Shopping for a Web Host: Stats & Features Explained

If you’re in the market for a web host (like if you’re moving to WordPress), you may want to listen up because this post is for you!

One of the things that intimidates me about shopping for webhosts is the technical stats. What is disk space, bandwidth etc and how much do I need for an average WordPress blog? What features are must haves and which ones can I skip over? Part of the reason I picked Bluehost is that it has unlimited everything so I don’t need to know what they are. But I want to leave Bluehost! Jessica from Books: A True Story

Great question! I’m going to break this down into three sections: definitions, the “unlimited” marking lie, and how much you actually need.

Definitions

Disk Space is hard drive space. Every computer has a hard drive. As you fill up your computer with photos, apps, and documents, you use more disk space. It’s the same on a website. You upload files and photos to your website, and the more you upload, the more space you use.

When you buy web hosting, you have a permanent, fixed amount of disk space, and you can’t go over that amount.

Bandwidth relates to how much data is on your site, and how many people view it. Every single page and asset (images, files) on your site has a file size. For example, an image might be 200kb and a CSS file might be 20kb. So let’s assume those are the only two things on your website (that will never be the case, but let’s pretend). Every time someone visits your site, your site has to transfer that amount of data (220kb total) to the user. So, generally speaking, you can multiply the size of your website by the amount of visitors you get per month.

Bandwidth is measured on a monthly basis. You get a monthly allowance, and once the month is over, your counter resets to zero.

In web hosting, “unlimited” is a marketing lie

When web hosts say they offer “unlimited disk space” and “unlimited bandwidth” and “unlimited” anything else, they’re basically lying to you. Or, to put it more nicely, they say “Unlimited” and then they create nice little loopholes for themselves in their terms of use.

In the case of disk space, most hosts say that they offer unlimited disk space, BUT they put limits on what you’re allowed to use that disk space for. Documents, backups, log files, and other files you store on your site usually DO NOT count towards “unlimited disk space”. The only “unlimited” kind you get might be the actual website files (which are pretty small to begin with!).

And as for bandwidth, hosts won’t necessarily limit your bandwidth, but they will limit other things that cause you to use bandwidth. If you use too many resources (RAM, CPU), they could shut down your account. RAM and CPU in itself isn’t bandwidth, but RAM and CPU are what help your site stay online and run smoothly, and when your site is online you’re using bandwidth. So it’s like they cut you out before you can even use it.

The reason web hosts market themselves as having “unlimited” amounts, is because they will provide more than enough disk space and bandwidth for your average user. Most people with websites don’t use tons and tons of disk space or bandwidth, so the limits that the host has will likely be enough. It’s only when your site starts getting really big and/or popular that the web hosts will come back to bite you and shut your site down (or force you to pay more money).

So how much disk space and bandwidth does a blogger really need?

Disk Space

To help put it in perspective, Nose Graze is currently using about 2GB of disk space. But keep in mind that disk space is something that you constantly use more of. As book bloggers, we’re always uploading new book cover images, slider images, etc. It’s important to give yourself a little room for growth.

10GB is probably enough for most bloggers. I would not recommend anything under that!

Bandwidth

Bandwidth is so hugely different for every single blogger. It depends on a combination of the size of your website and your amount of monthly visitors. Luckily, there’s an easy way to estimate your monthly bandwidth usage:

Pingdom Speed Test

  • Use Pingdom’s website speed test tool to calculate your blog’s page size. Simply put in your blog URL, press “Test Now” and wait for the results.

  • When it’s done, you’ll have a number under “Page Size” (see image above). This is the size of your website.
  • Multiply that number by the number of visitors you get per month.
  • That final value is the bandwidth you would use per month in megabytes. You may need to convert this to gigabytes to compare it to what the host offers. You can just do that by typing into Google: 36000 MB in GB.

This method isn’t totally perfect, but it will at least give you a general idea of how much bandwidth you might need.

Unsure about another web hosting feature? Let me know in the comments!

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I'm a 28 year old California girl living in England (I fell in love with a Brit!). My three great passions are: books, coding, and fitness. more »

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18 comments

  1. Thanks for this, Ashley. I was glad that my disk space is 100 GB. I’m a heavy pic user on my reviews. I am not so worried about bandwidth though because I’m still a small blogger.

    And great explanation for bandwidth. I’ve been visiting wikipedia just to get a clearer picture of that one but what it did is make me more confused.

    Charlotte recently posted: Stacking the Shelves {6}
  2. This is great! I always love your BBB’s, definitely always worthwhile double-thinking things before purchasing your own domain and all other accessories involved.
    – Krys

    Krys recently posted: Weekly Wrap-Up
  3. Pingback: I Have Moved to Wordpress | Thoughts and Pens
  4. Brilliant Ashley, this is very helpful – when I see some hosts throwing around the term “unlimited space” and “unlimited bandwidth” I get a little concerned as no such thing exists. Bloggers need plenty of each, though, as you rightly point out what with the number of images usually being hosted.

  5. My page size measures at 3.0 (which seems high?) and I’m wondering, is this because of photos? Or something else technical that should be corrected. I think that totals to like 12GB, which means I should buy WP hosting that’s at least 20GB… or that’s what seems logical? I’ve been with Blogger since the beginning but am thinking about moving to WP, it’s just all the details (tech, hosting, domain transfer) is so overwhelming!

    1. Where are you getting that page size information? If you just put in your homepage URL somewhere then that won’t be adding up all the images used across your whole site.

      1. This makes sense. I used Pingdom. 🙂

        I’m most worried about having room re: the photos since I contribute to another WP self-hosted site that is running out of space for photos. I don’t want to buy hosting and 2, 3, 4 months down the road run out of space because of photos. Thanks for all your help!

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