A Beginner Guide to Web Hosting
Boiled down, there are actually just three steps to take. You need to pick a domain name and get it registered, you need an application (free or pricey) to create the pages and, finally, you need a hosting firm to put it all on computers called servers. These computers will literally serve your content up on the World Wide Web for people to see.
As far as the domain name goes, you can pick just about whatever you want that hasn’t been taken or isn’t a protected name (like a company name, celebrity name or trademark). You can find out what is available by searching for and visiting domain name registrars, a task simplified by going to InterNic.com, a site for (as it reads there) Public Information Regarding Internet Domain Name Registration Services.
There is a range of software for building sites. Software can be easy or complicated, free or costly, but the important thing is to get the features you need into your site. If you cannot do the construction yourself, there are services that help you build your site in a modular manner, although these are rarely used for serious e-commerce or corporate sites. There are freeware applications, plain-text editors and full-fledged Web applications like Adobe Dreamweaver. Depending on what you want on your site, you may need help building it.
While some small hosting companies offer just basic hosting services (a server to store your files on), others have such additional ones as e-mail services, site building tools, firewall security, domain name registration and site management (often with what are called control panels). Of course, you may already be paying for a little server space with your Internet Service Provider (ISP), the company that connects you to the Internet. The space is limited, often you can only use the host’s built-in site building tools and you cannot pick your own domain name. It will be the name of the ISP with something added to identify you (netway.com/smith2284.html or something similar). However, if you just want to post family photos, this may be the best choice.
To find out about hosting firms, especially if you are not qualified to judge reports based on data throughput and uptime, you can find customer feedback at Google, Yahoo and other special host-rating directories. You want to know if the host is dependable, keeps its uptime promise (that is, keeps the servers running 99.9% of the time or whatever it claims), has satisfied customers and so forth. You also need to know about technical support, how and when it is offered, because you will have questions or concerns at some point, that’s almost guaranteed. Phone support is not that critical, since when it is offered it is usually difficult to connect, as everyone else is calling, too. The best tech support systems work on tickets, where you e-mail your issues to the firm and are told how many hours it will be for an answer. Efficient firms will get back to you in an hour or so.
For a dynamic Web site, you will need PHP, MySQL and Cron jobs, too. The first ensures interactivity and flexibility, the second allows you to access databases and carry a product inventory online, while the third lets you schedule periodic, regular program runs. These are fairly standard these days and you should wonder if they are not included in even the most basic plans.
Your host will likely provide you some free tools for creating fairly sophisticated sites, with such features as blogs, photo galleries and forums. Used correctly, these tools can save you a lot of money on designers and programmers, but do get some good advice if you are new to the game. Also, shopping carts running on a Secure Socket Layer (SSL) for customer security will be required for e-commerce, although adding these features may lift you into a more expensive tier of offerings.
You will also likely have a control panel (cPanel is a popular one today) to help you maintain your site, upload content, manage e-mail accounts and users, change passwords, update and revise databases and so forth. Again, the hosts are trying to make the experience as positive, cost-effective and simple as possible for you. With the right amount of research, and perhaps a little help, you should be able to enter the world of the Web and stake out your claim.