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Don’t pay for what you don’t need.  If you have your Web site built – and you should by the time you are picking a host by the way – figure out exactly how much space you will need.  It is not unusual for people to discover that they are paying for space they don’t use.  A rough rule of thumb is that 20 pages is about 3Mb.  If you are not sure how big your site is, right click on the root folder – this tells you how many files you have as well as total size.  If you built your site using an editor – we would be surprised if you did not – you can use the editor to give you this type of information.  If you use FrontPage for example, you can click on the site summary in the reports view to get this information.

In terms of discerning what you need versus what you do not, make sure you are looking at the right type of hosting service.  Prices will range from free to $5 - $50 per month for a package that is 20 – 50 Mb in size.  Free sites work for small, non-technical business sites.  More than likely you are using virtual hosting (a.k.a. domain or shared hosting).  If you anticipate a lot of growth, check out deals on dedicated servers.  Again, the competition in the current market works in your favor and there are some great deals to be found.

Know what you are paying for.  Ask the Web hosting provider if they have a limit on how many web sites they put on one server.  Also ask about what kind of hardware they use and about their available bandwidth.  With the server technology available today, a powerful server with enough bandwidth can easily handle 1000 accounts.  But you don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you either have to move or upgrade from a shared solution to a more expensive alternative because your web hosting provider uses dinky hardware and doesn’t limit the number of web sites per server.  In any case, it is not a bad idea to also ask candidate providers if they offer virtual hosting and dedicated server packages, and how much would it be to upgrade?  Ask if there is any time limit or penalty associated with changing your plan.

Another set of questions in the “know what you are paying for” category is about bandwidth.  Getting charged for extra bandwidth usage is one of the biggest pitfalls that consumers encounter.  Know exactly how much bandwidth you are buying with your package.  Also know how data transfer is calculated.  Monthly data transfer is the data that moves between the Internet Web hosting provider’s server and your customer/visitor’s browser – at their request as sent from the browser client to the host’s server.  This would be the sum total of all the files used to display the information requested from your site during a one month period - HTML pages, graphics, forms, downloads.   Make sure the control panel included in the deal has a bandwidth meter.  Email alarms that you can set so you know when you are getting close to your limits are even better.  If you do go over your limit, what does the web hosting provider charge for the next GB?

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