Beginners guide to setting up a website

how much bandwidth

So where do you start? There are plenty of 'deals' for web site design and hosting from free site offers to ones costing several thousand pounds, You encounter terms like CMS, shopping carts, databases, website builder applications, XHTML, HTML, Javascript to name a few, what are they and do you need them? This series of short articles will walk you through some of the basics

Choosing a hosting deal

Buying website hosting is a little like choosing a mobile phone contract- confusing!, for example you may be able to find a cheap unlimited web space but to get the use of a mysql database (which you will probably need for an e commerce application) there is an extra charge to buy it and then a monthly charge to rent it, the end result is your paying more than you thought. So watch out for those deals which have a headline price that sucks you in with the intention of selling you other features which would be supplied as standard on another deal.
By the time you have read this guide you should hopefully have enough information to make a considered choice and avoid the worst mistakes.

An introduction to website hosting

web servers

Your web space is simply a section of a hard drive in a computer that has been connected to the internet via an address system; this is commonly known as an 'IP' address (Internet Protocol). It's a bit like renting a shop in a high street but this street extends all over the world.
Your 'domain name' (or name of your website eg: www.yourdomain.co.uk) will correspond to a series of numbers that is your unique location in this world wide address system.

Just as in any high street the shops are of different sizes and have different fittings, some may be just empty spaces while others are fitted with cooking facilities or changing rooms, the same thing can be said of web spaces. What you need to decide is how much space you will need and what if any fittings do you need in it.

So as a first step create a folder on your computer, call it whatever you like and fill it with all the things you want to have on your site. This includes photographs and any descriptive text you want to display.

weigh your wensite

This first step can be tricky, you're not sure what you need. So if your having trouble imagine you have just met someone on the street and you are trying to introduce your business to them, just type into notepad or similar program what you would say, imagine what pictures you would show them (if you haven't got your pictures sorted yet just use holiday snaps, we are only trying to get a rough idea at this stage) and any other things you could say or do to explain what you are and what you do, don't forget to tell them how they can benefit from your services or products. Now right click on the folder and select properties, you can now see how much space this folder takes up, chances are it wont be very large

This wont be a definitive statement but will give you an idea, for example one of my websites has 154 pages with pictures, a shopping cart, product database with 312 products, an affiliate program and comes in at around 116 MB, another of my sites has only 9 pages of text some with pictures, a contact form and google map and comes in at 885 KB which is less than 1 MB.

For a business site that wants a main page, a contact page and perhaps up to 10 pages of information a 1MB space would be enough, perhaps allow an extra 4MB for extra content you decide to add later and 5MB would be a good figure to start with and in web terms that's a very small amount.

So now you have an idea of how big the space needs to be, this is not to suggest that you shouldn't have a larger space but you are perhaps now better equipped to make a decision on one aspect of choosing your web space. Those offers of 100GB or unlimited web space can now be seen in perspective and for what they are just advertising hype which for most users will never be needed.

So lets say we are looking for web space to build a billboard type website to advertise your company of less than 10 pages, all you would need is a web space of 5MB. If you want to have a shopping cart or cms the application itself will take up some space so its probably better to start with a web space of 50-100MB to allow room for the application and your content/products. In web hosting a 100MB is still a small size and should be available at a reasonable cost.

Bandwidth

how much bandwidth

Bandwidth is the amount of data that can be given out from your web space. Essentially each page/picture that can be viewed on your site has to travel through the internet to get to the person requesting it. Some web site hosts place restrictions on the amount of data that can be sent before incurring extra charges.

If your only looking for a small 'Billboard/introduction to my business' type of site you probably will be ok with 500MB of bandwidth but be aware if your going to build a more complex site with a shopping cart, plenty of images and perhaps a short video you could easily use 3-4GB per month. If you have a hosting deal that charges for additional bandwidth be sure you know what its going to cost you either in price per GB of extra data or the cost of moving up to the next hosting plan. Unlimited bandwidth is now a feature of many hosting deals and is worth considering if your intending to grow your site.

FTP

FTP stands for 'file transfer protocol' basically its a way to get files into your web space. Be sure you have FTP access included in your hosting as it is essential for uploading and modifying your own content into your web space, if you dont have it then you will be restricted to the CMS supplied by your host (this is explained further in subsequent sections.
For now just think of it as a 'back door' to your website which allows you to upload anything you want


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