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Choosing Your Hosting

How big?  How much?

Many people already appreciate the difference between shared and dedicated hosting. Some might know when "hosting in the cloud" is best and just as importantly, when it is not. But what about the other questions? How big a server do you need? How much bandwidth? Multiple servers or just one? How about the increased resilience of a standby server, or a cluster? Load-balancing? And perhaps most importantly of all, what about managing the server? This article aims to demystify the topic to allow you to make an informed decision based on what's right for your needs. It's a big subject so there is lots of material but we've also published some simple recommendations.

A couple of notes before we dive in.

To make this article as useful as possible, we've included indicative prices. These aren't the prices of our services, rather they are an indication of what you might expect to pay. As we're based in the UK the prices are in Pounds; click the amount for a conversion to other currencies. Hosting in the US used to be cheaper than the UK, but the gap is closing and in many cases is zero.

Another thing to keep in mind is that this article will talk about things like "light traffic", "heavy traffic", and so on. There are lots of web metrics and sometimes they're not scientifically defined (for more information read our article on web metrics,) but we're going to talk in terms of users who have been active in a five minute window and call these "active users". 

Imagine this scenario: Lucy goes to your home page at 9 o'clock. At 9:04 she goes to another page on your site. At 9:02, Jack comes along and visits your home page. At 9:01 you have 1 active user (Lucy), at 9:02 you have 2 (Jack and Lucy), at 9:07 you still have 2 (Jack and Lucy), but at 9:08 you only have 1 again (Lucy, since she clicked most recently at 9:04, so you're still inside the five minute window, whereas Jack doesn't count any more because he hasn't clicked since 9:02). With that clear, let's define traffic levels

  • Very light - 20 active users
  • Light - 100 active users
  • Medium - 500 active users
  • Heavy - 2000 active users
  • Very heavy - 5000 active users

Whilst they allow us to all talk the same language, these traffic levels do not, on their own, dictate what kind of hosting you need. To do that you need to also consider the type of website and software you're running. A website acting as a brochure for your business with light traffic might run perfectly well on a given server (what we call a static website), but add interactivity, complex analytics and a complex database (a dynamic website)and you might need something significantly larger.

This is a big topic, so we've broken the information down in to sections.

Finally, a note about DSC, the authors of these articles. We do offer hosting to our clients and have done for over 12 years. We offer virtual, dedicated and multiple server clusters, though we don't usually host things we've not built and our servers are fully managed. However, these articles cover lots of other things too and talk about hosting in general rather than our specific offerings. We even make recommendations as to other good hosting companies. If you need more advice, please do get in touch.