A not-so-publicized fact about me is that one of my side jobs as a freelancer is being a photographer. It always amazes me how quickly I amass images, and how quickly I run out of offline and online photo storage space for those images. In fact, I filled up an entire external storage drive with a terabyte of space in just of a couple of years!
When I was creating a photography website to promote this side hustle venture, storage became an even more frustrating issue. It wasn’t just about the space — it was about the amount of money it would cost to host many of those images on my website. Even if the images were compressed, it was going to be expensive! This isn’t an issue for photographers only. Bloggers, graphic designers and other business owners who need to store many large photos on your websites — this post is for all of you, too.
3 options for photography websites
When it comes to websites that store lots of images, the right hosting is key. Not enough storage or bandwidth and your website might load slowly or not at all. Here are your options.
Before we take a closer look at the pros and cons of each type of hosting, let’s touch on why storage is such a big issue for photographers, graphic designers and others like them.
Photographers need a LOT of storage space
“It’s not uncommon to see a photographers’ website with over 20,000 images, that get accessed on a daily basis.” ~ Adam Costello, Grizzly Bear Design
Photographers need lots of storage space on their websites, because each pixel has a value, and each one of those values must be stored. By comparison, text requires one value for each character. So a page with 2,000 characters eats up about 2 Kb of space, while a small 100px by 200px bitmap image requires 124 Kb of space. So even small images take up as much storage space as several pages of text.
But what options are available to photographers that will meet their needs without costing them an arm and a leg? After all, you don’t want to have to sell your camera just to afford your hosting!
The 3 main types of hosting
Top hosting providers like GoDaddy offer different types of hosting to meet different needs. Here I describe them from least to most resource-rich.
1. Shared hosting
When they’re first starting out, many photographers opt for shared hosting because it is generally much cheaper than the other options. A shared hosting plan means your website will be on a server that is shared with other websites.
Using shared hosting is like living in an apartment — it’s affordable, convenient and accommodates most of your needs. But you’re in a shared space. You might have noisy neighbors, or visitors might steal your parking.
A downside with shared hosting is that since you are sharing your server with other websites, there is the risk of your site going offline in the event one or more of the other sites on the shared server has a sudden surge in traffic. This is called the noisy neighbor effect.
But, how much online photo storage space are you looking at with shared hosting plans? GoDaddy’s Ultimate plan offers 1 GB RAM and unmetered bandwidth. If your website bandwidth or storage usage is excessive, GoDaddy will notify you and you can either upgrade your plan or reduce your usage.
2. Virtual Private Server (VPS) hosting
This hosting option costs more than shared hosting but less than a dedicated server. Unlike shared hosting, VPS gives you guaranteed website availability — so there’s no need to worry about whether or not clients can open your website.
A virtual private server is like owning a condo. You have dedicated parking, fewer neighbors and usually some kind of HOA or community rules that keep neighbor issues to a minimum.
VPS hosting is based on cloud technology and spreads the files, data, resources, bandwidth and computing operations among multiple servers that are networked to act like one system.
GoDaddy VPS is also flexible and scalable, making it easy to upgrade or downgrade whenever the need presents itself. GoDaddy VPS plans range from 1 GB of memory and 40 GB of storage to 8 GB of memory and 240 GB of storage. Learn more about GoDaddy’s VPS Hosting options here.
3. Dedicated servers
With a Dedicated server you rent a whole server from a hosting company. Your site will be the only one on this server, which makes it the best choice for anyone with a high-traffic or resource-intensive website.
A full-on dedicated server is like owning the land and building your house from scratch — total customization.
This type of hosting also typically comes with significantly higher storage capacities. For example, GoDaddy Dedicated Servers start with one terabyte of storage and go up from there. Get all the details on your dedicated server options here.
Using WordPress for your website? Read this post for tips on what kind of hosting you need.
Which online photo storage option is right?
Unfortunately, this is one question I can’t answer for you, because the answer will vary based on your personal business needs and budget. The good news is you have plenty of options to choose from. Here are five questions to ask yourself as you consider which hosting plan you should use:
- How many photos do you take on a regular basis for your business?
- How many of those photos will you actually need to load to your website?
- Can you compress those images, or will you need online photo storage for the full-sized copies?
- Will you be selling print- or download-ready images directly from your site?
- How much traffic do you anticipate your website getting?
Pro tip: Consider the fact that after photographing a wedding or special event everyone who was invited will likely want to see those images.
How to stay ahead of the curve
While the only sure way to know you don’t have enough hosting is for your site to go down, there are ways to calculate your needs. To estimate how much bandwidth you need, follow these steps from webhostingsecretrevealed.net:
- Estimate the average page size of your site in kilobytes (Kb) using the Pingdom Website Speed Test tool.
- Multiply that average page size (in Kb) by the monthly average number of visitors.
- Multiply the result by the average number of pageviews per visitor.
Pro tip: This post offers two different formulas — one for websites that simply store photos and another for those that both store and allow photo downloads. And you can get the number of unique visitors and page views for your website from Google Analytics (learn how here).
Faster load = more customers
Hosting matters to photographers. A photo-heavy site with insufficient hosting might load slowly (or not at all) for visitors — and the average visitor will only wait a few seconds before clicking away. The idea is to really start thinking about your site from the customer’s perspective. You need a site that loads quickly and can handle the number of photos you expect to upload this year. Because you’ll likely always be adding images, this can be a moving target.
Image by: Visual hunt