By Tee Morris, Chuck Tomasi

Unless you already have hosting taken care of, you’re going to need a place on the web to put your podcasting stuff. You know — your podcast media files, RSS feed, and show notes for your podcast. You also need a way to get them up there.

Getting a hosting provider is a breeze, with hundreds of companies all vying for your precious, hard-earned money each month. The good news is that all this competition has brought down the cost of hosting packages significantly. The bad news is that you must go through a lot of clutter to reach the right selection.

Here, you find the basic needs for most beginning podcasts and mentions a few pitfalls to watch out for.

Don’t rush into a hosting agreement just yet. When you’re comparing hosting plans, try not to get bogged down in the number of email addresses, MySQL databases, subdomains, and the like. All those features have their own purposes, but as a podcaster, you have only two worries: how many podcasts the site can hold and how much bandwidth you get.

Size does matter

Podcast media files, especially video files, are big. Unlike bloggers, podcasters eat up server space. Where simple text files and a few images take up a relatively small space, podcast media files tend to be in the 5MB to 50MB range. And that’s just for audio. For video, that size can double.

Here are some suggestions for zeroing in on what you need storage-space-wise:

  • Think about how many podcasts you want to keep online and plan accordingly. If you have a plan that isn’t constrained by storage space, then you don’t need to worry about it.
  • Consider the amount of server space you’ll need to host your blogging software, databases, text, and image files. For example, if a podcaster wanted to keep all episodes of The Shared Desk, The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences, and Happy Hour from the Tower online, he would easily need several gigabytes of space as one of these shows first went online in 2010. Podcasting did help quite a bit in creating a need for server space.

Podcasters should look for hosting plans that include at least 3GB of storage space. Currently, several host providers charge less than $10 per month for that much space, and more.

Bandwidth demystified

Of equal importance to storage space is bandwidth, an elusive and often-misunderstood attribute of web hosting that is critical to podcasters. Bandwidth refers to the online space needed to handle the amount of stuff you push out of your website every month. The bigger the files, the more bandwidth consumed. Compounding the problem, the more requests for the files, the more bandwidth consumed.

For instance, the bandwidth for Chuck Tomasi’s Technorama is over 10 terabytes a month — that’s impressive. Why so huge? Chuck and his co-host Kreg just celebrated their 500th episode. They’ve been at podcasting since the very beginning, and at their initial launch, the amount of information exchanged (read: downloads) was modest, but then people started talking.

With the rise in popularity (thanks to top-shelf interviews with people in the science and entertainment industries), their downloads increased. So did the demands on bandwidth. web hosts, in situations like this, must consider when it’s time to allocate a larger bandwidth package to handle a show — and that means more cash outlay for you.

And therein lies the double-edged sword of success. Most podcasters want more listeners — and that means more podcatching clients requesting the podcast media files. Bottom line: The more popular your show gets, the more bandwidth is being consumed every month.

To simplify, pretend that you produce one show each week, and your show requires 10MB of bandwidth. You publish the show on Monday, and your 100 subscribers receive your show that evening. You’ve just consumed 1,000MB of bandwidth (100 ×10MB) for that week. But next week, more people have found out about your incredibly amazing show, and now you have 200 subscribers. Next Monday, your bandwidth increases to 2,000MB, which gets added to your previous week’s total to bring you up to 3,000MB.

The new listeners were so happy, they also download the previous week’s show, tacking on an extra 1,000MB. You’ve just consumed 4,000MB (or 4GB) of bandwidth for the month. You still have two weeks to go in the month, and if your numbers continue to climb like this, you will be burning through bandwidth (and your web host budget) quickly!

Generally, the longer your podcast episodes are, the more bandwidth you will need. If you find a plan that offers unlimited bandwidth, the problem is solved. Otherwise, you’ll want to try and find a plan that’s high in the gigabytes. If you have a podcast that’s both long and popular, start looking at plans that offer 1TB (that’s terabytes) or more.

You have ways to avoid the issue of bandwidth, or at least make it less of a concern even if you have large ambitions — as well as files.