by that is explain in real-world terms what exactly the options mean. I am just starting out and have no idea of how to figure out how much bandwidth or transfer rates I will need.

Web hosting jargon can be difficult to understand at first, to be sure.

Web server storage space is the amount of room that the web host provides to store your HTML, graphic (most commonly GIF or JPEG) and other files. This figure is most commonly stated in megabytes. You can get an estimate of how much room you need by simply looking at your hard drive. Look at the local directory where your web site files are located. Right-click on Properties. How much room do the files use?

Since websites tend to get larger over time, rather than smaller, you’ll want to multiply that number by a factor … Lets say three or four. Following this equation, you’ll want to look for a web hosting plan that allows for tree or for times as much space. That should give your new website plenty of room to grow.

Bandwidth (or data transfer) refers to the amount of data that is accessed by your visitors. Web hosts define bandwidth as the total amount of data access from your server over a month’s time. This figure is most commonly expressed in gigabytes.

So how much bandwidth do you need? We can take some hypothetical shotgun blasts at the barn wall by first estimating the average amount of data consumed by each website visitor. Then we can try multiplying that number by a target number of visitors each month. If an average visitor requests a megabyte of data and you think you might have ten thousand visitors in a month, you’ll use ten gigabytes of bandwidth.

Once you get a feel for how much space and bandwidth you’ll require, it’s time to check out the various web hosting plans. You’ll find no shortage of them, to be sure.

In order to compare one web host to the next, you may want to set up a neat little spreadsheet. As you check out the different web hosting plans, fill in the blanks in the spreadsheet. Once you’ve checked out enough web hosts, you’ll be able to identify a plan that best suits your needs.

Don’t forget to make note of the cost of extra space or bandwidth. A web hosting plan that looks cheap at first glance can be pricey in the long run if you have a busy month. A good web host will allow you to upgrade to a beefier plan, as needed.