Choosing a Shared Hosting Provider – Tip #3

by demtron on Saturday, November 08, 2008 04:14 PM

Database Features

Most hosting plans advertise database storage space.  Compared to a few years ago, the amount of space is usually ample for most applications.  Don’t be fooled by the amount of space offered – there are many considerations depending on how your site will be used.

Do you need a database?  Many sites require a database to store a blog, eCommerce elements, forum, or custom data for reports.  Even if your site doesn’t require one today, be prepared to use a database if you plan to add one of these features.

Which database do I need?  There are three main database technologies that are offered with hosting plans.  MySQL is generally offered with Linux hosting plans, whereas MySQL, Microsoft SQL Server or both are offered with ASP.Net hosting plans.  A third, Microsoft Access, is occasionally offered, although it’s falling out of favor due to the decreased costs and greater capabilities of the other two flavors.  If you’re considering a blog, forum, image gallery, or eCommerce site, there are more choices that use MySQL than the others.  In my opinion, it’s generally safe to choose a plan that offers MySQL and only consider the others if your other tools require it.

Does your host perform backups?  This is REALLY important.  All hosting companies will back up databases, but most will only use them in case a server goes down and the server’s image needs to be restored.  As the customer, you won’t have access to them.  Some hosts will offer to restore backups for a fee.  Especially if you run a blog or forum, losing a database without a backup means a complete loss of the entire site.  Which brings me to the next question…

How can you perform backup yourself?  Check with the host’s tech support or knowledgebase to find out how to perform a backup, how long it will take, where it will be stored and how you can retrieve it.  Also, if check in your blog, eCommerce, or other software to find out if there are any other considerations to back up their data.  You NEED to do backups, so figuring this out is vital.

How can more space be added to the plan?  Many plans cap database space at 50 to 200 MBs, which may be plenty for small sites.  However, if your site becomes popular and you need to grow quickly, you need an upgrade path.  Some hosting companies will charge an extra monthly amount to add more space to a plan, while others will ask that you upgrade to an all-around higher-capacity plan.  Check the costs of these options and think about how likely it will be that you need this capacity.

In a future post, I’ll discuss some of the more technical aspects of assessing databases. 


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