How to Select a Blog Web Host - dummies

By Amy Lupold Bair, Susannah Gardner

With a domain in hand for your blog, you can turn your attention to web hosting. If the domain is your address, web hosting is your actual house on the web.

Your web host provides an online location for your blog’s software, graphics, and other files. This location is known as your blog’s web server. When people type your URL into their web brower, the web server provides them with access to your blog.

Your primary concern when selecting a web host for your self-hosted blog is to find a web host that meets all the requirements of your blog software. Most blog software uses a LAMP (Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP) web server, a mix of several kinds of web server technology that is ideal for running dynamic websites such as blogs:

  • Linux: A very common web server operating system. It’s very stable and considered a standard for web servers. As a blogger, you probably don’t need to make too many changes to the operating system, as long as it’s in place for you.

  • Apache: Apache is web-page-serving software, which means it looks at what web page is requested and then feeds the browser the appropriate file. It does most of the hard work of serving web pages to visitors coming to your website.

  • MySQL: MySQL is the most popular database software for blogs. For any blogging package, you need some kind of database system to store all your blog posts and run the other functionality of the blog software. MySQL is the standard database tool for most blog software.

  • PHP: PHP is the programming language that a lot of blogging and content management systems use. It sits between the blogging software and the database, making sure all the parts work together.

The preceding four technologies are considered the bare minimum that most blogging packages need to function. But you should consider these requirements, as well:

  • Disk space: For blogging, disk space is important if you decide to store a lot of images on your blog or upload audio and video files. Uploading images is relatively easy to do, but you need the space to store those images.

    For the average blog that has a few photos, you most likely want about 500 megabytes (MB). Blogs that have a lot of photos require several gigabytes (GB) of disk space. Video blogs need a whole lot more disk space (unless you use an online video-sharing service) than text or photo blogs, so you want more than 10GB. Those files do take up a lot of space!

Running out of disk space is an easily solved problem: Most web hosts allow you to add disk space when you need it for an additional cost. Check with your web host to find out what it charges for additional storage.

  • E-mail management: You probably want an e-mail address with your new domain. If you want to use your blog for business purposes, having an e-mail address that matches your domain looks more professional. Some web hosts allow you to create multiple e-mail addresses under one domain, which is ideal if you would like to segregate contact inquiries from personal e-mails, for example.

  • Backups: Consider how you plan to back up your data (including your database content) and whether the web host will also back up the files on your web-hosting account. Knowing this information can save you from disaster and data loss in the future. Daily backups aren’t a bad idea!

  • Bandwidth and CPU resources: Computers and networks can take only so many visitors and downloads, and hosts usually set a quota on how much bandwidth you can use for the particular web-hosting package that you buy.

    Ask about what happens if you exceed your monthly allowance of bandwidth. (Usually, you have to pay for the extra resources.) For most bloggers, this won’t be an issue, but if you develop a very popular blog with lots of visitors, or are serving very large files like videos, bandwidth can become an additional cost.