Adventures In Audio
Web hosting - find the best web host for your music website

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Adventures In Audio.

Monday May 29, 2006
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Having a website isn't a big deal anymore. But not having one is.

It is practically obligatory for anyone in any kind of business to have a website. If you don't, people just won't take you seriously.

And don't forget that music is a business. Even if all you want is to get heard, you have to be active in an efficient, business-like way.

So find yourself a web designer, or buy a book and get a website together. OK, done that? Now you need to think about web hosting services.

You can pay anything from nothing, all the way up to $1000+ monthly for a web host. So there must be differing grades of service to account for that price range.

You could start with a free web host.

Don't!

Your ISP may offer you web hosting as a bonus to your Internet connection. But it is unlikely it will be the web host for your own domain.

You won't be www.myband.com, you'll be myband.webhost.com, or www.webhost.com/myband

It looks neither professional nor serious. It looks like you are having a try at a website. No, you need web hosting at a higher level than that.

You could try a free web host other than your ISP, such as GeoCities, now owned by Yahoo.

The problem here is that free comes with advertising. Your music site should be there to promote your music, not other people's products and services. There should be no ads on a music website, not even ads that pay you.

The next step up from free web hosting is cheap web hosting. You can find a web host for $5 a month, without ads.

But you'll get what you pay for. Space will be limited, and you'll share a server with hundreds of other sites, meaning that your site will probably be slow to load.

Oh yes, they'll probably ban MP3 files.

There are two reasons for banning MP3s. One is that web hosts think that MP3s are likely to be illegal copies and they don't want to get involved in that.

The other is that streaming MP3s takes bandwidth, and bandwidth costs money. You can't expect much bandwidth for $5 really, can you?

The minimum you should look for is serious shared web hosting. This will cost maybe $20 a month. You will still share a server with hundreds of other sites, but you will get a reasonable amount of disk space, and if you make sure to read the small print you will be able to find a web host that is happy with MP3s.

The great thing about shared web hosting is that you are looked after. The web hosting company can't afford to let a server go down that contains hundreds of customers' sites. So it backs up everything assiduously. If there ever is a problem, you probably won't even notice.

With quality shared web hosting, you can also expect to be able to use a scripting language such as PHP.

What this means is that your site can become interactive. You can encourage your visitors to register and receive news of gigs, recordings etc. You can automate your mailing list and do all kinds of clever things.

You'll need to find a PHP developer, but kids from school do that these days. Or you can buy a book.

But with shared web hosting, you will always be competing with other sites, so your site will be slower to load than it could be.

The next step up is a big one - having a dedicated server.

Now this might sound obvious - if you pay your web hosting company enough, then surely it will be able to give you a whole server. No sharing means no competition for server resources and your site will be as fast as it has the ability to be.

But there's a problem. If you have a dedicated server, you have to look after it yourself. Because you have access to all parts of the server, as though it were sitting on your desktop, you have the ability to completely mess it up. And no web host wants the responsibility of cleaning up someone else's mess.

Looking after a server is a big responsibility, not to be undertaken lightly. If there is any problem with your site, it's up to you to sort it out. If the server fails, it's your responsibility to have arranged for backups.

But you could have a managed dedicated server. For a music site, this is the ultimate solution. The web hosting company lets you have a server to yourself, but it doesn't give you 'root access', which means you can't mess it up.

But this will cost serious money - think around $500 a month for a well-specified server with a quality web hosting company.

More possibilities - yes you could have a server cluster for more speed and greater reliability. Let's not think about the cost.

Or...

If you have a broadband Internet connection, you could have a server at home. But I'll assume you're not that crazy.

Good luck with your site!

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