People who are looking for the Drupal hosting for the first time will find this article exceptionally useful. However, more experienced Drupalers might also find it very helpful. The article is structured into following sections:
There are several web hosting types:
For running Drupal it is necessary to have a Web Server that can execute PHP scripts. Recommended is Apache, but Microsoft's IIS is adequate as well. Furthermore, you will need PHP and PHP-supported Database Server, like MySQL or PostgreSQL. For more details on Drupal requirements, see drupal.org/requirements.
The important step in choosing the right Drupal hosting service is estimating your specific requirements. Basically every Drupal site is specific, with different setup and targeted traffic (number of visitors and page views).
If you plan to host less demanding Drupal site, it is probably best to choose the least expensive, shared hosting. On the other hand, if you plan to run an advanced Drupal site, or Drupal site with significant traffic, you could choose VPS or even dedicated server.
Transition from smaller web hosting package to bigger one, on the same hosting type and provider, is straight forward and easy. Therefore you could plan your needs for the longer period, because transition from one hosting type to another is more complex.
After estimating your needs and selecting the most appropriate hosting type, the next step is to decide about web hosting provider.
On the market, there are plenty of low cost or even free web hosting service providers, but you should avoid them due to lack of quality of service. For small difference in your budget, you can choose more reliable web hosting, with much better uptime, technical support and less headaches.
Hosting providers usually offer one or more hosting types and several hosting packages within each hosting type, differing in storage, bandwidth, supported features etc.
You could choose your Drupal web hosting package to fulfill both your needs, today and tomorrow. But even better, you could consider to take smaller web hosting package, with an option to expand it to bigger package in the future, as your needs are growing.
For people running or plan to run multiple sites, it could be interesting to consider reseller hosting packages (25-100$/month). This kind of hosting package offers to split your hosting package in smaller pieces, which you can use independently, with their own domain names, disk space... You could even resell them to others (this can also be interesting for web designers, to resell hosting packages to their clients).
For illustration themegarden.org is powered by Drupal core modules and module for switching Drupal themes (switchtheme module). There are more then 100 Drupal 4.7 themes, and 80 Drupal 5 themes installed at the moment. Furthermore, site was visited in last month by 8000 visitors with 75000 page views (in March 2007, 3000 visitors with 40000 page views), and could be hosted on some stronger shared hosting package.
But, since the planned traffic for September 2007 was more then 20000 visitors with not less then 150000 page views, plus two more web sites, decision was made to rent a VPS web hosting with 256 MB dedicated RAM (Apache takes 48 MB), 10 GB disk space and 300 GB bandwidth, on OpenVz server virtualization platform.
So far themegarden.org has not experienced any hosting bottleneck.
For beginners, in most cases the shared hosting will be quite enough. But do not fall into the lure, and take some of the cheapest shared hosting packages, with lot of disk space, but with lack of features and/or reliability and with poor technical support. Your startup web page, probably wouldn't need 500 GB of the disk space. Instead, you will want your web page is a rather fast-loading. Also, when something goes wrong, the most important is to restore the web site in shortest term, and then the good technical support could be crucial.
As long as whole shared host server is not full loaded, the performance can be quite enough for you. But, when this change, and not only due to your increased traffic, but also due to total server load, your site may become hardly available.
This implies that the main decision about hosting type depends on how much your site is important to you. Can you afford to be temporary unavailable or not? If the answer is yes, then the shared hosting is the right solution for you. Otherwise, consider VPS or dedicated server. The main advantage of VPS and dedicated server hosting compared with shared hosting is the guaranteed performance.