So you finally have a website and you want to share it with the world, but you don't know where to start? Well, once you have selected and registered a domain name (e.g. www.yoursitename.com), you'll need to publish your website to the Internet. To publish your website to the Internet, you or the person who created your website will need to copy the files that make up your website to a computer called a Web server. Copying the files is as simple as running a program on your computer that then communicates with the Web server and "uploads" the files to the Web server over the Internet.
Most Web servers are owned by website hosting companies, so your next step is to select a website hosting company. There is nothing magical about a Web server. It's simply a computer hooked up to the Internet all day and all night, every day of the year. This computer runs Web server software that waits for visitors to stop by a website, and when they do it shows them the pages that they want to see.
This "How To…" guide will help you figure out the right website hosting services to meet your specific needs, which in turn will help you figure out which website hosting company to use. Because we believe "You get what you pay for" (see sidebar on right) we recommend commercial website hosting services, not free website hosting services. The recommendations in this guide are appropriate for most individual and small business websites.
In "101 -- The Basics!" we'll go over some of the basic decisions you'll most likely be faced with no matter which website hosting company you choose. For people whose websites are mainly text and graphics, essentially an online informational brochure, these basics might be all they'll need.
In "Advanced Topics!" we'll go over some
of the more complex decisions that might come into play if you have
a website that's more than just an online informational brochure. Some
- You own a business and you want to take orders for your items or services and accept credit card payments for them through your website.
- You need to be able to include a database of information on your site, like a product catalog or store inventory.
- You have audio and/or video files that you want to make available for visitors to listen to/view on your website, maybe showing a video tour of your business or providing an audio of a recent speech you made.
- You want to have message forums for your clients to talk with one another or to leave you messages asking questions or giving feedback about your products.
In "Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)" we'll ask and answer some of the frequently asked questions about selecting a website hosting provider.
And finally, in "Glossary" we'll include a listing of words and their definitions to help you understand the terms you may run into on website hosting company websites.
While a free or very inexpensive website hosting offer may be enticing, particularly if funds are low, free services don't usually offer the same quality as commercial services, and these days commercial services can cost as low as under $5 a month. What are some of the negative aspects of free website hosting services?
- Advertising. With most free website hosting services, the companies place advertisements on your website pages, either in the form of banner ads, popup windows, or advertising frames surrounding your pages. The ads are often large and unsightly.
- Support. Most free website hosting services have limited to no technical support.
- File limitations. Many free website hosting services place limitations on the type and size of files you're allowed to upload. If your needs are different than those they allow, this could cause a big problem in getting your website published or updated.
- Email services. Most free website hosting services don't offer addresses like firstname.lastname@example.org as are offered from commercial service providers.
- Domain names. Free website hosting services don't allow you to use your own domain names (e.g. www.yoursitename.com) but rather give you an offshoot of their address (e.g. www.theirsite.com/yoursitename).
- Software options. Most free website hosting services have limited to no software offerings, whereas commercial website hosting service companies often provide free add-on software to be used to set up features like photo galleries, online journals/blogs, message forums, and more.
- FTP access. Many free website hosting services only allow you to create website pages using their website design wizards, and do not allow you to transfer files via FTP (i.e. File Transfer Protocol, a method of transferring individual files from one computer to another across the Internet) you've created off of their system. This limits your options as you become more experienced or as your website needs become more complex. Another disadvantage of this type of setup is that you are probably going to have a very difficult time taking the files you've created at and using them at another website hosting company. Note, this disadvantage applies to any company that is offering to have you use some kind of website design wizard, not just those offering free or inexpensive website hosting services.
- Databases. Most free hosting services have limited to no database offerings.
- Security. Most free hosting services don't offer secure server options.