How to put your Website Online
When I write about website stuff, I generally tend to explore more complex topics, aimed at those who are already well versed in website creation. This time though, I decided to go for something simpler: how to put your new website online.
Ok, so you've just created a website in Dreamweaver, or whatever program you prefer, and now you're stuck with a bunch of HTML files on your hard drive. These can be opened in your browser without any problem, but can't be accessed from anywhere else. I'm going to show you a few ways you can get your website up and on the web.
Note that this is not a detailed step-by-step tutorial; it just gives you the basic knowledge in order to orient you towards your best option. Don't forget to research extensively before you act!
First step: get a host
Before you go any further, you need a place on which you can put your website so that it can be available through the internet. This is called a host. The host is simply the computer (or computers) that contain the server of your website. When someone wishes to access the website, the server is responsible for sending and retrieving the correct information required for the site to function properly. There are a few possibilities when it comes to hosting your website:
This is by far the most complex, and (arguably) the most inefficient way of hosting your server. By doing it yourself, you need to have a good computer that you will be able to open 24/7. Even then, the website is going to be very slow unless you buy a top-of-the-line internet connection. Anyway, I'm not going to cover self-hosting since I don't consider it a good idea. It does have its advantages though, such as giving you absolute control over the server. If you really want to go down the road of self- hosting, Gigafide has this great tutorial on how to install and setup a home server:
Shared hosting is the most common way to put your website online. It is provided by a hosting company, and simply implies that several sites are on the same servers. This is usually quite cheap, and provides decent functionality. Some hosts even provide really good free hosting, as an incentive to get more customers. These plans are indeed quite limited, but some are still really good. My personal favourites are those from Awardspace and Zymic.
When you create an account with one of these companies (either paid or free), you are provided with an FTP account to which you can upload your files via an FTP client such as FileZilla.
Shared hosting is a good, cheap solution that will suit 99 percent of webmasters. Unfortunately, since many users are on the same server, you can't customize it. Thus, you're stuck with what the company gave you. An example of this is that come hosts don't provide the Apache mod_expires module. This makes it harder to set cache expiry dates to particular files.
If you absolutely need complete control over the server, but don't want to make your own, you can opt for a dedicated server. These are also hosted by companies (Awardspace, mentioned earlier, provides dedicated servers).
This option simply implies that you buy an entire server, rather than part of one, as you would with shared hosts. Of course, the price is much higher. Whilst you can get good shared hosting for five dollars a month, dedicated options will be about ten times more expensive.
Second step: get a domain name
Domain names are what identify your site on the internet, such as www.asite.com or www.informatics-tech.com. Without such an address, you can only access your website through the IP Address of the server on which it is hosted. In English, this means that instead of having www.google.com as an address, you would end up with 188.8.131.52. This looks formidably unprofessional and it's hard to remember.
Unfortunately, domain names aren't free, but they are quite cheap. You can buy one from sites such as GoDaddy for as low as 10$ a year.
*Some hosting providers actually give you a free subdomain. So instead of having yoursite.com, you would end up with yoursite.yourhost.com. While I do not recommend this type of address, it is still better than nothing, and it's free.
In most cases, your host will actually give you the option of buying a domain through them. They then set it all up, so you're all ready to go. This might be more expensive though.
For those who self-host:
Don't buy a domain now; you'll need to purchase it through DynDNS (see next section).
Third step: link your domain to your host
Good, so you have a good webhost and a domain. Now, you need to connect the domain to the webhost, so that when you type the domain on the internet you are redirected to the site. How to do this depends on if you're self-hosting or using a company's server.
If you've bought a domain with Godaddy, and are using Awardspace as host, you can check out this article on how to link the domain to Awardpace:
Otherwise, you'll need to check out with the hosting provider you chose. They should have instructions on how to use a domain.
On the other hand, if you have your own server, you hit an impasse. Since residential internet connections have dynamic IP addresses, that is, an IP that changes over time, it is impossible to simply link your IP to your URL. Fortunately, there is a program called DynDNS that can update the URL constantly, as the IP changes. Don't remember that, for this to work though, you need to buy the URL from DynDNS or use a free subdomain. Here's an interesting tutorial on how to set it up with a free DynDNS address:
Final step: get to the search engines
Great, you now have a functioning website. You could technically stop here, and wait for visitors to come. But, if you do this, you won't get any visitors. Why? Simply because nobody will be able to find your site! After all, what are the odds of a person typing your exact domain name in the URL box?
Visitors come through search engines, especially Google. But for your pages to appear on Google, Yahoo, Bing, Ask, etc. you need to submit them to the search engines (actually, if you have a lot of links to your site, search engines will eventually find it automatically).
For convenience, I've made a few links to the pages on which you can submit your URL:
- Google: http://www.google.com/addurl/?continue=/addurl
- Yahoo: http://siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com/submit (requires Yahoo account)
- Bing: https://ssl.bing.com/webmaster/SubmitSitePage.aspx
Putting a website online may seem intimidating at first. There are so many options and... well... you don't want to waste your time by choosing the wrong one. I hope this page has helped to enlighten you about the process behind joining the web. Of course, this is but a brief overview of a very broad topic. I STRONGLY recommend that you do further research before you choose a host and/or domain name.