What you need to look for in a web host

There are a lot of web hosting companies out there, and all of them offer different things. It’s hard to decide which one to use, and which features you actually need when you’re choosing a web host for your browsergame.

To begin with, you don’t need dedicated hosting. Shared hosting will work just fine for both testing and the initial game – it’s only once you hit massive numbers of users that you will need dedicated hosting.

One thing you need to make absolutely sure of is that your host has some sort of database, and supports your choice of server-side language. Make sure to confirm that the version of the language that they have is the one you need – I know people who have needed PHP 5 but accidentally started a web hosting contract with a company that only had PHP 4 – it caused them a lot of headaches before they finally switched.

Filespace and bandwidth are something people will always argue about. At the core of it, as long as you have enough filespace for your files, and enough bandwidth to get them out to your audience, you’re fine. What does that mean? If your browsergame is purely code and your browsergame is the only thing on that hosting plan, you’re probably safe with 50MB. If you have a lot of images in your game or your game is absolutely massive(Wordpress is under 2MB of PHP), then you might need more – but for most cases, 50MB will be fine.

When it comes to bandwidth, go with something that seems ‘big enough’. To begin with, you’ll never get close to using as much bandwidth as you have available. When you do start coming close or hitting your cap, it’s a sign that you should upgrade.

Another important thing to consider is stats packages. You should check to see what sort of stats package your web host makes available – this will be important after you launch your game, so that you can keep track of how many visitors you have, what time of the day most people play your game, and other neat statistics.

One last consideration is databases. Some hosts will give you an unlimited number of databases, and some will cap you at a number like 5. If your browsergame is the only thing on that hosting plan, you’d be fine with one – the general consensus is one database per project, unless you don’t have enough available. So as long as your host provides one or more databases, you should be fine in this regard.

There are a few other options that web hosts will offer you – things like Fantastico(which is an automated installer for a bunch of popular website tools), POP Accounts, FTP Accounts, and a whole bunch of other things. As long as your host gives you at least one FTP account, you’ll be fine.

With all that being said, it sounds like choosing a web host is a difficult task. But it’s actually very easy. Here’s the condensed list of what you need:

  • Support for your server-side language(the language and the version you will be using)
  • Databases(at least one)
  • Enough filespace to host your project – anything at or over 50MB should be fine to start with
  • At least one FTP account, so you can upload your files
  • Some sort of stats package(although if they don’t provide one, you could use Google Analytics)

One last thing that I haven’t mentioned here is price. That’s because it’s entirely up to you what you pay for hosting. I would recommend something cheaper to begin with, because even if your game has a business model behind it, you probably won’t be making any income from it for at least the first few months – so you should choose a web hosting plan you can afford to pay out of your own pocket.

And that’s all there is to it. If you’re still not sure which host to use, I recommend Atomhost – before I started hosting my own websites, they were the host I used and their support team is top-notch – they have a good understanding of any technical problem you may have. Also, if you keep a close eye on their homepage you can sometimes find promo codes that will knock down the price of whatever plan you are considering.

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Luke is the primary editor of Building Browsergames, and has written a large portion of the articles that you read here. He generally has no idea what to say when asked to write about himself in the third person.

Wednesday, April 16th, 2008 hosting, setup
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Building Browsergames is a blog about browsergames(also known as PBBG's). It's geared towards the beginner to intermediate developer who has an interest in building their own browsergame.


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