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Selling Web Hosting By Large Numbers
By Vesselin Drangajov, first publication in Yahoo

Selling web hosting service by excessively large offers may harm customers' experience. Offers that are too good to be true actually are not.

In the past year web hosting has seen a trend of marketing which unfortunately often irrespectively exploits most customers' lack of information on how web hosting service works.

Web hosts have for a very long time promoted their service by the parameters of the packages they offering - how many megabytes you can store and how much data transfer your site may have. While for most professionals this gives a fair idea of what kind of website the service can support some web hosts rely on the fact that many people simply compare the numbers and go for the largest.

That is why now most web hosts have in a attempt to outbid each other brought their offerings to ridiculous heights. It is not uncommon for a web hosting company to offer 20 GB of web space for a shared hosting plan priced at about $10/month. Most of you would say that this is a great offer and the clear winner is the customer. Compared to the hosting companies that have not followed the giga trend this offer is too good to be true. Well it is not!

We call companies offering the likes of 100 GB monthly bandwidth for less than $10 per month "Giga Hosts". Let's look at the way they operate.

Most of the Giga Hosts offer a service too cheap to afford mainframe systems. This means that most use entry-level server and not high-end servers sold by companies such as IBM or SUN and etc. With the advance of hard diskt echnology the average hard disk capability of one such machine is 400GB. If we assume that all of this space is dedicated to storing customer content then such a server would be able to host 20 user accounts (20*20 GB ) and at $10/month would generate $200 of revenue monthly? If all this were true it would take more than a year to cover the cost of the server.

The true story is that most people cannot use more than a couple of GB of web space. Most users actually do not need more than a 100 MB of web space. You can generate 1 GB of content by shooting a thousand high-quality photos. And you would want to upload for your friends a small fraction of those. Still if someone manages to accumulate and publish 20 GB of web space 100s of others that bought this webspace will not. So what happens is that those 100 others are paying for the service used by the few people that can upload so much content.

Such offers also include say 300 GB of data transfer . If we assume that most websites would use a half of it or 150 GB of it - then a 100 Mbs line would be able to serve about 200 of those sites. Or an average website would need use the complete capacity of half a megabit of carrier to function normally. I have not made a detailed market survey but I am almost sure that half a megabit of backbone internet connection costs even more than $10. This means that if the service that was offered was used the hosting fees cannot even cover the bandwidth costs.

Again the true story - Almost none of the customers would need or use this. If we assume that you use all your bandwidth - 300 GB /month or 10 GB a day and an average visit downloads 0,5 MB per visit from your website. Then for the 15 hours of most active Internet traffic you will have 15 000 visits.

This I can tell you is not that easy to achieve and if you have a site that is this popular you would probably not want to host it with a shared hosts. Actually you would not be able to? Why?

"Giga Hosts" offer a service they actually do not want you to use. Their terms of service often use the following methods to prevent the situations that described above:

  • Daily transfer limit - Although you are given say 300 GB if your sitetransfer goes over 10 GB on two consecutive days your account is shown the door. Simple statistics show that almost no site would be able to use more than 150 GB of web traffic at most. This is because web traffic is spread irregularly with peaks on working days or major events for the site.

  • Hits per second limit - there is a limit on the number of visitors per second that your site can utilize. Again if it goes above it it will be shut down.
  • Database connection rate limits - All but the simplest websites use a database to store their content. Most hosts severely limit the number of database connections per second that your site can have. This means that if you have a dynamic website it will be probably shut down if it gets popular.
  • Database size limit - Although you can have 20 GB of storage the size of your database is limited to a 100 mb or so. Again this is done simply because hosting servers cannot utilize accounts that big.
  • File size limit - this is a centuries (oh well years actually) old method that hosts use to limit the extent to which you can use their service. You can have 20 GB of webspace but with a limit for each file to 10 MB you would actually need 2 000 files to fill it?

    Using one or a combination of the above most hosts make sure that people that buy their services use a minuscule fraction of them. It is up to you to determine whether this is fair.

    We have been part of the hosting industry for 5 years now. With my comments I am in no way trying to sell Host Color's service. There are hundreds of good hosts. I however feel that customers deserve a fair deal. I feel that only informed customers can help the hosting industry to develop. When buying hosting you need to consider is that you probably do not want just megabytes of storage and transfer. I'm sure customer are looking for a quality, and feature rich service. Experienced web hosting users can tell you that technical support and customer service are crucial to a successful host.

  • » Vesselin Drangajov, SeeWeekly.com
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