How to host a site
Make your Web world wide
By John “jaQ” Andrews firstname.lastname@example.org
About a month back, I ended a column on making Web pages with the words “More on that next week.” The implication was that I would be writing about what to do with your pages once you created them, how to get them seen by the world, that kind of thing.
Needless to say, I was distracted by something shiny. Really big USB flash drives or something. Doesn’t matter. Point is, I left y’all hanging breathlessly on my next words and they came out at the root, plunging you deep into a watery chasm of disappointment and betrayal.
Sorry about that.
Where I left off was, it’s a good idea to keep the pictures you use for your Web pages in a subfolder called “images.” In other words, if all your Web pages are in “My Documents,” then create a folder called “images” there and keep your Web images there. That way, most Web editing programs will recognize that the images are at a URL relative to your page location. Instead of inserting the whole path of your picture into the HTML code, the editor just sticks in “/images/yourpicture.jpg.”
For the same reason, it’s easiest to start out with all your Web pages in the same folder and have them link to each other with just their file names, like “index.html” (that’s your home page) and “music.html.” Then, when you upload pages and images to a Web server, the code doesn’t have to change to reflect a new location — it’s all relative.
Yeah, a Web server. You don’t know what that is? Read on.
Most computers aren’t set up to display Web pages to the Internet. That’s actually a good thing; it would be a security nightmare, you’d have to leave your computer on all the time and if your site got really popular, you’d never have enough processor power left to play Solitaire. So companies set up servers especially for serving up Web pages, and you pay a monthly fee.
Choosing one of those companies isn’t so much hard as it is daunting. See, there are thousands of them. Literally. And I don’t mean, “Ohmigawd, Miss P. literally blew her top when she found out I copied my homework from Betty.” I mean, literally literally.
To get a first (free) taste, check if your Internet service provider allows you to upload Web pages. Or go with the site amateur webmasters have been using since Al Gore invented the darn thing, GeoCities. There, you’ll find free Web hosting for a small site, an “Easy Upload” tool for getting pages from your computer to their servers and even some basic HTML editors. Later you can upgrade to an ad-free site with more space, bandwidth (the amount of traffic your site can get before being cut off) and a domain name (so instead of a long, meaningless URL, you can manage www.BobHasABoffoHaircut.com or whatever).
Domain registration and Web hosting companies have long since started doing each others’ jobs, so it’s possible to do all your setup in one place. That may not end up being the rock-bottom cheapest solution, but it’ll get you up and running right quick.
Places to check out
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