Choosing an Internet Service Provider

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Your choice of an Internet service provider (ISP) is an important one. Examine your needs and shop around for a reliable host that fits your budget. The basic considerations are these:

How much storage space do you need?
A moderate size website can use about 200 megabytes of storage space, especially if you offer large files (such as PDFs) for download, or offer large numbers of pictures. Well-designed sites can be large and still use well under 100 megabytes, and it's wise to use space-saving design techniques. However, storage space is cheap, so it can make sense to look for 200 megabytes and up and know you have plenty of room to keep site archives and large source files (like the original, large versions of pictures for which you use details in your site).
How much bandwidth do you need?
Site traffic (the number of visitors) multiplied by the size of the webpages they look at equals bandwidth (also called "transfer" in hosting plans). If your visitors are in the thousands, a modest plan probably provides plenty of bandwidth; larger sites with hundreds of thousands, or millions, of visitors may need to choose more expensive plans. Also, if you wish to provide video, animation, Flash content, or audio, you will need more bandwidth.
Do you want to have scripts and forms running on your site for registering visitors, adding them to a mailing list, or even just providing more features on your website?
If so, your host must offer CGI access—access and privileges that let you install the pieces of programming to make your forms work.
Do you want a shopping cart on your site?
Some ISPs offer packages as part of their service. Other shopping cart products are designed to have the catalog and order pages embedded into your site, with the software running at the software-maker's site. If you think you will want to host your own shopping cart, consider looking for features such as MySQL database access, which many hosts offer for no additional charge, or even shopping cart licenses.
How many email addresses do you want?
Some ISPs offer only two or three, others offer dozens. Nowadays, most ISPs offer a fairly large number, and your decision will be based on how much total space you wish to use and whether you'll assign email addresses only to workers for the organization or make them available to all your members.
What other special functions do you need?
Serving audio or video content can require special services from your ISP, as can using a database (such as MySQL) to capture information from forms or to serve the pages of your website.

Some of the new donation processing software (, GoogleDonate) lets you avoid the high cost of shopping cart software. You can also process simple sales with Google Buy Now.

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