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The Ultimate Resource Guide on Hosting

What is the World Wide Web (or “www”)?. 2

When Did the WWW Start?. 3

What Does the WWW Look Like?. 3

How Do Computers on the WWW Connect?. 3

What is the “internet”?. 3

What is a Website in Simple Terms?. 4

Definition: 4

Simple Explanation: 4

What Are Some Websites I Might Know?. 4

What About Some Simple Examples?. 4

What Basic Things Do I Need to Have My Own Website?. 5

1. What is a Domain Name?. 6

How is a Domain Related to a Website?. 6

Where Do I Get a Domain?. 6

How Much Does a Domain Cost?. 7

What Other Options/Considerations Should I Think About?. 7

2. How Does a Web Page Work?. 8

How is “Code” Used to Run a Website?. 8

“Static” Vs. “Dynamic” Websites. 9

What Are Databases & How Are They Related To a Dynamic Site?. 11

3. How Does Hosting Work?. 11

How Does it Work Basically?. 11

What Is A Server (and Do I Need One)?. 12

Where Do I Go to Get Hosting?. 12

In Summary, What Are All The Parts That I Need to Have A Website?. 13

While requirements vary from site to site, and your particular setup may be unique, the majority of websites need a: 13

1.      Domain name. 13

2.      Hosting account. 13

3.      Website contents (files, software, or whatever you are using). 13

I Have Hosting, A Domain Name, & Website Ready—Now What?. 13

What is Needed for Person That Wants to Visit My Website?. 14

What Type of Website is Needed?. 15

First, Decide on What Type of Website You Need. 16

What Options Do I Have to Create any of These Websites?. 17

Do-It-Yourself. 17

Hire Someone. 20

Summary. 21

Glossary. 21


 

What is the World Wide Web (or “www”)?

The best way to think of the World Wide Web, or “www” for short, is to imagine it as a very large home network, where every computer is connected together, which allows them to communicate with each other. There are numerous websites (servers) and website visitors (clients) in the world today. In common language, the world-wide-web is interchangeably used with “internet” and going “online.”

When Did the WWW Start?

The world-wide-web started as a government project in 1958 (called ARPA) as a response to Russia’s Sputnik (the first man-made satellite). They developed the first network,  which eventually expanded into the civilian world, and in the 90’s evolved quickly into what we now know as the www, or world-wide web, and is growing at an unprecedented rate. Very few modern businesses/organizations are without a presence on the www.

What Does the WWW Look Like?

These websites each have a website address like:  http://www.google.com or http://www.amazon.com. Each of these websites are hosted on a server(s) and modern infrastructure allows our computers to communicate with those websites. This can be visualized much like computers communicate on a home network, or even telephones for that matter.

How Do Computers on the WWW Connect?

Let’s say you create something, such as a picture or document on your personal computer, and you want to get that to your friend. You can either copy it on to, say, a CD, DVD, or USB drive (thumb drive/memory stick), and then drive over to her house; or, you can use the www (or internet as most of us say). Most likely, you will email it to her, or maybe put it on your Facebook page, but the fact is, you can send something from your computer, to hers, and use the www to get it done. The fact is, when you use email, that is part of the www, and when she reads her email, she’s getting it from the www.

Here’s another way the www is connected.  Lets say you are shopping on Amazon.com, and you find something you like. On there, you see the manufacturers name, and you can click on it, which takes you away from Amazon, over to the manufacturers website. These “links” or “hyperlinks” are one of the simplest ways the internet is interconnected.  There are lots of more advanced ways, but this is probably the one that is familiar to most of us. We will explain how you can even see the internet later on.

What is the “internet”?

Sometimes, we just use the word “world wide web” interchangeably with the “internet,” and so it’s not really important to get side-tracked by technical differences right now. In fact, most people just use the word “internet” to explain anything that’s online.

 

What is a Website in Simple Terms?

Definition: 

This summary gives a brief technical explanation. Most of these are discussed in detail in later chapters.

A website a collection of files (“web pages”), that are accessed via the world-wide-web, and reside (“hosted”) on a computer (“server”), which is seen via the website visitor’s (“client’s”) browser.

Simple Explanation:

A website is a bunch of files on a computer somewhere in the world, that you can view using a program like Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, etc…

What Are Some Websites I Might Know?

A website is a bunch of web pages, and it’s represented by an address, like http://www.amazon.com. Some websites are really big, such as Yahoo.com, Wikipedia.org, Facebook.com, Youtube.com, Google.com, etc… and other ones are as small as a single page.  Some websites are definitely more advanced than others.  For example, if you have ever shopped on Amazon.com, you will know their website can do a lot of things.  If you check email online (e.g. Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo Mail) those are some pretty advanced websites too.

What About Some Simple Examples?

On the other end, maybe you have, or know someone who has a personal blog that they share personal stories on; or someone who has a small business online.  These are websites too, and each time you click on a link on their website to read more, you are visiting another web page on their web site.  Perhaps you started at their “Home” page, and then clicked on an “About Us” page, and then sent them a message when you visited their “Contact Us” page.

Just for sake of an example, if you had a Facebook account, then you might even say that you have a page (or pages) on Facebook, although you may not really have a lot of say in how that page is setup.  Typically, when you say you have a webpage, it’s usually something you have a bit more control over, which is what most of this guide is really about.  We’ll cover this in more detail later.

 

What Basic Things Do I Need to Have My Own Website?

Many of the most popular sites today started out as small personal websites.  Even Google was started in a garage.

Traditionally speaking, to have a website, you basically need:

1.       A domain name

a.       E.g. http://www.jon-and-jane-doe-family-site.com

2.       A website

a.       E.g. A few pages about our summer vacation, family reunion, and a contact page.

3.       Hosting

a.       E.g. Now that you have a domain name and web pages, you need to put them on a computer somewhere where the world can see them.

Sites like, Facebook, Myspace, or blog sites like Blogger/Blogspot, and Wordpress.com are all different types of websites, and are often used as a free way to setup a personal blog, or even business marketing tool.  In a way, you could consider these to be a website in which you have your own small, personal space on, such as a page or two; but, for the most part, they are rarely used as a sole means of running any type of business or commercial endeavor. It is often more memorable to have instead of johnsfamily.blogspot.com, but again that’s a personal choice. In some cases, you can switch later on if needed.

And, even if you happen to be running a personal blog, sometimes people prefer to have more control and memorability over their blog, so they run it on their own website or domain, such as:  

http://johns-family.com  

instead of someone else’s free website like:  

http://johns-family.somefreehostingsite.com/  

Let’s cover the domain name next…

1. What is a Domain Name?

In short, it is the address of a website.

An example illustrates this best. http://example.com, http:// google.com, http://youtube.com, and http://www.jon-and-jane-doe-family-site.com are all domain names. Don’t worry about the “www” or “http://” at the beginning. When you buy a site like example.com, this is the same as owning www.example.com and http://www.example.com, but that is beyond the scope of this piece.

How is a Domain Related to a Website?

The basic idea is that you can buy an address (e.g.  example.com), and then attach a website to it. When someone types in “example.com” into their browser, they are then able to see the website that you created.

An example of how this works:

1.       You have created a “Home” page, an “About us” page, and a “Contact us” page for your website. They have some text and some images about your business

2.       You upload those pages to your hosting company (e.g. XYZ Hosting). You are renting this space on XYZ’s Hosting computers (a.k.a. servers) for a few dollars a month.

3.       Next, someone in California (a website visitor) types in your website address in their computer. Let’s say you bought www.example.com

4.       In the blink of an eye several computers communicate and know that when someone types in www.example.com, that your website is sitting on the computers at XYZ Hosting.

5.       The person will then see your website that you created, so if you did not create a website, their screen will usually show a blank white page, or perhaps a parking page (advertisements from the registrar).

In theory, you could own a domain, and “point” it to the wrong hosting account, causing it to break. You could also build a website and host it, but no one would know how to get to it. Your hosting company may have a special way to access the site without a domain name, but its usually something long and cryptic, like:  123.45.67.890/~mysite. Not a great way for the rest of the world to get to your site.

Where Do I Get a Domain?

The technical term for any company that sells a domain is called a “registrar.” There are countless registrars out there.  A common question is “who governs all the registrars?” ICANN runs mostly behind the scenes to ensure proper domain governance.

Here are a few of the more popular registries

[note: we do not endorse/sponsor any of these companies]:

http://www.godaddy.com

http://namecheap.com

http://www.enom.com

How Much Does a Domain Cost?

These domain names, if bought brand new, usually sell for as low as a few dollars per year.

However, if you are buying one that someone else already owns, there’s no limit to what sort of price they may want to sell it for. They may want to sell it for $100, or $1,000,000.  It just depends on how they value the domain, just like any other piece of real property.

If you are running a business or something of high personal value, it can be a good investment to buy a memorable/brandable domain, even though they can cost quite a bit. Shopping around is valuable to determine what asking prices are for domains in which you might be interested in purchasing.

In some cases, your hosting company may even give you a domain for free for the first year, building the cost into your monthly hosting payment.  Sometimes, a hosting company is also a licensed registrar, but the majority tend to purchase a domain through a dedicated registrar, and hosting through a hosting company.

What Other Options/Considerations Should I Think About?

Some domains end in .com, .net, .org, and countless other “extensions.”  You can buy and use pretty much any extension, but for most commercial businesses, generally speaking, they prefer a .com, and much less a .net.  That’s just because when people tell their friends, people tend to remember “.com” over “.net” just because “.com”s were just so popular at the beginning of the www. This is why memorable .com’s tend to be a lot more expensive than their .net and .org counterparts (10x – 20x is typical). There are now countless extensions available in addition to .com, .net. and .org. Some of these include: .me, .info, .biz, .us, .pro, etc… Some were even designed to be specific use; for example, .mobi was originally promoted to be a domain for mobile phones, not that you couldn’t use it for a regular website if you wanted. By the way, .mobi did not catch on, partly because it is so long to type in a mobile phone.

2. How Does a Web Page Work?

When you are online, and visit a webpage, your browser sees the code behind that page, and displays it on your screen.

Understanding how this works, is comparable to understanding how to change the oil on your car or mowing your lawn—you may want to do some of it yourself, or you may want to hire one, but either way, it’s probably good to understand how it’s done at least so you can make an informed decision.

If you want to know a bit more about this code, please keep reading, otherwise, feel free to skip to the next section.

How is “Code” Used to Run a Website?

All web pages are made up of some code. Perhaps the most common code, or language, is HTML. More advanced websites will use other languages as well.

Depending on how you end up putting your website together, you may never see any of this code, but it’s there behind the scenes, powering every site in the world. Again, depending on what you use to create/publish your site with, a lot of website owners will end up learning at least a tiny bit of this code to make some minor changes on their site.

A very simple example of HTML code might look like this:

<strong>See the dog run</strong>. He’s very fast.

That would make some text that is bold, and would look like this in your browser:

See the dog run. He’s very fast.

Perhaps you want to put a picture in of the dog running, so:

<img src=”running-dog.jpg” />

Again, depending on how you create your website, you may never see any of this HTML code. In the examples above, we explained HTML which is a “static” language, which is limited in what it can do. The next section will discuss more advanced options.

Even word processing programs like Microsoft Word often have a fairly hidden feature that lets you see the markup code behind your nicely formatted document. When you enable it, you see a lot of tags much like the <strong> tag above.

All this code is used to make a page on your website, and links is what ties them all together.

Hyperlinks Connect the Pages to Create a Site

Some websites are a single page, but that is the exception to the rule. Most websites will have a few pages at a bare minimum, while mega-sites may have millions of pages.

Sites typically use links to connect the pages together. Technically, these are called hyperlinks.

Links are usually clickable buttons, images, or most commonly, text, on your site. When clicked, it takes them from one page on your site to another.

Here’s a link:  http://www.example.com  Links can take people to other pages on your website, or to other websites altogether.

For example, let’s say they come in to your site starting on your “Contact Us
 page that you created. Let’s say you named the file “contact.html”

E.g. http://www.example.com/contact.html

Let’s say you also have and “About Us” page that you made, which you’ve decided to name “about.html” In order to get to this page, you made a link at the top of your site that takes the visitor to the “About Us” page, which you named about.html:

http://www.example.com/about.html

In short, links is what connects all the pages together on your website, as well as connect lots of websites together. Perhaps you have a link on your site that takes website visitors Amazon.com, your favorite product on Amazon.com, or to your Facebook.com profile page.

“Static” Vs. “Dynamic” Websites

When we talked about the HTML examples above, they were pretty simple. The web page simply showed a sentence, and a picture, and maybe a video or some music, but the website did not do anything.  You cannot interact with the website in any way.  You can just look at it, and maybe print a page off on your printer. This is what we call a “static” webpage.

On the other hand, when the website does things, we call it “dynamic.” Dynamic websites can get pretty complex. A simple example is a shopping cart, where you are giving customers the ability to add items to a shopping cart and checkout, can require a lot more than simple, static HTML. Perhaps you have an admin (or control panel) login that allows you to easily create product and category pages for your online store, as well as manage orders. Or, perhaps you have a blog that needs a way to publish new posts. All of these situations require a dynamic solution.

In fact, dynamic pages are usually made with languages other than HTML (e.g. ASP, PHP, .NET, Java, Ruby, on Rails, and a whole lot of others).

No, you don’t need to learn these languages to run most websites, but it’s good to know that they are there when you are shopping for a hosting provider, because it will usually limit who you can host with.

What Are My Options for a Dynamic Site?

For most people, especially individuals and business startups, there are an infinite number of programs that companies have created to let you publish and manage a typical website. This ready-to-go website software allows you to just enter basic information, and then it publishes it on your website.

In the case of the shopping cart example, many companies sell shopping cart software which they have often spent a lot of time and money developing. In a nutshell, you are given tools in which you can enter your store and product information, which then is used to publish/create your online store. There is usually a lot of dynamic code behind the scenes.

To illustrate using another example, there are programs that allow you to run a basic blog, and you just write your blog entries, and it publishes them, while also managing the whole look and feel of your website (template/theme). You can learn more about your options for publishing a website here.

In some cases, a company may build some of their own dynamic website if there is not any off-the-shelf software that meets their needs, but this can be quite expensive comparatively speaking, especially if it is complex.

What Are Databases & How Are They Related To a Dynamic Site?

The other part of dynamic websites that is important to know, is regarding databases.  Most dynamic websites also use what’s called a “database.”  If you have used Microsoft Access, then you know what a database is.

You can think of a database as one or more spreadsheets (e.g. Microsoft Excel or OpenOffice Calc) that are tied together.  In fact, if you were to look at your database, you might mistake it for a spreadsheet. Relationships between each spreadsheet are common

For example, let’s say you have an online store.  When someone orders, you store collects their customer information, their order information, payment & shipping information, etc…  All of this information is typically then saved in a database. Their address is probably stored in one table (like a worksheet in Excel), and the items they ordered are stored in another table. The software can then lookup these data from multiple tables to generate things like a receipt.

Now that you have a basic understanding of what a website is, let’s discuss the need to put it somewhere where the world can see it.

3. How Does Hosting Work?

Lets say you have a domain name, and some pages for your new website.  Now you need to put them somewhere where everyone can see them, because if you just left them on your home computer, how would anyone else see them? This is why you need hosting.

How Does it Work Basically?

Typically, you pay a hosting company, or “host,” for short, just a few dollars a month.  In return, they provide you with a place to put your website up, with your domain name, for the world to see (or whoever you allow to see your site). This “place” is a specialized computer, which is designed to run websites.

Any such computer that delivers a website is called a “web server” or just “server.” It’s not real critical to remember this, but you may hear it if you are talking to your hosting company.  Most hosting companies provide you fairly simple ways of getting your website hosted with them.  We will talk about the specifics of getting your web pages online later on.

These hosting companies often have 1,000’s of these servers (computers) in giant rooms, stacked to the ceiling. They can have hundreds of thousands of customers, and be hosting millions of websites just like yours.

There is a lot of other technical information beyond this, which is beyond the purpose of this project.

What Is A Server (and Do I Need One)?

As mentioned previously, a server is just a computer which can show, or “serve,” a website/webpage.

When you get hosting from a company, your website goes up on their servers. They often have hundreds or even thousands of them in highly controlled environments, and they spend lots of time ensuring they are always working.  This is especially important for businesses that depend on having their website working all the time.

Sometimes they even guarantee that your site will be available a certain percentage of time, known as SLA’s, but these by themselves can be fairly meaningless because few people actually know how often their website is not working due to the hosting companies error, and they only reimburse you for hosting costs (not lost business). The other problem with SLA’s is it does not represent what the companies actual uptime has been. They could guarantee 100% uptime, but that won’t mean that they are anywhere close to that historically speaking.

For example, a 99.9% SLA translates to 44 minutes per month. If your site is down for more than 44 minutes total (when their fault of course) then they will give you a credit or partial credit towards your monthly bill. It may be a small amount; it may be the cost of the full month’s bill; but if you have a company with lots of downtime, then it may be worthwhile to shop for a new host.

Side-note: It is true that if you are a computer genius, and your ISP allows (rare), your ISP is very fast and reliable (rare), and you have a fair amount of money to throw into it (e.g. electricity costs, extra hardware, software), and lot of time, you can in theory host your website on your home computer—but that is about the equivalent of you building a space shuttle out of Lego’s, scrap metal, and shoelaces.

Where Do I Go to Get Hosting?

The larger purpose of this website is to help people find the type of hosting they need, at the lowest price (with good service). There are hundreds of companies out there that offer hosting. When you are finished with these introductory guides, we recommend browsing around the rest of the site to help finding a quality, affordable host that meets your needs.

In Summary, What Are All The Parts That I Need to Have A Website?

While requirements vary from site to site, and your particular setup may be unique, the majority of websites need a:

·         Domain name

·         Hosting account

·         Website contents (files, software, or whatever you are using)

I Have Hosting, A Domain Name, & Website Ready—Now What?

Going live with your website varies with whoever you are hosting with. You should check with their support or help guides. If you bought everything at one company, usually you don’t have to do anything to see your site start running. Otherwise, the typical process is this:

1.       Your hosting company will tell you the nameservers to use, usually 2 or 3 nameservers in total. They look like this:  NS1.XYZHOSTINGCOMPANY.COM.  Copy these down.

2.       Log into wherever you bought your domain (usually a registrar).

3.       There is a place in there to define in the nameservers that you wrote down. Technically, this is called “pointing nameservers” or “pointing the DNS”

4.       Your site will be live within 48 hours. This is the period of time it takes for all the computers in the world to get news that you updated the nameservers. This is called “DNS propagation”.

What About Companies That Offer all Services Combined—One Stop Shops?

There are a few reasons people prefer to keep things separated. It’s one thing to lose a website, but it’s much more of an issue to lose a website and a domain which your audience/customers know.

1.       Historically, it’s been uncommon to find companies that excel in every department. They may be good at registering domain names, but not hosting websites.

2.       Lots of people prefer to keep their domains with a single registrar, so if they change hosting companies, they don’t need to go through all the trouble of moving the domain(s) too. It’s common to leave a hosting company because it is much more complex of a service, but uncommon to leave a registrar.

3.        Historically, smaller service/web design/hosting companies have taken control of people’s domains, and for one reason or another, lost the domain. This was due to numerous issues such as:

a.       The company forgets to renew it (very common for smaller companies)

b.      The company going out of business (and did not forewarn you)

c.       The company withholds the domain for missing or late payment by the customer.

d.      Other disputes between the customer and company.

4.       Then there are companies that offer a total one-stop-shop, where they also have a free template website for you as well. The majority of cases, these are setup so that it is basically impossible for you to take your website with you, should you ever decide you want someone else to host/manage your website. They also tend to charge a lot more for what you are getting, and usually are a lot more limited in what you can do with your site (if much anything at all). This is not true for all companies, but most often the case.

What is Needed for Person That Wants to Visit My Website?

This section is not essential to understanding how hosting works, but if you want to better understand the basics of what is needed for someone to get online, so that they can visit your website, then keep reading.

Basically, a person needs a few things to get online:

a.       A computer (obviously):  But even more than just a traditional computer: a smart phone, netbook, iPad/tablet, or even some of the more advanced TV’s now as well as video game consoles like Xbox, Wii, and Playstation. There are even some high end refrigerators and appliances can access and browse the internet. We would not be surprised if eventually, even your socks could connect to the internet.

b.      A browser: A program such as Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari, or Chrome. Many people might for example, call Internet Explorer ‘the big blue ‘E’ button on my computer;” or sometimes just “the internet.” In actuality, these programs are called “browsers” and you may have even known it was a program on your computer because they were already sitting there when you bought your computer. Another way to say you are “visiting websites” is “browsing websites.”

c.       An internet connection (ISP): While most people understand that they have an internet connection, a few people do not. To those that do not, we found that the simplest way to explain this is like this: If you are using the internet, then you are probably paying a company between $15 - $100 per month to be able to get internet/ go online.

Some popular companies include Comcast, AT&T, Qwest, RoadRunner, SBC, Verizon, Earthlink, AOL, Charter, Cablevision, Netzero, and thousands of smaller companies. When a company gives you the ability to go online, we call them your Internet Service Provider, or ISP for short. This probably won’t be the last time you hear that term.

Yes, many of these companies may also be your provider for your television, phone/cell phone, and other popular home services. In fact, maybe you live in a community that shares an internet connection, such as many HOA’s and apartment complexes, so you don’t get a separate bill as the price is included in your HOA/rental fees. Or, maybe you are using a neighbors internet connection wirelessly (sometimes even without you knowing it!). Ask a computer literate friend for help if needed.

Just to clarify, paying your ISP $50 a month to be able to go online to visit sites like Yahoo, Amazon, and YouTube, has absolutely nothing to do with the costs on other side of the coin: running a website. People often confuse these two things. However, a few ISP’s have started giving/selling hosting to their customers, but they tend to not be as effective as actual hosting companies. We will get into running your own website shortly.

What Type of Website is Needed?

There are a couple main aspects to discuss. One is understanding what sort of tools are available to create a website, and the second question is what kind of website do you plan on having, then continue to the next section to learn about the “how” aspect of creating these sites.

 First, Decide on What Type of Website You Need

Knowing what kind of website you want will help you know which kind of website publishing tools will work for you.  Here are a few examples. Do you want a:

·         Simple Business or Personal Website: A site that has a few pages that explains what you do, and how to contact you—sort of a fancy business card. You may have things such as a lead capture form, quote forms, or other business services.

·         Online Store / product catalog: If you plan on selling any of your services or products online, then you will need an online store. If you are selling just a single product/service, then sometimes you can have a simple payment form on your website; but when you have a lot of products, you tend to move to a full fledged shopping cart.

·         Blog: A blog, or “weblog,” is a way to publish stories, personal experiences, news, current events (business/persona) and just about anything else that is timely; basically things that you put a date on.

·         Other: There are a variety of other things out there you might want, but they are much less common. They are usually just a section of your website, but some websites are nothing but:

o   Forums: A place for visitors to communicate with each other

o   Wikis: The most famous wiki is Wikipedia. You can run your own wiki. Sometimes they are used for letting employees/managers create business documents.

o   Email list: This is becoming more popular with specialized service companies like Mailchimp and VerticalResponse

o   Custom solution: perhaps you have a unique business model that needs to be coded from the ground up.

o   Lots more: There’s an infinite number of software programs that you can run on your website

In many cases, there are programs that do many of these features. For example, if you are buying a shopping cart, it may publish the online store, as well as your business information pages, a blog to communicate current events with your customers, have tools to email all your customers about your upcoming sales, and a wiki to help create product documentation.  There is no limit to how much overlap there may be in different software tools to help you create a website.

What Options Do I Have to Create any of These Websites?

1.       Do you want to do this yourself?

2.       Hire someone else to do it (or combination)?

If you pay someone else to do it, you still may want to be informed enough to choose a good company, or software to manage your site, if needs be.

Do-It-Yourself

1.       Hand code: Create a simple website without any special tools. You can learn HTML, although it may be time consuming.  It is like learning a foreign language.  You can probably learn the basics pretty quick, but mastering it could take a long time. You can even use Notepad, Wordpad, and other free text editing programs on your computer to write and publish html. Dynamic languages like PHP are much more difficult to learn and master than simple HTML.

2.       Software: Use a program designed for website creation, usually with WYSIWYG features to allow you to drag and drop. Again, there are countless tools out there. We will cover some of the most popular ones in the next article.

a.       Install a software program on your computer (desktop software)

If you have used OpenOffice or Microsoft office, such as Word to create documents, Excel to create spreadsheets, and Outlook (or Thunderbird or Mac email)to read and write email; these are all programs that are installed on your computer that let you create various documents.

Similarly speaking, there are many tools you can also install on your computer to create a website, such as Dreamweaver or Microsoft ExpressionWeb (formerly FrontPage), and lots of other ones too. These are known as “standalone” or “desktop” software.

Most of these tools tend to be pretty time intensive to learn, and you usually end up needing to know some HTML at a bare minimum, but can give you more creative control if that’s something you need. The cost of these programs range from around a couple dozen, to a couple hundred dollars. Sure, you only pay once for them, but you may not get a lot of ongoing support or updates unless you pay extra for it. These tools tend to appeal mostly to graphic/web designers , and some programmers.

There are also some free tools available such as NVU, but  generally speaking, these are usually years behind commercial software. Generally speaking, the hosted software is going to do what most people need with much less effort.

b.      Hosted software

The idea of it is, instead of download a program to your computer, you just go and log into the website to edit/manage your site with.

In the previous section we used Microsoft/OpenOffice to explain desktop software. The hosted (or online) equivalent would be products like Google Docs to create documents and spreadsheets, and sites like Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and Hotmail to read and write email.

Just like the desktop software, there are commercial (paid) and free software available. When you stop paying however, you may no longer have those tools, and in some cases, no more website; but in those cases, you can usually switch to using another software tool and either re-create or move over (migrate) your website content to another hosting company.

This is especially true with really complex, business oriented websites—such as shopping carts/ecommerce.

The biggest advantages of paid, hosted software are:

a.       Ongoing support is usually included—probably the most valuable factor.

b.      Software upgrades are usually included.

c.       Often cheaper than buying a standalone program

d.      Generally, no need to pay for upgrades, nor install them.

e.      Usually easier to use and maintain your site with

f.        Usually more up-to-date, cutting edge features

c.       Free vs. Paid Software

The internet has changed that way software is made. Quite often people/companies create programs that are completely free, or free with limited features.  This is more so the case when it comes to website creation software. One of the most popular types of free software includes a category known as “open source” software, where thousands of programmers all around the world each contribute to a single program, and usually makes it available to everyone for free, or very low cost (not always). By working as a collective, each person can add their own small piece to it, thereby accomplishing big projects without putting too much demand on any one person.

Some of the most well known open source programs that you may actually already use everyday includes Firefox, Google Chrome, Android (mobile phone operating system), and the underlying brain behind Apple computers. Apple tool a powerful, yet ugly operating system called FreeBSD, and made a really easy to use drag-and-drop interface on top of it.

When it comes to websites, the most used open source programs include Wordpress (blogging), Magento/Oscommerce/ZenCart (shopping carts), and FileZilla (FTP). If you read articles within each hosting type, you can learn more about available software for your specific need (e.g. shopping carts, blogs, etc…)

The obvious benefit to this is the idea of “free,” however, the costs of installing, customizing, supporting, and maintaining, might be much higher than any paid equivalent. While some of these open source programs are very widely used, and very stable, and easy to use, that is often not the case. Some of the hidden costs you should consider include:

1.       Setup cost:  A lot of hosting companies actually have these programs all ready to go in their control panel, and all you need to do is click a few buttons to get in running on your domain name. Other programs will require you to do a few steps, which are usually not that difficult for someone that has some time to learn.

2.       Hosting cost:  All free programs will need hosting, and a few software programs require specialized, and more expensive hosting. Often with commercial hosted software, the price you pay is combined to include the software and hosting. This is especially true for example with ecommerce (shopping carts), which in some cases is less expensive than trying to use a free shopping cart software on a regular host. Again, determine what you want kind of site you need, then review our specific guide on that topic.

3.       Changes:  Software programs can make it easy to add features and make changes by yourself, and in other cases, may require you to learn a lot or hire a programmer to do it for you. At some point, some people end up hiring their own programmers to maintain, change, and fix such programs. Hiring a programmer is relatively expensive.

4.       Repairs: This can easily range from a few dozen to a few thousand dollars for a single repair, depending on the size/complexity of the problem. A lot of these programs are prone to issues (bugs) that prevent them from working smoothly.

5.       Training/support: Being able to email or pick up the phone and call someone when you have a problem is valuable to many people, especially if time is a valuable resource.  Some “free” software programs sell separate support plans.

But, it really depends on the program.  You might find for example, that for a blogging platform, Wordpress works for 90% of your needs, is very stable, easy to setup, easy to use, requires no extra special hosting costs, can be setup in a few minutes right from your hosting plan, can easily modified to your design liking (for free in some cases), and has a large community of support and low-cost, commercial support.  In fact, a lot of today’s business websites are using Wordpress to power their website.

On the other hand, using free shopping cart software might cause nothing but headaches.  Programs like OSCommerce, ZenCart, and Magento are quite technical, prone to frequent issues that are also difficult to solve, and sometimes much more expensive to host. Comparatively speaking, rented shopping carts like BigCommerce, Volusion, etc…; or, in some cases, simple/free cart alternatives like Paypal shopping cart, can be a much simpler solution for businesses with fairly standard storefront needs. Again, it’s wise to determine what your website needs are, then browse the appropriate article on the subject.

Hire Someone

For those people who simply do not want to do the work in setting up and managing a site, hiring someone is an option. This can range anywhere from setting up the site, to entering products into your online store (data entry).

Many of the hosted software solutions are going to be fairly straight-forward to setup, and may just require basic information about you or your business, and the rest is plug-and-play; and any programs with support included is going to make it that much easier. However, if you want a totally custom web-design for your site (and not an off-the-shelf template), it’s generally going to incur extra costs. Again, it depends on what type of website you want to run, and what you want it to do exactly.

Summary

The internet was an outgrowth of early government networking, and became a global communications system where people from all over the world can visit websites from all over the world.

Individuals, businesses, governments, etc… can setup a website by using a variety of services and software. The most common way is to purchase a domain name, get a hosting account, and use a software program, installed or hosted, to create and manage their website.

Glossary

WYSIWYG

PHP

HTML

Software

Browser

Dynamic

Static

ISP

Database

Server

Web server

SLA

SAAS


Hosting Types

Cheap Web Hosting is the best place to learn about the various types web hosting available. We are a free consumer resource on the web for information regarding a cheap host. We do not affiliate with, or receive any payment from recommending any business we link out to as we are aiming to provide an unbiased source for users.

Please feel free to browse our resources to find what you need for your personal or business hosting requirements. Helping you understand what is involved with hosting, what hosting types you may need, and finding the cheapest web hosting is our specialty. Our goal is to also provide web hosting reviews, review various web hosting services, and ensure that businesses achieve the goal of finding affordable web hosting. However, to get you started, let's go over some of the most common types of hosting...

Shared Hosting

Shared Hosting is the most popular and most used type of hosting today. Typically, they're very basic, but come packed with a lot of features. The principal behind shared hosting is the ability to host more than one website from a single web server. This in turn means that many websites can share the cost of a fully-managed web server with many features. Reaping many of the benefits of a dedicated server without the cost. This is a great alternative to a more costly solution because of the abundance of amenities offered at a lower overall cost. In fact, many of the websites you visit each day are hosted on a shared server. Continue reading about cheap shared hosting...

VPS Hosting

VPS stands for, Virtual Private Server, also referred to as a Virtual Dedicated Server. A VPS Host is a step between Shared and Dedicated. Though not quite a true dedicated server because it shares resources with the other VPS on the server. It works by partitioning the VPS into several "virtual" machines that can be independently managed and rebooted without affecting the other partitions. Each VPS can then run it's own Operating System regardless of the others. This flexibility provides the autonomy of a dedicated machine at a fraction of the cost of a dedicated machine. Continue reading about cheap VPS hosting...

Dedicated Hosting

Dedicated hosting is as simple as that, dedicated. A dedicated server has a dedicated IP address and full access to system resources. The full bandwidth and computing power of the server are available to the site. Dedicated servers are necessary when the site it's hosting is very high traffic and resource intensive. This type comes in two varieties - managed and unmanaged. Managed servers are maintained and updated by the hosting company. Unmanaged servers are maintained by user and therefore provide the greatest flexibility. Either way, cheap hosting can be tough to find while shopping for a dedicated host. Continue reading about cheap dedicated hosting...