Step 4: Hosting
Once you've created your web site and you can see that it works properly on your computer, you need to "publish" it to the internet so that other people can see it. Essentially you just need to copy the web pages from your computer to your host server.
Naturally, the first thing you'll need to do is to find a host server. There are many options available and finding the right solution isn't always easy. There are two main categories of hosting options: Free and Paid.
Free Host Servers
There are plenty of places on the internet which will host your site for free. Not surprisingly, there are catches. These may include:
- Advertising banners. Most free services make their money by inserting advertisements into your pages. The advertisements may also appear in pop-up windows which activate whenever someone visits your site.
- No domain hosting and ugly URLs. Free hosting doesn't usually allow you to use a domain name (eg www.myname.com). You will instead be assigned an address which could be very long and difficult to remember.
- No support. If anything goes wrong or if you need any help, don't hold your breath. Chances are no-one cares.
- Limited features. You will find that certain features aren't allowed.
- No guarantee of service. From time to time free hosts simply shut down, either temporarily or permenantly. More often, certain features they offer are discontinued or they start charging for them.
Your best bet is to see what your ISP has to offer. Most ISP's have some sort of free web hosting option with their dial-up accounts.
Paid Host Servers
If the free services don't meet your needs then you'll be looking for a professional hosting service. Prices and features vary widly so shop around. Note that you don't have to use a host which is geographically near you - you can have your site hosted on the other side of the world.
Look for the following features:
- FTP Access. This is the most common method of publishing your files to the host server and is offered on almost all serious hosting options. Make sure you know exactly how to access your host.
- Technical Support. This is most important - does your provider offer help installing and running your site? Does this cost extra?
- E-Mail. Exactly what e-mail facilities are included? Can you have multiple email addresses?
- Statistics. Most hosts provide free statistics to see how many people are visiting your site.
- CGI, PHP, etc. These are advanced features which allow you to add bells and whistles such as forms, dynamic content, discussion forums, etc. Not for the novice, but not so complicated that you can't learn. Many hosts have ready-made CGI features which you can add to your site with minimal fuss, or they may be able to add them for you.
- Frontpage Extensions. If you insist on using Microsoft Frontpage, then you'll need Frontpage extensions. This is a set of files and protocols which allow beginners to use advanced features simliar to those offered by CGI. When used very carefully they can be a handy tool. However, Frontpage extensions have many limitations and are prone to inexplicable failure - use them at your own risk!
If you want your own domain name (eg www.myname.com) then you'll need to apply to the appropriate authority. This topic will be covered in a future tutorial.