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Building a Web Site: Choose a Hosting Provider

While you can make a web site on your computer, it doesn't do any good when no one else can look at it. If you want your web site to be "live," you'll have to host it on a server. Servers are special computers that are always connected to the internet so that other people can view files on them. Hosting companies specialize in these special computers. Most hosting providers charge a monthly fee and usually will provide email account service as well.

There are several free hosting providers, but there are several drawbacks to them. Most of them have pop-up banner advertising that they put on your site. Others require you to use a clumsy web interface for uploading your files. Others don't provide email accounts. If you want your site to be a professional effort, you'll probably want to go with paid hosting. (Think of it this way - they aren't making money from you, so they must be making money some other way... usually through banner ads on your site!)

Which hosting provider you choose depends partly on how you're building your web site. If you're using FrontPage, you'll most likely want to find a hosting provider that supports FrontPage extensions. If you're using any other method of building your web site, you'll want to make sure that you can "FTP" your files. (See our previous article about choosing an FTP program.)

Hosting Providers

There are hundreds out there, all with different levels and types of service, so do your research! (Just type in "hosting" in a search engine and see what comes up.) Below are a few places to start.

Some terms and issues that you may come across when looking at hosting providers:

  • Disk space - How much space you are limited to for your web site. As a real-life example, a small basic web site such as our Five Star Dining template comes in just about 150 KB (which comes out to about .14 MB). The more images, sound files, and documents you put up, the more space you'll need. Please note that some hosting services include your email accounts AND statistic information within this "disk space" amount, so you'll want to get a realistic idea of how your hosting company calculates it.
  • Bandwidth or Data Transfer - This is a limit on how much "activity" can happen on your web site over a certain period. Unless you're going to have thousands of people looking at your site and/or downloading things from your site, the basic plans are probably good for you!
  • FrontPage Extensions - You should look for this if you're going to be using FrontPage to publish your web site. FrontPage Extensions allow you to use some special features of FrontPage in your web site (like creating forms or using certain kinds of navigation bar styles). You'll want to look specifically for FrontPage 2002 Extensions if you're using FrontPage 2002 to build your web site.
  • FTP Access - You'll want to look for this if you'll be using FTP to upload your site.
  • POP Email Accounts - These describe the kinds of email accounts that you can set up in an email program such as Outlook, and "match" your domain (like yourname@yourdomain.com). Many services allow you to have more than one email account, so you could set one up for each person in your company or for different areas (such as "info@yourdomain.com" or "support@yourdomain.com.") POP Email Accounts allow you to receive mail from your email accounts.
  • SMTP Email Accounts - These email accounts allow you to send email from your email accounts. Usually it's not very clear if the hosting service provides these accounts, or if they expect you to use your own email. You'll probably want to check on the specific hosting service and ask them.
  • Web mail - Some hosting services provide a "web mail" option where you can check your email using a web browser interface instead of using a program such as Outlook.
  • ASP support - If your web site is going to have ASP programming on it, you'll want to make sure that there is ASP support. ASP support comes automatically with Windows servers, but not always with UNIX servers.
  • SSL Secure Certificate - If you're going to be transferring confidential information (like credit card numbers or personal information) on your web site, you'll want part of your web site to be on a "secure server." You'll want to make sure that the hosting service provides this kind of service. It's possible that you'll have to buy your own "certificate," which can cost around $300. If you aren't going to be transferring confidential information (for example, if you use PayPal for transactions), you won't need to worry about this.
  • Search engine submission? - Some hosting companies offer "free search engine submission" as part of their packages. You'll want to look very carefully into this to determine if you want this service or not. Usually what it means is that they submit your site to tons of free-for-all links pages, and then you are spammed with all kinds of junk email... probably not what you want! Real search engine submission takes a lot of work, and we'll cover this in a later article.
  • Support! - Make sure that your hosting service will provide you personal support by phone or by email. If you're new to this, you'll definitely want to find out if they will "hand-hold" you in the process if you run into problems or have questions.

Next: Add Your Content and Images

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