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WH - 9. What is disk space?

Disk space is simply the total amount of data that you can store upon your web hosts’ server. This amount will include all of your web pages, any graphic or audiovisual content you may use on those pages, any files that are available for downloading by visitors and also any space that you may use for emails. You will also need to allow a small amount of space for the various log files that are generated by the server recording such things as site visits. The amount of disk space available will vary depending on your choice of plan. For a low-cost plan it may be as little as 10 Mb, with more expensive plans you may have many gigabytes for your use.

A simple web site using HTML-based pages will not need a lot of disk space. An HTML file is really just a plain text file – a screen-full of text may only need a file that is 10 kb in size. Most simple web pages average about 40 kb in size. Thumbnail images will probably be about 2 -3 kb in size and full-size images can be kept to as low as 150 – 200 kb without sacrificing too much in the way of quality.

More complex web sites will need correspondingly more disk space. An 8-second video clip will be about 1 MB in size. Audio files are normally smaller, but even a short low-quality clip may be 200 kb in size. Any site that is graphic-intensive will need a large amount of disk space for storage. Making files available for download by users will also use a lot of space.

There are ways to cut down on the amount of disk space you need, although with hard drive prices seemingly lower every week this is becoming less important than it used to be. Firstly, make sure that all of your graphics are Web-optimized – as noted above image files can be shrunk considerably without losing too much quality. Instead of using formatting tags on every page, consider using cascading style sheets, or CSS. This way one CSS file can hold all of the formatting data for your entire site. You may also be able to use the same image on many pages, for example a company logo.

It is fairly simple to calculate approximately how much disk space you will need for your site. Simply add together the sizes of all the files you will be uploading to the server. This will give you a starting point. You will then need to add in an extra 20% to allow for email and site logs and to give you some leeway. You will also need to consider future needs. If you plan on adding new pages every week, then you will need to allow for those additional pages when deciding how much disk space you will need. It is no use choosing a plan offering the disk space you need now, only to find that you will outgrow it within the first couple of months. You may also find that some web hosting companies will impose surcharges if you exceed your storage space. Allowing space for growth now may save some growing pains later.