To Host or Not to Host

Letting a Web Hosting service do the grunt work may be cheaper than doing it yourself.

Who is the Best Host for your Web site: you or somebody else: The answer boils down to control and convenience vs. cost. Web hosting isn’t like contracting to outsource an entire IT operation, but there are similarities. Operating your own Web server provides maximum control and convenience, but it’s expensive. As a blanket statement, hosting is usually (much) less expensive. Unless a company can amortize the costs over many years and many customers, it’s hard to beat the economics of a hosted Web service.

Here’s a rough guide to the costs for hosting a Web site yourself:
Equipment: A server and communications gear. Internal company networks may need special routers. One-time. One-time cost: $5,000 to $15,000.

Communications: Typically a T-1 line (or fraction thereof). Annual cost: $8,000 to $12,000.

Physical location: A room for the server and worker(s) that is secure and has communications access, This is difficult to estimate, but let’s say about $5,000 a year.

Staff: A Webmaster (full- or part-time). Other technicians and specialists may be needed from time to time. yearly cost: $40,000 to $75,000.

In total, the minimal operating costs can reach $58,000 to $107,000 the first year, with $50,000 to $100,000 per year after that. This is a lot for any company if the Web presence is merely informational. The situation is different for companies doing business on the Web, since the income from e-business should at least cover the costs of operation. On the other hand, letting a hosting service host your Web site costs about $1,500 to $5,000 a year. A hosting service can manage your storage, absorb the cost of owning T-1 lines, and take care of all the day-to-day operations of maintaining a Web server. the reason the price is so much less is that other customers are sharing the resources, including the network administrators and the hardware.

Not every company is comfortable in the hands of a host. If sensitive data is part of your Web presence, then using a host entails assuming some risk. While all hosts promise to protect the security and privacy of your data, it is very difficult for them to guarantee that no employee will ever violate that trust or that nothing will go wrong. Of course, your own facility may not be 100 percent safe either, but there’s some comfort in feeling it’s under your control.

Web hosting also has had its share of chicanery. Especially visible have been cases of cramming–loading a customer’s bill with hidden charges. This strategy is practices only by a tiny percentage of Web hosts, but the fact that it happens is your cue to research a potential hosting service before you buy.

Who should consider hosting? The glib answer is everybody, just like everybody should consider outsourcing. But it doesn’t work that way. The most obvious candidates are small to midsize businesses that don’t have the resources to operate their own in-house Web site–it simply costs too much to have a Web staff and also pay for the technology.

Even some very large companies with major Web Operations of their own use hosting services. The most commonly cited reason is to avoid the cost of adding people and equipment for special projects or spurts in traffic, or when a department wants a service that doesn’t fit into the operational schedule.

The thing to do is define what you want in your Web site. Determine how many megabytes you expect the site to take up and how much traffic you expect ( calculated in megabytes of Web pages viewed per month). Most hosting companies set fees according to how many megabytes of information they will store, and how much traffic is expected on the Web site. Also figure the income potential of your site. Then shop around fro hosts. Local hosts may be more convenient, but don’t overlook the possibilities of a national host, even if it’s headquartered thousands of miles away.

There are different kinds of Web hosts, and they all cater to a specific need, so the customer has a variety of options. There are shared, dedicated, and high availability solutions available. There are now more than 5,000 Web hosts of one type or another. some are big and well known, such as IBM and Mind-Spring Enterprises; many thousands are quite small. Searching for the right host can be facilitated with specialty search engines such as Infotonic. Price, comfort, and convenience may be affected by the quality of the hosting company. Who runs the company? How big is it? do they speak your language? do they understand your requirements? If you like the answers you get to these and similar questions, then you’ve probably found the right Web hosting company

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