A popular activity online these days is sharing files with family, friends, or the rest of the world. However, transferring files, especially large files, takes a lot of space and bandwidth to do so. If you are thinking about starting a site to let people move their files or share them with one another, there are a lot of things you need to take into consideration when choosing a host. Factors like space/bandwidth, server resource usage, what kind of hosting you are looking for, and legalities involved are all things you have to take into account. In this article we will look at all of these factors and discuss a few hosts that may be good for file hosting.
When attempting to start in the world of file hosting, you must first choose which route you want to take: you can either buy a plan from a specialized file host or buy your own hosting from a hosting company and start your own service. If you elect to take the first route, you should always take time to carefully read the plans that are offered. Things to look for are the types of files allowed, the maximum file size allowed, the amount of bandwidth per month you are allowed to use, the number of connections allowed to your account at once, and the download speed which users are able to download your files at. Once you find a file hosting plan that fits all your criteria in these fields, it is safe to put your money down for an account.
However, if you are going with the second option and buying your own web hosting to start a file host, then things get a lot trickier when picking a host. The first thing you will have to look at is the legalities involved with your file hosting service. At the top of this list is what types of files are you planning to host. All US-based hosts are very strict on not allowing any copyrighted stuff to be hosted on their servers. If anything is found on your account that violates copyright law, your account may be suspended or even terminated without your notice.
Some file types that generally arouse suspicion are .mp3, .avi, and.flv, or the basic formats for movies and music as they are the worst violaters of copyright infringement laws. If you plan to offer a file hosting service that allows these types of files then you need to check with the host and make sure these types of files are allowed and work with them on a more lenient policy(like warning you a few hours in advance) before account suspension. You will also need to tightly monitor all movie and music files and suspend the accounts that are trying to pass copyrighted material. If you are looking for hosts that are more lenient on copyright infringement or don’t care about it, you will need to look at offshore servers.
The second thing you have to look for is the amount of space and bandwidth you are using. File hosting sites are probably the most bandwidth intensive sites there are because you are directly accessing large files which are many times over 10mb’s in size. If you just get a thousand or so visitors a day, you could still easily hit over the 1TB per month limit. Space is also a large concern for file hosting sites are users will upload large files and expect them to stay on the servers. It isn’t uncommon for a file host to use several hundred gigabytes in terms of storage space. For starting a file hosting service, I could purchase a plan with at least 30GB storage space and 500GB bandwidth to start as these resources can easily be eaten up by users. The quality of the bandwidth is also important as that will effect users’ download speeds. You should ask the host to test download speeds on their servers before you buy.
The third thing to look for in a file host is technical support. Because of all the legalities involved in file hosting, you are bound to run into some trouble either with technical errors or with legal issues or the host may feel like suspending you because they are overselling and you are actually using close to your resource limitations. When a situation like this arises, you will need quick access to technical support staff to work out and resolve these issues. If a host does not have adequate support staff on hand around the clock, you could be looking at hours of downtime and many angry visitors. To get an idea of the quality of support staff, you should ask about the host in large webhosting forums and take time to speak to the sales staff and the technical support staff before you buy a hosting plan. Mention to them that you are planning to start a file hosting site and make sure it is allowed first and then ask them about the technical needs and what they can offer.
The fourth thing to look for in a file hosting site is resource usage. This means CPU/RAM usage as well as Harddrive I/O speeds. File hosting sites run best on hosts that have high-speed SCSI hard drives as those drives can transmit data faster than regular SATA or IDE drives. Drives of this type are more expensive but if you are transferring large amounts of data, it may be necessary to have these drives. CPU/RAM isn’t really an issue as most of these sites are not that server intensive. You most likely will hit a bandwidth limit before a CPU/RAM limit for a file hosting site. You should however monitor their uptime closely as server performance on shared web hosting accounts is not solely determined by your account. The main point here is to pick a host that has good steady uptime of 99.5% or higher.
The last thing to look for is the ability to do e-commerce is you are going to offer paid file hosting plans. You will probably want a way to do automatic transactions via Paypal or credit card and have 128-bit SSL encryption as many people will not purchase anything from a site that does not have secure encryption.
Now that we’ve looked at the requirements for file hosting, lets look at a few hosts that might fit the bill for this kind of hosting.
1. Servage– Servage does not have the best uptime or technical support but they do offer 360GB space and 3600 GB bandwidth for less than $7/month. I remember at least a year ago that they do allow you to run file hosting sites on their server and will let you actually use all the bandwidth you purchased. Its always a risk going with this host, but if you crave the space and transfer, they are a better option than Powweb and Ipowerweb.
2. Dreamhost– Dream host offers an incredible deal at 500GB storage and 5TB bandwidth for only $5.95 per month(pre-payment pending). Dreamhost is another host that will actually let you use all the space and bandwidth that you buy and this host has decent uptime and support. The owner of Dreamhost also hangs around Webhostingtalk.com so you sometimes can get his attention there. Like Servage, there is always a risk going with a host that oversells to this degree but Dreamhost has been pretty solid so far. You need to check Dreamhost’s TOS to see their stance on file hosting.
3. Hostgator– Hostgator offers 350GB storage and 3TB bandwidth for $4.95 per month and out of overselling hosts is probably the most reliable one. Their servers have good uptime and their technical support is more than adequate to handle most tickets. You can also directly e-mail the owner if you have any serious issues. The owner, Brent, is also very active on webhostingtalk.com and if you post a thread with Hostgator in the title, he will respond. If your going with any of the oversellers, take a stab at Hostgator.
4. FDC servers– FDC is a dedicated server company and probably the company you’ll want to turn to for high-traffic file hosts. Their dedicated servers do not come with a set amount of bandwidth like 2000GB. Instead they put you on a un-metered 100mbit connection. People have been successfully pulling 8TB on their service consistently for servers that are under $150/month in price. There is probably no other dedicated server company where you’ll find bandwidth this cheap and this is ideal for file hosting. You can always upgrade to the 1GB lines if 8TB is not enough bandwidth for you. For a large file hosting service, this is where I would go.
In this second part of the article, I have provided you with three hosts to start a file host on and a dedicated server company to go to once your file hosting service gets really large. If you start small and follow the upgrade path as your site grows, you will not waste money and be able to own a successful business.